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How now brown cows?

June 22, 2010

Jane was one month old yesterday, she has one bag of milk replacer under her belt collar and she is starting to fill out.  From the looks of her legs she is going to be a tall cow.

Jane – 1 month.

At chore time everyone listens – dinner will be ready soon.

Lula is now cutting us some slack and trusting us with her baby – so milking time is not an ordeal.  Lola is 10 days old now, so mom isn’t as worried when it is time to go back to the pasture.

The flip side of lamenting my garden plans because of rain, is that I am over-joyed with the way the grass is growing.  Call me fickle, but I worry about the grass and winter hay stores way more than I do the vegetable patch.

This is the same field that I posted about here, the post was dated May 19th but I took the photos on May 9th which means I have given the pasture about 43 days of rest.  What a difference a little rest makes… .

This is why I like late spring calving – the cows are slick, the temperatures are mild.  The last calf was born this morning.

He is so new, he hasn’t even thought of being scared of me.

Here’s the little wild woman who was lost – she sticks close now and listens to her mama.

Some just behave and never get in trouble… .

It may seem like a lot of work to some to move the electric fence each day, but thinking back to our old ways, it seems much easier than always scrounging for hay ground because we couldn’t grow enough grass.  I used to think it was weather related, or many of the other excuses I hear from my short grass neighbors, and I also thought it was easier to bring the feed to the cows in the form of hay.  Now I realize that it is much easier to just let them harvest it themselves.  It’s fresh, they can pick and choose and we don’t have to fire up the tractor.

Just by changing our calving season to late spring saved us money too.  We leave the calves on the cows and let the cows wean during the late winter.  Less stress, less feed, and when grazing season starts the calves have had the benefit of being on their moms for a full 9 or 10 months.  No stress, no separate areas and feed needed.  A win-win for us and the cattle.  It also makes the calves the perfect age for butchering at age 2 when the grass is at it’s best.  Just when I need to remove pressure from my pastures by getting rid of some stock I can sell off the 2 year olds as meat.  From now on the grass will start to grow slower, and will become more nutrient dense, and because of that I can meter out less and less by allotting smaller paddocks, and that increases my rest periods, which in turn helps the pasture stay productive even during our dry (insert maniacal laugh here) summers.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. becomingherby permalink
    June 22, 2010 12:47 am

    Oh how cute. I wanna take this new one home too, please 🙂

  2. June 22, 2010 2:23 am

    You cows and pastures look fantastic!

    • June 22, 2010 5:21 am

      TC, thanks, I guess that is the silver lining in all the clouds – good grass. Although now they are saying the entire summer will be like this – which will make haying a trial 😦 I’m hoping the weather predictions are wrong!

  3. June 22, 2010 3:36 am

    I find it very interesting the way you do things …everything is thought out so well on your farm. I’m amazed at how much rain you have gotten up there…I remember living in BC and having a summer where it rained most of the time and then come October 1st we had clear skies that night and frost in the morning. But at least the sun shone! Oh well it’s the price you pay for living in the most beautiful part of North America 😉 I hope you get some sunshine today…enjoy your day. Maura 🙂

    • June 22, 2010 5:22 am

      Maura, it has been a wet one for sure – I’m hoping this isn’t the trend for the entire summer!

  4. June 22, 2010 4:58 am

    I am very pleased to read that you practice long rests in your pasture rotations! This is something new fore me even though I have been moving our mixed species herd every day for ten+ years. This year I went to a small conference on holistic grazing, a rancher of 1000 acres and 1000 head of cattle spoke about his ranch in south Missouri and introduced me to letting the pasture have a 90 day rest, and smaller padocks. I have been grazing the pasture in this way for 42 days now and have not had to re graze any areas. I have started a blog about my experience with this right way of grazing.

    • June 22, 2010 5:27 am

      David, that would be Greg Judy I presume? My problem is having a stockpiled pasture to start out on in the spring. Our rainfall shoots the heck out of stockpiled grass by January, but as always it is a learning experience. Too bad my neighbors have planted houses in their pastures – or I could rent some land and add to my pasture. If you get a chance – read Kate Yegherlenger’s articles on rotational grazing in Stockman Grassfarmer too. Thanks for the link.

