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.


  1. That is a lot of changes in a short time, I am sure once it is all over the changes will be good. I will be saying a prayer for you. Isn't the price of cattle up now though? That has to be good. You do have such beautiful cattle.

  2. #1 I think those cows are beautiful
    #2 You win. Your life is more hectic. I didn't move any cows this week.
    #3 I felt sad that they cows got hurt.
    #4 I couldn't figure out why you were praying to Earl - wondered if you knew something I didn't know - and then I remembered! Earl - the hurricane!

  3. Wow! I think you deserve a blue ribbon for the most hectic week!