Tuesday, September 28, 2010

'Til the Cows Come Home...

Its been a long 6 months of planning, searching and locating an appropriate farm to relocate my cattle to, but now its all complete.  I can finally exhale.

This year was a tough one with the humidity, the horrible flystrike, pinkeye problems and trying to find a place to live where I could have my cows nearby.

Additionally, the drought seriously caused complications and I had to find immediate temporary pasture for my herd in late August, since there was no grass left in the southern region of the state because of lack of rainfall since May. The lack of grass had an affect on the amount of milk the cows were able to produce for their calves, plus the cows were having a hard time maintaining their own body weight.   Keeping cows happy and healthy is not easy.

With some help from Mother Nature, the "girls" and their calves finally arrived at their final destination on Saturday.  Lots of town folks heard about the cows arriving and came up to this farm to take a look at them.

Their new fields here have lush grass, and plenty of it.  The cows ate for a straight 8 hours and in that time their udders filled up with lots of milk to feed their calves.   The calves were so busy eating the grass they hardly remembered to go for a drink until their moms called them and urged them to do so.

The length and amount of grass here is unbelievable.  This secluded area of Vermont got some reasonable rainfall this sumer and it shows.   What a diffrence of 2 days of grazing made for the cows.  They look and act so much better. 

I kept my herd separated from the other small herd that lives here until we were sure no one was going to fight, escape or head back to the original farm ( which some cows do ).          So far the girls are only concerned with grazing and giving many body baths to their calves.   Its all good.

It's a new beginning here for the TailGait Farm herd and me.  
 I could not be happier.

Home is Where the Herd Is.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn In Vermont

Its early this year.   Autumn came about 2 weeks ago and is going by quickly.

The mornings are crisp and cool.   With treasure to be found.    Just follow the first light of the day.

Sometimes there is a surprise in the field.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dairy Queen

When I go food shopping, I can not seem to get out of the dairy isle.

All my favorite fresh foods are in that one area.

Fresh cheeses from all over Vermont.
Goat cheese, cow cheese and sheep cheese.   All very yummy.  All made in small batches from cows, sheep and goats that I drive past almost every day.   

Then there is all the fresh local organic milk.  Can you taste the chocolate?!!!!

See the milk on the bottom shelf with the cream on top?   Do you have that in your store ?

And then my favorite cooler has yogurt and keifer.   If you have ANY kind of stomach issues, GET some keifer!!   It is amazing how effective it is for ulcers, IBS and many other unpleasant stomach conditions.
I make my own every day, but occasionally I like to pick up some peach or different flavor as a treat. Especially when it is on SALE.

Shop in your local health food stores, farmers markets,  farm stores or your local Coop.   You will be happier and healthier.          Better yet, learn how to MAKE your own cheese, butter, yogurt and keifer.  If I can do it, YOU can do it!  There are classes going on all over the country, in every state.  Its fun and I couldn't believe how easy it was to make several different kinds of cheeses.

If you are in Vermont, go to  http://www.ruralvermont.org/ for a cheese class scheduale.

If any of you know of any other classes in other areas, leave a comment with the info or website.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall - a month early

The drought has caused many changes in how Fall "usually" happens.

The leaves on the trees are dry and brittle, so they have little to no color, and fall off the trees over night.
Just like the tree here on the left.
Peak season is usually end of September and the begining of October or longer. Not this year. I think it has already started and will be over and done within the next 14 days.

The fields have been brown since late July and there isn't much for the cows to eat.  Even those "well known" black cows are suffering too.

Turkeys are ranging far and wide to find food. Dozens of them are on the roads, golf courses, patios, in haybarns, garages, silage pits, anywhere they can scavenge some food. These turkeys were grazing a hay field and doing well.

The fields of corn are brittle, yellow, stunted and low quality. The corn harvest has started a bit early as well.     The cows don't mind.

I saw some very contented heifers.  Of course they were staring at Mavis.  Mavis..where did you go....?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cow Dog, Minus the Cow....

She looks like a cow dog, acts like a cow dog and herds some things like a cow dog should.  She has some good herding instinct and is great moving calves.      But she really HATES it when cows LOOK at her.    She stops working.   Its been like this for 7 years and I can't seem to get her to change.        
Cow Dog Mavis gets severe anxiety when cows "look" at her. 

And for some dang reason, Mavis attracts cows where ever she is.  She is the best "bait" to bring a herd of cattle into the pens.    They see her for miles and come check her out and she HATES it.
She stops what she is doing, leaves the field, runs down the road and jumps into the truck.

She is so much better working with sheep.  They don't look at her.

If she had thumbs she would drive herself to the nearest ice cream stand.  I am sure of it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Berry Good Day

The lack of rain, for some reason, tripled the berries on all the bushes.  A good thing for berry farmers, birds, bears, berry pickers and berry consumers.    And there are still lots of berries waiting for happy hands to pick them.  We still have 5 kinds of raspberries to be picked as well!!   Berry-Loving People sure are happy.

