Normally, I try to arrange for chores to be light on Sunday morning – nothing big like coop moving or cleaning. I had separated our younger heifer and bull into the front pasture by the pond on Saturday because Primrose, our small standard Jersey was about to have her first calf. I had locked her in this small pasture because the fence is being replaced on the normal pasture – the one with the small paddocks. Though I could have let her into that field and hoped that the hot wire would keep her in, I’ve seen enough hot wire failures to know better than to trust them to be the only thing between the cows and a chase.
Speaking of hot wires, a few days ago I had my soon-to-be-three-year-old grandson, Caleb, with me while doing the morning chores. We were feeding the birds in the field, when he said, “Papa, wanna race?”
“Sure Caleb,” I reply, and he takes off running out of sight.
I feed the birds in another coop and then hear a wail that startled even the guineas. “The dogs,” I thought. Caleb had been harassing them earlier, and I thought that they might have him cornered and be giving him a licking (literally). So I went around the corner. No dogs. Just Caleb in the corner by the gate wailing away.
“Caleb, come over here.” More wailing.
“Caleb, come over here” and he starts to move.
“What happened?” I asked.
“The fence hurt me!”
“Did you climb the fence?”, I asked, knowing there was a hot wire at the top.
“Did you climb the gate?”
“Yes. The fence hurt me.”
As I took hay out to Primrose, I saw that her water trough was knocked over. “Dry” I thought, how could I let it go dry? As I turned it over, I tried to console my conscience with the thought that it was not completely dry. The other field has a trough with a float-actuated waterer, so it never goes dry. This one requires someone to be responsible and that someone is me, and I didn’t check it the day before.
After filling it up, I walked out toward the birds to check on them. Why hadn’t I moved Primrose’s other trough in with her? Trying to find the root of my failure so as not to reap this weed’s fruit again, I realized I hadn’t because the trough had been full, and I didn’t see an easy way to move it. Once my eyes were opened to my faulty reasoning, it took about 30 seconds to tip it over to drain it and move it into the other field. Sometimes just knowing that we have to do something makes it possible.
The First Milking
I had been up in the middle of the night the previous night helping, or trying to help, my niece Beth deliver two kid goats. The little head was out, and the ears were flopping, and for a first time Momma, she seemed to be doing well. Then another head appeared, and before we could figure out to what do, we lost both of the kids. The Momma goat was still fine.
The next night I got a call, “Please come, Uncle Joe, the baby goat is breach!” What I knew and they did not, is that a breach kid is an easy birth (for goats). Sure enough, I hurried over and got there in time for the second kid to be born, and a few minutes later the third one was born. Life triumphs over death, and every one was all smiles, unlike the previous night.
So, after two long nights, when I got up and headed out to feed the cows I was thinking about taking a nap. In the barn, I mixed the feed, opened the door and called Primrose. No Primrose. I stuck my head out the door. There was Primrose, standing by a calf that lay in the grass. My forehead furrowed. She looked rather pensive and continued licking the calf. In a few steps I reached her and felt the cold calf. Primrose looked at me as if to say, “Do something!“ “There’s nothing to be done girl, “ I told her as I gave her neck a hug, more for me than for her and turned to walk away.
We would have to milk her out. I’ve been taking her into the stanchion for a couple of months now, and for the last two weeks washing her udder so that when the calf came, there would be fewer new things for her to face. The last few days, her bag had already begun to feel like an over-inflated volleyball, and she was getting touchy. I hadn’t planned on facing the new milking without a calf.
Sarah, our 15 year old, is the designated milker. So I went up to the house. Waking her, I said, “Sarah, Primrose lost her calf and we need to milk her out. I’ll be in the barn waiting for you.”
I went to the barn and set the feed in place. Even with the barn door open which normally acts as an irresistible invitation to Primrose, she stood in place licking the calf. Ten minutes later Sarah came up, and I urged Primrose to come in – she would not, so I led her in by the halter. One bewildered cow came into the milking room, looked around the room and started to head out. Normally she puts her head right in the stanchion and settles down to eat. I guided her back around the room, and the scent of the molasses mix on the feed arrested her and in went her head.
Once she had her head in the stanchion we locked her in as we normally do and moved her to be perpendicular to the stanchion. This gives easy access to the udder from both sides. Sarah stood in the corner and watched as I washed the teats, avoided a slow lazy leg movement and expressed some milk from each teat. (We do this to cleanse the orifice before collecting the milk. Calle, the mommy cat and the kittens get this milk).
The front teats are small, and the back teats are tiny – smaller than goat teats. If the calf had survived, she would have been performing this first milking and in the process elongating the teats, making our job easier.
Leg movement. I started to milk out my side (the right side of the cow) and Sarah kept watching. Primrose’s legs were not in position for Sarah to be able to reach the teats. I’d been working with Primrose to move her feet back, so I went over to the left side and moved her leg back so Sarah could start milking. Both of us milking at the same time was too much stimulation for Primrose. The sound of the bucket skidding across the floor startled her, and both bowels released simultaneously to create a creamy odorous mixture on the floor. “The milking’s got to be done,” Sarah said, and we sat down to milk again. I think Primrose felt the resolve in Sarah’s voice and settled down a bit. But when Sarah started to milk out the small back teat, the right leg had kind of a reflexive movement. I don’t think that Primrose was intentionally being bad, she just wanted someone else to share her pain, and she chose me, since I seemed the closest. Lest you think this is a bad story, this is actually a very good first milking. 😉
Last night she was better. Sarah warned me before she went to the back teat, and this time I was ready. Primrose made a small flinch, but nothing like the earlier reflexive action. No bowel releases either. Then this morning, she was a perfect jewel – no leg movement at all. And tonight, Sarah milked with Beth, her cousin. I walked through to see that all was well and could tell that I was not needed.
New Chicken Feeders
The feeders I wrote about last time are working beyond my expectations. Another plus is that they’re waterproof, so in the rain after Harvey, we didn’t waste any feed.
The White Leghorns in the photo above are 18 weeks old. This is their first day with the new feeder. Already they are eating away. They should start laying at 22-24 weeks. We have these and other breeds of almost ready-to-lay chickens (pullets) available. See “started pullets” on our website for what is available and their ages. I’ll be diligent to keep it current. 🙂
Bermuda Grass Barrier
I’ve received several requests for information on how we made the Bermuda grass barrier around the garden. (Follow the link to see some instructions that I wrote on how we set this up.)
We recently celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. For a present to ourselves, we got this awesome hand-crank ice-cream maker. And now we have fresh milk to make ice-cream from.
Anyone interested in coming to see the farm some early evening and staying around for hand-cranked ice-cream? If you are, let me know, and if there is enough interest we’ll schedule something.