Harvesting the last of the peppers before the cold snap…
To putting Jane in at night. From summer to winter in one fell swoop.
This is the last of the peppers. It’s official now, Jane is sleeping in and I moved the cows a little closer today to ride out the storm. Freezing rain is the prediction, so closer is definitely better.
Jane’s at the critical 90 days in milk when a dairy cow should have reached peak lactation, be rebred and hopefully can add a little weight if needed.
Personally I would like to see a little more weight on her going into winter. This is the part I really dislike about her calving in the August. Just when she’s reached her peak we are heading into the dark days, the grass is waning, and she will use up a fair portion of her calories keeping warm.
At this point Jane is on pasture all hours except milking time. But the time is nearing that I will start putting her in at night and gathering her manure for the garden. With that in mind we picked up our first load of carbon this weekend. Oat straw. Gorgeous, golden oat straw from some farmer friends downriver. Plus I need to get my garlic in too and I need some straw for mulch. We have some straw on hand from last year, but it is buried underneath the haystack…
Assessing condition on a dairy cow is a little different than the beef cows. You check the rumen fill, but you also look at how much body fat the cow is carrying on her back and in the rib area. In this photo, Jane has grazed all day and is waiting to be milked. I can see the short grass isn’t filling her up, so I will add another flake of hay tonight to her ration when I put her back out the night.
Jane’s a workhorse. She’s feeding these two and keeping us in dairy products, milk, butter, ghee, and a little cheese. A good place to start assessing her condition is by looking at the calves. They are doing great. This is a good place to mention that we are feeding these calves and not allowing them to nurse. By doing that we are in control of how much milk Jane produces, a single calf the age of these two can easily run a high producing cow in the ground by be allowed access 24/7. I know it sounds unnatural to some to not let the calves nurse, but there is nothing natural about a modern-day dairy animal. Some cows may not produce so much that they run their body into a rack of bones, but many do. So by restricting the calf you are actually helping the cow maintain a healthy weight. It becomes an endless cycle of feeding the thin cow more and more, and she will then in turn produce more and more and still be thin. How to restrict a calf that is taking too much milk? Either bottle feed, or only allow nursing twice a day on your schedule. The calf will be fine and momma cow will thank you.
Another place to look is the cow’s coat. No matter how long the hair it should lie flat, unless of course you have something that is a hairy beast like a Highland. If the hair is fuzzy looking, or turning up, do more research on your cows mineral needs, you may not be supplying the right thing for your cow, or your land and feed. It varies from breed to breed too. I’ve found over the years that with Guernsey influence in my herd I need to offer more copper, or otherwise I see hoof problems.
Jane currently has access to Redmond trace mineral salt, kelp for many things especially iodine, Fertrell Nutribalancer, Azomite, and A Mix from ABC. Depending on her feed, her intake of certain minerals changes. The beef cows get the same, with a little copper sulfate added.
And the most visible thing to look at is the dairy cow’s ribs and topline. Jane does not have much fat cushion on her short ribs. She’s not thin, thin, but with winter coming I would like to see more fat on her and less milk in the bucket possibly.
Winter is coming.
Mild mannered milk cow twenty days a month…
The most recent monthly rodeo convinced me to quit chasing unicorns and to get on with plan B. Plan A you ask? Well, first I’ll borrow a quote from a respected milk cow owner, “too old for young heifers!” I’m not getting any younger, growing your own family cow takes years. If everything, and I mean everything, goes exactly as planned. In two years and 9 months, you’ll get your first drop of milk. Plan A was a plan that a friend and I cooked up which started with procuring some semen from an old style Guernsey bull, we wanted less stature and more stockiness. So slow forward a couple of years and breeding of her Jersey, and my Jane several different times…no deal. Or actually no calf. We found lots of
excuses reasons why each AI attempt didn’t work. But in the back of my mind, was hmmm, what if, what if, this semen had lost something between various owners. Thawed, etc., who knows when something as fragile as straws of bull semen get shipped several times and stored.
Jane’s third heat and subsequent artificial insemination a month ago appeared to go off without a hitch. Until she came back into heat :( The “Gheela Monster” was back. (The “G” is not silent in this nickname.) That niggling little thought (okay it was a big thought actually), I could screw around, pun intended, and keep trying for that small stature old style Guernsey, or cue the milk bucket to the head sound, I could just breed her to the perfectly good Guernsey bull in the tank. Duh.
I love this little guy to pieces, if he was a heifer I would be over the moon. No more chasing unicorns, just a full sister to Reese. So all you peeps out there keeping track of Her Janeness, fingers crossed for a successful breeding, and if it’s a heifer great, but the real need is just a pregnant cow.
This year I used both the red and green mulch in the greenhouse. I have to say I can’t see any real difference between the two. The red is said to increase yields by 20%, the green is said to increase yields because of added warming.
Not wanting to tempt fate too much, I planted most of the tomatoes into the red mulch, and transplanted peppers, melons, cucumbers and some tomatoes into the green mulch. The tomato plants in the green mulch rows were just as prolific as the red, leading me to believe that heat generation from the mulch is helping me more than intensified red light to the tomato plants early in the growing season.
In the home garden mulches like this certainly have a place in much the same way row cover is used for frost protection or insect barrier. Once we pulled all the plants and cleaned up any spoiled tomatoes, we were able to salvage the mulch carefully for use again for the next season.
If there one thing I don’t like about the red mulch it’s somewhat tricky to see that first ripe tomato when you’re peering into the foliage and have your hopes up. Other than that, I would rank plastic mulch in the garden tool category right up there with irrigation and row cover.