Grab your buckets and go do some picking!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Simmental in the Pines

I am busy packing, finding boxes, getting tape stuck all over me, plus working long days, driving hours to drop off my packed items and then driving more hours to go check on my cows.  I will be glad when the cows, my stuff, my dog and my mail are all in the same area.          It can't happen fast enough for me. But its going so slow because I am doing this all by myself.     I don't know anyone, under 80 years old, in this area who could physically help me do this move.     I call it my "penance" for isolating myself for so many years and just working with animals.    Every day I pray my back and my remaining knee hold up to the stress of all this moving.       To top things off, early yesterday morning there was no water.    It is darn right scary to turn a faucet on and have nothing come out.     The plumber was called and I prayed the well wasn't dry because of the drought.

Yesterday was a day of reflection.          I have made it a personal tradition to spend it alone doing something quiet.  A walk in the woods, a kayak paddle in a remote pond or a few hours sitting in the field with my cows is what I have done in the past.       So, after dropping another truckload of packed boxes at my new residence I drove to the farm where my cows are spending the next 6 weeks.    I walked the massive fields looking for them.     I meandered along the cow paths through the woods of cedar trees and white pines.    I called, they answered, but I never was able to actually locate them.  Apparently they haven't figured out where all the open gates are to move from one area to another and I haven't figured out how to get to every field on this massive farm.       My herd is now with the bull and as I walked to each field and met all the other cows, calves and yearlings that reside on this farm I realized the bull is exclusively with "my girls" right now and not mingling with the regular herd.               Isn't that interesting....

When I returned to my truck the farmer's wife met me with a smile and asked if I had found my cows. When I told her all the fields I had walked to with no confirmed sighting, she assured me that my cows were fine and that she had a photo she wanted to show me that she had taken that morning as she walked her rural road:

That's my "Queen cow" Googly, the oldest cow in my herd.  Obviously hiding out in the pines with the rest of the herd, and her young calf.    It was nice to see that there were no flys on her and that perhaps this cooler weather was eliminating them or that my constant spraying had indeed helped.    Better yet, I do believe that the cedar and pine oil are also natural fly repellents and the cows like to rub their heads on the trunks and limbs when they walked thru the cedar stands at our previous farm.     I loved the photo, but was still a little sad that I was unable to spend some "cracker time" with my girls, rub their ears, spray them and check their wounds.    As the sun started to set I turned my truck towards home praying there was water for the chickens, cow, Mavis, Murphy, a shower, coffee and pasta.               No such luck.
Luckily, there is a small trickling stream for the cow and hens. Bottled water for cat, dog and coffee.

Still none this morning.           And the packing continues......

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One in a Million

The heat and humidity that has plagued us for the past several months has retreated.   We are still a very dry state.  Still no rain.    Trees are shedding their leaves overnight and stand naked the next day because of the drought.            In my latest travels I have seen cooler cows and unusual barns.

Here is a barn that made me pull over on the highway on RT 5 on the Bradford/Newbury VT line and grab my camera.  I have only seen one other in my entire life, as they are so rare.   What a treat this was.

Round barns were built because they were more efficient for handling livestock and feeding hay.

The Shaker community in Massachusetts pioneered the round barn design in 1826.

Round barns symbolize the culmination of efficient, laborsaving designs for dairy barns of the animal-powered era of the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.

This particular barn is a sixteen sided barn with an octagonal moniter on the roof.

Built in 1906 it is one of only four surviving round barns in the state of Vermont.

A covered ramp leads to the top story hayloft, cows are stabled in stanchions on the middle level and manure storage is in the basement.

A great book to read about barns is:

Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings by Thomas Durant Visser.

I always expect to run into this man while I am out taking photos of barns in hard to get to places.

His book is great and I use it as a constant referance.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Crackers & Cows

Another busy weekend, packing, working, planning.

Went to hang out with the herd on Saturday and Monday.  They are an hour away from me now and I miss not being able to just scoot up the road to feed them apples twice a day.

So, I bought a box of their favorite graham crackers and headed North.

Most of the moms were nursing their growing calves when I arrived.

Then they came over to check my pockets.......  They found their treats.

Then I noticed how fabulous this 5 week old bull calf looks.  The muscling and thickness at just 5 weeks of age.    He has "the look."    Would be a nice herd sire for a beef producer looking to put more muscling and some length on their calf crop.       However, once the colder weather comes I am making him a steer.

My other surprise was how quickly Wanda's multiple punctures and scrapes were healing up.
The swelling on her leg is now completely gone.  I sprayed her some more to keep any and all flys off of her while she continues to heal.           Wanda always gets extra treats....

I sprayed the rest of the herd as they came for their cracker treats and checked each over.  Gwen's lumps are a little less swollen and she is looking much better.

As I returned to my truck, I found these two girls looking for a ride.

They were insistant that they wanted to hop in.  I was tempted to give them a ride back to their farmhouse, but thought I better not start a habit that would be hard to stop.   I gave them a treat and sent them on their way.

As I left the farm I glanced to my right at the view of a typical Vermont farm.    Lucky cows.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mooving the Herd

It's been a crazy, busy week planning how to move my herd and do all the other things that must take place before they are finally transported North.
First, we moved group by group of cows to get the entire herd eventually where we wanted them. Most had taken shelter in the deep woods to avoid the intense heat and the flys, and weren't keen on leaving their comfortable locations.

