A Free-what?

Yesterday I had a sad moment of depression. One of my girls had twins. A bull (male) and a heifer (female). This is no good.

For the past week my girl, Boom, has been looking completely miserable. She’s very pregnant and very uncomfortable. Boom is a red and white Holstein, they are the same as a black and white Holstein, except where the black would normally be they have red coloring. Red is a recessive trait, meaning either both parents have to be red OR carrying the red gene and you get lucky. This time Boom was bred to a black bull who does not carry the red gene so we know the calf will be black.

Miss Boom looking mighty miserable.

Miss Boom looking mighty miserable.

Boom’s a girl with a good pedigree, for those of you who follow my blog and know registered cows she is the 8th generation scored very good or excellent in her family. She herself went Very Good 85 with a Very Good mammary system 2 weeks after turning 3. She’s can be a pretty lady when all cleaned up! We had her bred to one of the top “type” bulls in the breed currently. Type in this case refers to conformation and appearance.

Boom in labor. She had lots of coaches and encouragement!

Boom in labor. She had lots of coaches and encouragement!

So as you can see I had fingers, toes and everything else crossed for a heifer. I got one. The problem is she had a brother joining her. This was completely not what I was anticipating. Normally cows carrying twins calve a week or so early. Boom calved a day early. The first calf was pretty good sized, then so was the second… Where’s the problem?

The fruits of her labor. The heifer calf is the whiter one in front, the bull is the darker calf in the back.

The fruits of her labor. The heifer calf is the whiter one in front, the bull is the darker calf in the back.

When a heifer calf is born twin to a bull calf she stands  90-95% chance of being infertile. Cows are the only specie that does this to my knowledge. I did find with a little research that very, very rarely a goat or sheep will be a freemartin, but the chances are slim to none.

We will do a blood test on the heifer to determine if she is one of the lucky few to be born fertile. Time to get all scientific now, brace yourself! When a cow has twins they generally share the placenta. When this happens the two calves exchange genetic material at a cellular level. Bad for the heifer. If the heifer is a freemartin, the test will actually show that she is in fact carrying a XX/XY chromosome. Thus she appears female, but is in fact hormonally more male making her infertile. Some freemartins actually have deformed genitals or are missing internal female reproductive organs. Our little girl looks ok on an external exam.

So next Monday when we have our monthly herd health check up we will draw blood on this little girl to have her checked. It is a simple and fairly cheap test ($30). If she is checked ok we will sing many thanks. It does happen. We are currently milking a 4-year-old who entered this world with a brother in tow. If her test results don’t come back good she will be sold as a future beef animal. Where she will be fed out just as if she had been a bull calf.

On a positive note, the bull calf has been privately sold to someone who raises breeding bulls to sell to other farmers.

Twins can also be hard on the cow herself. Twins can wear a cow down and make her more susceptible to “fresh cow” problems. These include: retained placenta, where the placenta remains attached to the uterine lining; uterus infection, generally coming from the retained placenta not coming out and extra fluid in the uterus; milk fever which is a calcium deficiency that makes it so the cow has a hard time standing or walking; ketosis can set in when the cow goes off feed and started metabolizing too much body weight to make milk instead of energy from food. This is no good for her liver; a displaced abomasum, where 2 chambers of the stomach twist around each other thus cutting off digestion. As you can see Boom can also have a potentially long road ahead of her.

Some days you win, some days you lose.

 

 

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Crockpot Ham and Beans

Ham and Beans

Ham and Beans

It’s that time of the year. Harvest season is in full swing! So most of us (farm women) are feeding lots of people with little time to do it in. If you aren’t involved in Ag, fall brings back school, sports, etc. And lots of running. Behold the life saving device, ok maybe not that extreme but you get the picture, the Crock Pot. I love cooking with my Crock Pot. Throw in a few ingredients, come home from the barn and POOF dinner is done! Our past week has been a chilly one so it was time to bust out some comfort food. Ham and beans with corn bread, yum!