    • June 23, 2010 6:58 pm

      Actually it was Cody Holmes he writes in the Acres USA , he dose things very similar to the Judy’s though. The concept of winter grazing is a bit baffling but I know it is being done so it must work. I think the way to do it is to have grass that is tall but not going to seed going into winter. I am not sure what portland winters are like do you get a lot of snow? Here in north west Michigan we have long deep snow winters, though when it will start is never predictable,nor how cold it will be ,or how deep the snow cover will be. any way it turns out we and up feeding hay for 6 months, if I can reduce this by at least a couple of months I would be happy. I would not want to leave the cattle out in a blizzard or cold rain so I think I will always have to feed hay. Even Cody feeds hay for about two months do to ice storms but he only feed I think something like a half a round bale per head per year, this works out to be only 500 bales a year for 1000 head! here is the link to his website

      • June 23, 2010 8:48 pm

        David, I like Cody’s articles too, always informative. Our problem here (in our specific micro climate) is the heavy rains from October or November to April. It ruins the quality of the stockpiled grass – in high rainfall areas 60 days of rain is about all the standing grass can take before there no nutrition. In drier although colder climates, there are ranchers that graze the winter through, their brittle (dry) environment preserves the nutrients in grass. I haven’t figured out how to or been brave enough to start winter without hay in the barn. I can’t see how I could do without it, although with the rotational grazing we are feeding less and less hay. I grazed until late January last winter and started again in April, which is a vast improvement over previous years. It’s fun to think about feeding less hay though, work in progress I guess 🙂

  5. June 22, 2010 5:07 am

    I’ll never get tired of calf pictures! I love Jane’s little heart and I just want to smack her rump! Cute cute cute. She’ll be a handsome cow.

  6. June 22, 2010 5:25 am

    A good orchestration for land and animal alike!

  7. June 22, 2010 7:28 am

    misery loves company, I guess. I’m perversely heartened by your weather troubles as I struggle to figure things out here and in a difficult year. Little spring rain, then overnight freezing nights were history – we started hitting 90 degrees regularly in early June. Just as I got ready to put in my garden the big rains hit -and it’s been storming every couple of days, 2-3 inches at a pop, never drying enough for me to walk in there and fix the beds for planting, but wet enough to have grown all of the grass back that was tilled into submission. I’m about ready to throw in the towel for this season. Esp. now that I’m getting heat rash…. my body needs time to adjust, and if timing was off (as mine was) it’s a crappy year here for gardens too. Sigh. Learning curve/adjustment time.

  8. June 22, 2010 7:31 am

    When you let the cows wean their calves at 9 or 10 months, do you bother separating them from mamas for the winter, or just leave the herd together?

    • June 22, 2010 7:40 am

      Amy, they wean them – we don’t. Separating is a pain, unless you can do one fence separation with excellent grass for the calves. I think early weaning is hard them. But that doesn’t stop people from doing it – because that’s the way Grampa always did it, so it must be the only way. We breed late too – and most will tell you that is a no-no. Biodynamics call for breeding at age 2 when the teeth are fully in, but that is too much hocus-pocus for most… 😉

  9. June 22, 2010 10:52 am

    Your calves a looking good! I wouldn’t mind calves a couple of weeks later but this year it wouldn’t have mattered…..we went from winter to summer and missed spring completely 😉

  10. June 23, 2010 2:38 pm

    Hey … I belong in the category of those who ” just behave and hever get into trouble”. hehe

  11. June 24, 2010 11:26 am

    Jane is gorgeous! They’re all beautiful. I’d love to have enough land some day for some cows.

  12. June 25, 2010 11:39 pm

    I don’t know how you ever get anything done around your place…it would be so hard leaving those cows, they are just lovely! Those mahogany coats and stunning white faces, all content in their well-maintained and rotated pastures. And Jane, with her white heart blaze on her forehead…oh Nita, so happy for your daily joys amid the weather disappointments and the losses. It just makes me so happy seeing these glimpses of your farm every time I come here.

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