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Chore Change

March 1, 2012

I can’t say enough how much I appreciate working with my kid.  We I decided to put the cows in for the rest of winter.  What started out as a fairly mild winter, has been bringing us enough snow, on a somewhat regular basis, that we were feeding lots of hay.  Like any decision, we always have to weigh the pros and cons.   When I figure we grow 95% of what we eat, I have to include the cows in this scenario too.  I would rather buy more bedding than I would try to find hay that the cows may or may not eat.  Hay is expensive, but  is something we can grow and make ourselves fairly easily.  Buying in carbon for bedding makes more sense than buying hay.

But I digress,  when Mom announces at breakfast that we are moving the cows in, it’s not a simple open the gate affair.  Unfortunately we have a county road dividing the farm.  Fast drivers, sharp curves and bovines on pavement do not mesh well.  I need cow savvy help.  Like the hay, the best way to get cow savvy help is to grow it yourself.  Note to people not besotted with  bovines…just fill in the blank with your animal of choice.

Cows and kids have good memories, the alert heifer second from the left was our lead cow today.  She has known the kid since they were, well, kids.

Gotta love the barbed wire gate when the snow gets deep.  All our new fancy tube gates are an absolute pain in deep snow.  I’ll take practical over aesthetics anytime.

While the cows waited patiently, we bedded the shed, filled the feeders, built a couple of shear fences to direct the cows to the feeding shed, and we were done, except bringing the cows in.  It was a pleasure to work with someone who performed the tasks deftly while we chatted and joked.

Rather than opening a gate and running the cows up the road to the barn, it is much easier to take down part of the fence and let the cows cross the road.  With snow on the road, the stripes are not visible and the cows will freely cross.  Otherwise it makes more sense to run the cows up the road, the road stripes appear to the cows like a cattle guard and they will run parallel with the striping but crossing the road stripes is another story.  In this case the snow was a blessing.

Cows installed.

Now that they are in, they will stay here until I start the grazing cycle again, about mid-April.  Chore change.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2012 10:07 pm

    Well I learnt something new today. I never knew that the cows will follow the stripes on the road rather than crossing them.

    We are wondering how we manage alpacas next year, we get three this year to try them out and see how they fare with our weather, and the dilemma of when to bring them in will be a problem as I understand they would much rather stay out, but that is not good if temperatures dip below -15C (5F).

    • March 2, 2012 6:21 am

      Joanna, it’s pretty funny to see them – the cows that are old hands now know what to expect but the calves either jump the stripes or pick up their feet real high to “step” over the obstacle. It wouldn’t be a big deal but once in awhile you get one that just will run up and down and not cross, not good on the road.

      Maybe a shed that offers some shelter if the alpacas choose?

  2. A.A. permalink
    March 1, 2012 11:15 pm

    Love the pictures with your kid! Is she holding a camera there in the second picture?

    • March 2, 2012 6:24 am

      AA, I think it is an apple, and a good reason the calves are watching her intently. I like the top picture where she is calling the cows and walking with the electric fence, over course the hovering dad is right behind 😉

  3. March 2, 2012 2:26 am

    Interesting! Glad it went well.

  4. March 2, 2012 5:51 am

    Sounds like a full day. Must be a sense of accomplishment. Good looking cattle you have.

  5. March 2, 2012 6:34 am

    I just love that feeding shed of yours…

    • March 2, 2012 7:51 am

      AMF, yeah it’s nice to have tall trees to use for “lumber.” The purchased feeder panels are attached to a log, top and bottom, and the whole shebang can be raised as the bedding builds up. Modeled after Polyface of course, our change(besides purchased panels) was that the hay part extends into the personnel area giving the cows more room. Long rectangular areas with cows can be stress causing depending on the age of the cattle in them. Greg Judy writes about long skinny paddocks for doing more trampling also, so the less stress the better, IMHO. If I had all feeders it wouldn’t be so bad, but with a mixed age herd, I have several battle axes and I have to make sure the meek ones aren’t always in a bind.

      • March 2, 2012 9:38 am

        MOH, I’ve not read Greg’s stuff yet. Are you referring to a pushy animal in a long rectangular enclosure (like a shed) keeping meek animals pushed away from the feed, or is the long shed the solution (to allow them to get further apart?) I’m confused. (we have goats and the low doe ends up eating on the outside of the shed, through a gap in the boards I created for just that purpose.)

      • HeadFarmSteward permalink
        March 2, 2012 12:24 pm

        OK. Feel free to go into more detail on the long rectangle topic complete with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each picture. I understand the forcing disturbance by making all the hoves cover a small area repeatedly. I understand cow 1 has her head through the feed gate when cow 2 rams her in the side. I don’t have a feel for how to relieve that pressure short of not asking the cows to file in on a short side of the rectangle.

  6. March 2, 2012 9:32 am

    Have a Great Weekend:)

  7. HeadFarmSteward permalink
    March 2, 2012 11:07 am

    Congrats on making it into a picture today. Usually you’re just the narrator…

  8. March 2, 2012 1:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I truly miss living on my family’s old farm, so your post was very inspirational.

  9. March 2, 2012 3:35 pm

    LOL I like that crossed off royal WE 😉 Your snow (and keep YOUR snow) is prettier than ours.

  10. March 4, 2012 10:40 am

    I knew they wouldn’t cross a cattle guard but I never dreamed that they would not cross a road stripe! Cows are some pretty strange creatures sometimes.

  11. Janet permalink
    March 6, 2012 1:49 pm

    Wow! Look at all your snow! Loved the pic of the “help” in training. 🙂 Absolutely agree. The best help are the ones you raise. 😉

  12. hilary permalink
    June 18, 2015 9:08 am

    Am wondering if this applies to buffalos. We had escaped buffalos a few months ago. They actually swam across the Hudson river and kept on walking. Of course our mentality was ‘dangerous’ animals must be put down. Unfortunate as they were murdered. We need to change our ways.

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