Crock Pot Ham and Beans

  • 6 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Pound white beans, rinsed and sorted (no one wants to eat a rock!)
  • 1 Pound of ham or ham hocks
  • 1 medium white onion, diced

Put all ingredients in to crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until beans are tender. Viola! That was a toughy 😉

Homemade Corn Bread

  • 2Cups Bisquick
  • 2 Tablespoons Corn Meal
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup Milk

Mix together the dry ingredients (Bisquick, corn meal, sugar). Melt the butter in the microwave. Add milk and eggs to the butter. Pour in to the Bisquick mixture, stir until combined. Pour in to a greased 8×8 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. The top will be a golden brown when done baking.

If this looks to time consuming or you simply don’t feel like baking, bust out a box of Jiffy corn bread!

These recipes are comfort food to the extreme for me! Hope you enjoy this during the crazy fall!

Dairy Cow ICU

If you are a conventional, organic, free range, confinement, pasture based or natural (I’m sure I missed a few “categories”) farmer, one thing is inevitable. No matter how cautious, careful or prevention based you are, you will have an animal become ill on your farm. We do the best we can, but animals get sick.

It is generally a quick treatment and they are back on their way to going about their normal business. Every once in a while, we have a cow who will need a little more TLC to get back in the swing of things. Weather it be from illness or injury, some cows end up requiring some special attention. Farms should be set up to handle these needs when they arise.

At our farm we have an individual box stall where the cows can go. It’s a large pen they have to themselves to lounge around in and recover. While cows are highly social animals, the lack of pecking order when housed separately helps them to focus solely on recovering. I’ll be honest, we may have as few as 5 cows housed in the box stall in a year. It doesn’t happen often, but aids greatly in their recovery if they need to be there. Currently our box stall has been my baby over flow, they are everywhere!

The box stall at our farm is adjacent to our holding pen so cows can easily enter the parlor to be milked. It also has a row of head locks so we can restrain them for treatment if need be. Their feed is also fed thru the head locks. Personal housing also comes with your own water tub and fan. Quite the accommodations if you’re an ailing cow!

With the use of head locks and a rope halter we are able to easily confine cows to be treated. This helps prevent injury to us or the cow.

With the use of head locks and a rope halter we are able to easily confine cows to be treated. This helps prevent injury to us or the cow.

Why would one need to confine a cow like this? Meet Collette, pictured above. Collette had a severe case of mastitis. She was running a high fever, had a very swollen quarter with clotted milk and was dehydrated. Just as in people, when a cow is dehydrated they are administered an IV of fluids. Because Collette had an infection she was also given antibiotics, as well as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever in order to make her more comfortable.

As you can see, Collette's one back quarter was very swollen and sore.

As you can see, Collette’s one back quarter was very swollen and sore.

When cows are given an IV their heads are restrained. This is done because their IV’s are most commonly given in a vein in their neck. If you have an uncooperative patient, a cow’s head  is very heavy to be hit with. Believe me. While no one likes needles, it’s important to remember that just as in people, cows must be treated to recover. Collette would possibly have not survived had she not received an IV of fluids and medicine.

A cows IV is most commonly ran in to a vein in her neck.

A cows IV is most commonly ran in to a vein in her neck.

Holding a bottle of fluids to help replenish the ones lost to dehydration. I'm a great hand and arm model if I do say so myself!

Holding a bottle of fluids to help replenish the ones lost to dehydration. I’m a great hand and arm model if I do say so myself! You can also see what the box stall looks like.

Once a cow has been administered any type of medication, they are clearly marked so all of the people milking know that her milk MUST BE DISCARDED. Milk containing medicine cannot be marketed. All milk, regardless if conventional or organic, is rigorously tested for antibiotics before it enters the food system.

photo 2 (2)

2 red leg bands are used to communicate to everyone that this cow has received medication and her milk must be discarded.

After cows receive IV fluids, the fluids are designed to make them want to drink. This is crucial to their hydration. Sometimes sick cows aren’t to willing to drink so by giving them fluids we are ensuring they do.

Collette taking a nice long drink.

Collette taking a nice long drink.

Collette responded great to her treatment and has recovered completely. As farmers it is our job to care for our animals. Especially the ones who require a little extra TLC every now and then.

Farm Kid Summer

It’s time to break down and admit that summer has had it’s last hurrah. With temps dipping down to the low 40’s overnight, I don’t think there’s many more warm days left. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall temps, bright colored leaves and pumpkin flavored everything, I am a little sad. Summer in Ohio this year was cool. It had a brief blip of summer a few weeks ago, just in time to see the season out.