To add to the mix,  Hurricane Earl was a 'churning up the East coast, so to avoid the incoming bad weather I had all kinds of deadlines at getting the larger herd brought up to the barnyard, from their 700 acres, and my cows separated from the main herd and then put in an area to await the livestock hauler the next morning.

With much effort, most of that plan worked, until the last minute.

The intense heat was unbearable and the constant Hurricane Earl forecasts added to the craziness.
The hauler arrived in the early morning and my cows and calves were ready to be loaded, and then all hell broke loose when all my calves went thru a hole in the side of the barn that was knocked loose by other cows IN the barn.  In the blink of an eye I watched my herd disappear to another field.  I had just a few moments to get them back in my direction or I would have to cancel the haul until the next day, which would of been too near to the 'Earl' landfall prediction.    I ran for the main gate, flung it open and called my lead cow. She turned around from the field and came back to me with the entire herd following AND all the calves.          It took an additional hour, but the hauler and I got my cows separated out again and loaded on the trailer.  We put the cows in the back and all the calves in the front, so they wouldn't be crushed. 
By now the heat was at 98degrees and we were all soaked and exhausted.

Luckily, it was only an hour ride to their new temporary pasture.
I arrived first and 10 minutes later I could hear my "girls" bellowing as the livestock trailer came down the road.

They were eager to get off that trailer. Most had never ridden before and it can be very traumatic.
The calves looked good as they jumped off.

Then the cows came off, and my heart sank.....They were wet, poopy and bloody when they came off that trailer.

Wanda, my absolute favorite cow, had punctures and skin scrapes all around her front leg.

Gwen had 2 large lumps on her neck.

I brought them all into a small corral area and re-applied waterproof  fly spray to all the cows and calves and especially to all the areas where there were wounds of any kind.
I released the herd to a small field where they could graze and I could observe them to MAKE SURE they would not challenge the 4 strand electric fences.   My fence tester said 6.0, an excellent "volt jolt" for any livestock thinking about walking to town.

My cows just wanted to eat and nurse their calves. They soon bunched up on a small hill to eat.
I went and put an extra chain on the gate to keep it tightly closed and continued to re walk the fence line to MAKE SURE that there was no possible way for my cows OR calves to get out.

I prayed that Earl would send us some rain to wash the cows off, cool down the area and help our dry pastures grow.  But not so much wind that trees would come down, all the apples blow off and power lines to drop.    I stayed with my herd til it was obvious they were all settled down and grazing and no longer searching for the rest of the herd they left behind at their original farm.

The next morning I returned to check on my herd and to reapply fly spray to my wounded cows. I also brought a nice new red salt block for their licking pleasure and some "snacks" to make them happy.
 Earl had deviated from his original path which was good for Cape Cod Massachusetts, but not good for us Vermont farmers who desperately need RAIN.  It had "sprinkled" for a few minutes during the night and all we really got was lots of wind and nothing more.

I was glad to see that Wanda's leg was improving and that the fly spray had eliminated all possible fly strike.
Her other skin scrapes were healing as well.  Wanda is the true darling of my herd.  I hate the thought of anything bad happening to her.

Gwen's lumps were still big.  It will take a few more days for them to reduce in size. I want to put ice on them but know she will not tolerate that and probably the best thing is to just leave her alone. My cows have had enough stress placed on them thus far this week.
Feeling sure that my girls would behave at this new place, I and the farm owner opened the gate into a larger field.  
Monday morning they are going to a really big pasture where the bull will be waiting to greet them.

This bull, Rollo, is our herd bull at the original farm my cows were at.
This farmer bred him and now has bought him back because he sires such growthy, meaty calves.
Luckily, he was transported separately last Monday back to this farm.    My cows are fortunate to get to spend 6-8 more weeks with this bull until we again load them up and take them further North to their new permanent residence.   Meanwhile, its my turn to start packing and move to my location and get their fencing all ready for their late fall arrival.

This has been an incredible journey.  The planning started about a year ago when I started to drastically downsize my large herd.   Sad as parting with all my young stock was, I did meet many new farmers who wanted my cows and promised me first dibs on new calves once I got settled.

Now I am still meeting new farmers as I donate my heavy duty furniture to needy families.
I am downsizing my furniture too, since I have to pay movers to haul me North and I just can not afford the bigger truck.  It will take me a year to recover financially from this big move. I am taking a risk hoping the area I am going to will have more to offer me agriculturally, professionally and socially.  Its been a very lonely existence in Southern Vermont and I do hope that will change with this move.  

Looking ahead, I will have 4 steers and a very nice heifer for sale in 8 weeks, at weaning, before I move the herd North to their permanent residence.  All are primarily grass fed, polled, calm, growthy and easy to work with.

Being a cautious farmer, I am not keeping any of the "kids" this year until I am sure I can expand my herd at the farm we are going to.     If you are interested in a great heifer to start your herd or steers for your freezer, contact me.  

Have a safe Labor Day weekend.     Remember to support your local farms and farmers.