My kids are summer kids. They don’t like to wear clothes, despise socks and shoes, all while running around like little natives (hence where me calling them a “tribe” came from”. I’m sure their version of summer fun may be different from some of their friends ideas of normal summer activities.

So what exactly does the tribe do to have fun in the summer?

For starters, there’s always work to be done on the farm. Our kids are over eager to help.

Heifers to be fed...

Heifers to be fed…

 

Dry cows to be fed...

Dry cows to be fed…

And cows to be milked

And cows to be milked

After seeing these pictures, I’m really beginning to wonder where Emma was while the boys were doing all this work?!? After the work, we played and played and played some more!

Playing on the swings, with an audience of chickens.

Playing on the swings, with an audience of chickens.

Our annual zoo trip. Henry and I acted like we didn't know these weird people walking beside us...

Our annual zoo trip. Henry and I acted like we didn’t know these weird people walking beside us…

On hot days they had to cool off with water in the milk house...

On hot days they had to cool off with water in the milk house…

Hitting up a few county fairs and petting ALL the animals!

Hitting up a few county fairs and petting ALL the animals!

Washing heifers to get them cleaned up to go to a show.

Washing heifers to get them cleaned up to go to a show.

And, the most fun part in their eyes, showing their calves at the fair!

And, the most fun part in their eyes, showing their calves at the fair!

A farm kids summer may differ from your “traditional” summer vacation, but I guarantee you they have just as much fun. I hope your summer was enjoyable and warmer than ours!

 

 

Calves and Colostrum

Lately I’ve been posting all these cute baby pictures of our calves born recently. Believe me, they’re everywhere, I don’t have to walk far to stumble upon one!

In my opinion, one of the cuter babies born recently.

In my opinion, one of the cuter babies born recently.

When calves are first born they, like any other baby, have a virtually blank immune system. This leaves them wide open to a whole bunch of nasty diseases. One of our jobs as farmers is to prevent the animals from becoming sick. So how do we protect them?

A newborn baby that is minutes old.

A newborn baby that is minutes old.

After our babies are born, their mothers clean them off and care for them. Sometimes the calf nurses naturally at our farm and sometimes not. We try to limit this. This practice is not done to be mean to the cow or the calf, but if we feed the calf their colostrum, it enables us to know the amount they received. It is standard practice at our farm that each new calf receives at least 1 gallon of colostrum for its first feeding. If “Rosie”, the little wet red calf in the picture above, had solely nursed from her mom, it would be hard to tell if she had eaten enough. The goal is to have the cow milked before the calf has nursed so we can watch the amount eaten.

So what’s in this stuff any ways that it’s so important to be fed? Colostrum is loaded with antibodies! Antibodies cannot be passed thru the placenta, this leaves the baby born with nothing to really protect it from illness upon birth. The neat thing about calves is when they are born, their digestive tract is porous. This leaves little holes for the antibodies from the colostrum to pass thru. It’s critical for a calf to be fed colostrum as soon as possible so you don’t miss the window of time this is happening.

You want your calves to have colostrum from your own cows whenever possible. This ensures that it has antibodies specific to your farm. There are commercial colostrum supplements and replacers available, but they aren’t as specific as the colostrum that comes from your farm. In order to ensure we have ample colostrum for all calves, we will bank colostrum in a freezer. Some cows give very little colostrum the first milking. This leaves their baby with out enough nourishment. To prevent this from happening we will freeze extra colostrum from cows who give an abundance.

Colostrum is not “regular” milk. It is thick, sticky and yellow. It is higher in nutrients which makes it denser. It also has a higher sugar content than regular milk. So what exactly does this stuff look like?

Colostrum in a pail waiting to be fed.

Colostrum in a pail waiting to be fed.

Colostrum is worth it’s weight in gold. With out receiving proper amounts of colostrum a calf’s health can literally be compromised for life. Sickly calves become sickly cows who don’t produce much milk. It’s our goal to have healthy girls to make lots of milk to be consumed. It amazes me how something so simple as one feeding can influence an animal for its entire life!

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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This morning we are fine dining on some chocolate chip cookies I made last night. They are scrumptious. I figured it was a Saturday morning so that obviously means there’s nothing wrong with having a nice cookie with your coffee. This is my mom’s cookie recipe. I did make one modification because I was out of milk, what kind of dairy farmer is milk-less? I had yogurt, sour cream and about 20 different kinds of cheeses, but no milk…I know, get with the program! With no further rambling, here is my chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 cup Butter flavored Crisco
  • 1 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 TBSP Sour Cream (here’s my substitution)
  • 1 TBSP Vanilla
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans

Pre-heat your oven  to 375 degrees. Cream the Crisco and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Then add in sour cream, vanilla and egg. Cream until all combined. In another bowl combine flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly incorporate into the creamed mixture. Once mixed stir in the chocolate chips and pecans. Drop rounded tablespoon sized balls of dough on to an ungreased cookie tray, about 3 inches apart. Bake 10-11 minutes for a chewy cookie. DO NOT OVER BAKE!  Allow to cool 2 minutes or so before placing on a cooling rack. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. I always double and share or Tom eats them all before I share….

Enjoy them with a nice cold glass of milk or be creative and make ice cream sandwiches out of them, yummy!

 

Ask The Farmers

My intro picture from the Ask the Farmers Facebook page.

My intro picture from the Ask the Farmers Facebook page.

Do you ever have questions about where your food comes from? Would you like to be able to ask a farmer directly what kind care goes in to their animals or crops? Do you ever just wonder what a farmer does in a day?

A group of dedicated ag and farming advocators have decided to make themselves very accessible to answer your questions. Yours truly is one of them. We are hoping that by making ourselves available to you, you will comfortable to ask any questions you may come up with. And believe me, we have people of nearly every sector of agriculture!

This is a very exciting project to be part of! I can’t wait to see what kind of questions you will have for us! Not only is there a blog, but also a Facebook page, Twitter account and Instagram account. So many ways to contact us for your convince!

Listed below is how you can find “Ask the Farmers”. I look forward to you following us!

Website and Blog: http://www.askthefarmers.com

Facebook: Ask the Farmers

Twitter: @askthefarmers

Instagram: @askthefarmers

Questions may be submitted either via the website, as a private message on Facebook or be e-mailed to askthefarmers@Hotmail.com

Please stop by, check it out and ask away!

Sand & Silage

Yesterday I was hoping to have a smooth afternoon. Why is it the days you always hope things go the smoothest are the days you have the most problems.

Our feeder is very temperamental and feeding the milk cows is often a real chore. Both literally and figuratively. A job that normally takes one person a half hour took 2 of us over an hour last night. Our motor that runs the whole operation went down in a blaze of glory leaving us to manually switch the conveyor from side to side.

What am I to do while I sit there just waiting to flip a switch? Take all kinds of pictures of course! I started with the beautiful bovines.

Everyone at the bunk beginning to eat their supper.

Everyone at the bunk beginning to eat their supper.

#122 is really digging in. This picture really seemed to just focus on her. She needed her 2 seconds of fame!

#122 is really digging in. This picture really seemed to just focus on her. She needed her 2 seconds of fame!

Then I slowly progressed to the boys. Em was helping a girl who works for us feed baby calves. The boys were chilling with us. They were pretty good entertainment if nothing else!

I think Taylor was starting to become concerned that Frolic may have mistaken him for a piece of silage!

I think Taylor was starting to become concerned that Frolic may have mistaken him for a piece of silage!

So after getting covered in silage from playing in the bunk they moved to the sandy free stalls.

I think Henry was pretending to be a cow in this shot! He had gotten so dirty by this time there really was no more point in clothes.

I think Henry was pretending to be a cow in this shot! He had gotten so dirty by this time there really was no more point in clothes.

Taylor and Henry in what I think was my favorite shot of the night. Just sitting in a stall watching Fire eat feed that had dropped off the conveyor.

Taylor and Henry in what I think was my favorite shot of the night. Just sitting in a stall watching Fire eat feed that had dropped off the conveyor.

They had a blast! While they were disgusting and covered from head to toe in corn silage and sand they were giggling the whole time. I’m pretty sure when it was all done and over with there was enough sand in Henry’s diaper to build a sand castle. Baths all around!

Skinny Cow

No, I’m not talking about the cheese wedges. A month ago I posted a picture of one of our lovely ladies who had their picture professionally taken by a cattle photographer. Yes, for those of you not in the ag world, there are people who do this. It can be a real pain to get your cow looking just right, but these people know how to go about it so you get just the right shot. After getting the picture back I posted it to my personal Facebook page, my Of Kids and Cows page (if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do!), as well as my Instagram and Twitter. It go lots of likes, favorites and a few questions.

Reba's picture. She was a good cow and very cooperative. Maybe she has a photogenic personality?

Reba’s picture. She was a good cow and very cooperative. Maybe she has a photogenic personality?

 

A fellow Agvocate asked the following question “she looks healthy and everything, but why is she so skinny?”. Well for starters we have dairy cows, not beef cows. Reba and her herd mates are fed a ration, which is balanced by their own personal nutritionist, to make them give lots of milk. The reason you can see her ribs is not because she is malnourished or underfed. When this photo was taken of Reba she was making over 110 pounds of milk a day. To milk like that they have to eat a lot. Believe me this one is an eater. A mature milk cow milking like that will eat over 100 pounds of feed a day. Far from malnourished.

A milk cows ration is designed to help her make lots of milk and maintain her weight. Notice I didn’t say gain weight. When dairy cows have big weight fluctuations it is hard on their metabolic systems and problems arise. Ketosis and fatty liver syndrome are no fun.

A cow will also have natural weight variances due to how she is milking. Cows who have calved more recently tend to be thinner because they are producing more milk. Cows about ready to go dry (their 2 month vacation prior to baby) tend to be heavier because they are milking less. They are also 7 months pregnant at this time so some “baby weight” is expected.

Most beef cows are fed to maintain their weight and produce enough milk for their calf to eat. They are also bred to be a heavier animal, hence why we use them for meat. Dairy cows are bred to make milk all year round. This makes them naturally a little thinner.

Genetics also play a role. Just as some people are heavy while some people are thin, cows are the same way. Reba was bred to be a cow exhibited at shows. We want her to appear fit and angular (a little ribs showing). Think of it this way, she was selectively bred to be a model. People picked her skinny genes for her. Why was I not this lucky? In the above picture she is also all shiny and styled for a cow show. This means she’s had a hair cut, her udder is full of milk to show how large it is and she has had a shiny spray put on her to make her hair coat very pretty. She is essentially all dolled up to go to town.

So what’s Reba look like on an every day basis?

Reba in her "work clothes" after just leaving the milking parlor. Empty udder, no shiny spray, no fancy hair cut. Just a cow enjoying a sip of water.

Reba in her “work clothes” after just leaving the milking parlor. Empty udder, no shiny spray, no fancy hair cut. Just a cow enjoying a sip of water.

While she is still thin, she is in perfect condition for a dairy cow making a large quantity of milk. I wandered the barn taking more pictures so you could see the body condition of some of our other ladies.

This is Angry. No, she is a very happy cow before you ask.

This is Angry. No, she is a very happy cow before you ask.

While her back bone is still prominent, her ribs are covered with a layer of fat. She is about half way thru her lactation (period of time being milked) and this is where we like to see them. Cows that are too heavy have a hard time conceiving a calf and can encounter health problems more easily once they calve.

Here's #94. No name, but equally as cared for.

Here’s #94. No name, but equally as cared for.

#94 is nearing the end of her lactation. She’s heavier because she has slowed in milk production and she’s starting to become very pregnant. While not the most photogenic cow in the barn that day, you can see she has quite a bit more fat cover.

Meet miss Peggy.

Meet miss Peggy.

Peggy is on her vacation time in this picture. She is very heavy. Lots of fat cover in this picture. I was honestly worried she would have metabolic problems that come with fat cows when she had her baby. But thankfully she calved problem free, her and “Patricia”, her calf, are doing just fine.

Our dairy cows are thinner because their job is to make milk, not meat. Due to specified ration, milk production and genetics they appear more thin than your average beef cow. This doesn’t mean they are not healthy. If we don’t have healthy, well cared for animals they don’t produce milk to the best of their capabilities.