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A Dispatch from the West

July 17, 2012

Since we didn’t pay attention to superstitions last Friday, Hangdog took the day off to work on the hay.    Biggggg mistake, maybe.  First off, he bent the hay loader…trying to get too close to the fence…if I pulled a stunt like that, I would still be hearing about it 😉  Phew!  When the dew was dried down and the Brix was up, he proceeded to start mowing a new field.  Pretty soon, he lost a roller chain, fixed that, went another round and the chain came off again along with losing the key from the shaft.  Of course, this stuff happens in the late afternoon when you just have enough time to chase parts and get back and fix everything!  So off to town for roller chain and keystock and the mower would be as good as new.  When it rains, it pours though, and as soon as the mower was fixed, the driveline broke.  This left us all a little disgruntled, now the hay would have to wait until more repairs could be made after the weekend.  A neighbor offered his mower, and we declined.  Which is where the silver lined cloud came in, it rained the next day.  So luck, good or bad was really with us.  If the mower had held together, or if we borrowed the neighbor’s mower all our hay would have been rained on.  As it stands right now, we are still waiting for sun and parts – the hay will have to wait.

On the Jane front, she is getting better and putting on a little weight.  She is not going to be an easy keeper though.  I have violated my rule of not allowing the second bite and put her in a field where we have recently cut hay.  So currently Jane is free ranging on two acres with new, succulent grass, good hedgerow browse, shade and some taller grasses around the edge.

Her udder rot is getting better, and doesn’t give her any pain so she tolerates salves, clay packing, and fly repellent.  Poor Jane, she is not going to be the resilient cow I had envisioned.  But on the bright side, she milks like a dream, if she could put the milk in the bucket for you, she would.  Now that we have 7 weeks of milking under our belts, I can see her udder ligaments are in good shape, which bodes well for her future as a milk cow.  She’s had two good heats, which rests my mind a little about her thin condition.

My hope is that if I hadn’t had the bad luck with the molasses, she might have held her weight better.  She really used up her fat reserves on her back and short ribs.  I would score her between 2.0 and 2.5 on this BCS chart.

I don’t like seeing her short ribs.

She is slick, shiny, dappled and cycling, so I hope this means we are on the uphill swing.  She is such a good girl!

And last but not least, Blake, tied and waiting patiently for me to get done milking.  She is a great relief milker and she’s growing like a weed!

28 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2012 11:23 am

    Eat up there, Jane. I was going to suggest giving her plenty of hay to go with the pasture but if I understand photo 6 you are already doing that and are way ahead of me. Good luck!

    • July 17, 2012 11:30 am

      BC, yeah she’s the clean-up crew for broken bales, and she gets hay at milking time plus pasture 23-7. I would love to try your lovely lucerne on her, she won’t touch the 3rd cutting I bought for her. Although I suspect she can tell how it was fertilized and irrigated…and has chosen not to partake.

      • July 17, 2012 11:37 am

        That’s interesting. Cow’s aren’t dumb so maybe there’s something missing there, like the way folk think modern fruit has lost its flavor?

        • July 17, 2012 1:07 pm

          BC, that and terroir. Non-irrigated alfalfa is supposed to be really what’s good for the milch cow, not the pumped up overly watered, possible GMO stuff that is so prevalent in the US. Even worse is the folks that feed alfalfa pellets thinking they are skirting the grain/grassfed issue. There is no way of seeing the actual quality of the alfalfa that went into the pellets – at least with a bale you can see what you’re getting.

          Funny thing about Jane and terroir from the womb. The year Jane was born, we didn’t grow corn, but always had previously and anytime we would get near the corn patch in the garden, Jane’s mom, Della would come to the fence and ask for corn stalks or leaves. Della would watch and if we were hilling potatoes or working on some other vegetable she wouldn’t pay any attention to us. Last summer in Jane’s second summer, we grew corn, and sure enough as soon as it got time to inspect the corn ears for picking, Jane would show up wanting corn. Of course, corn is a pretty strong smelling grass, and what cow wouldn’t want to dine on sweet corn stalks, but she’d never had a taste in her life until then. I think they instinctively know (race memory) what is good for them.

  2. July 17, 2012 11:40 am

    OOh I can relate to that “if I pulled a stunt like that, I would still be hearing about it.” If it is any consolation we have missed several windows for cutting hay here in Latvia for one reason or another. The current one is that our mud guards went through the tractor tyre again – they are coming off and stopping off from now on. Should get a new tyre on Friday and then we can get on with the baling next week and the weather so far is looking okay. Hurrah! Glad to see that Jane is getting better, hope she does prove to be more resilient in the end

    • July 17, 2012 12:59 pm

      Joanna, ain’t it the truth! I was glad it wasn’t me that bent it!

      Good luck with your hay 🙂

  3. July 17, 2012 11:41 am

    What a pretty cow. ❤

  4. July 17, 2012 11:56 am

    I don’t know if it’s the cow or the photographer, but she sure is photogenic. I adore that first shot of her. Glad she’s on the mend. Sorry ’bout your haying “fun”. We’re gathering straw with a scythe and tarp – too wet for a tractor. Nice thing about the manual approach is the straw rides up from the field on a tarp, so we can drag it into a barn when rain threatens. Bad thing about it – is just about everything else. 🙂 Hard work for a little straw and no easy-handle bales.

    • July 17, 2012 12:57 pm

      Harriet, it’s probably a little of both, my kid takes a mean picture and Jane loves to be a ham 🙂

      That is a lot of work and I thought we had it bad 😉

      • July 17, 2012 8:53 pm

        Here in Latvia they stack the hay outside on ricks by making A frames that then lean against each other. The hay can then continue to dry on the frame as it gets an airflow through the middle (not as much as in ours though and our rick was a poor example – you need to scroll down to see it). I also noticed some neighbours raking the outside fibres so that the rain ran off better. Latvia can be a bit damp too and this method is apparently quite effective and the ricks can stand over winter too

        • July 17, 2012 9:19 pm

          Joanna, that’s impressive! I remember reading a series of articles in the Small Farmers Journal some time ago written by some folks from the US that moved to Romania to live the simple life. They had to learn to do the hay in the ricks. I never have forgotten that – thanks for sharing your link!

  5. July 17, 2012 12:18 pm

    That udder pic looks awful but she has nice handles. The condition pics are very helpful. In spite of the drought and heat (108 tomorrow!) I’m trying to pour the condition into my girls. Feed hay while the sun shines, right?

    I have so much to learn. Thanks for helping.

    • July 17, 2012 12:56 pm

      HFS, I’m sure glad it doesn’t hurt her, it just looks awful! And it looks good now!

      I hate to tell you it’s about 75F today, and I think it is too hot!!

      • July 18, 2012 5:35 am

        Please don’t tell me about 75 degrees. That’s just mean. The mud at the bottom of my pond is warmer than that…lol.

        I don’t know much of the local history during the dust bowl but I’m told the corn crop here withered and died in about 8 hours back in 1954. The old timers would cut two trees down every day to feed the cows. First a small one they could drop as the cattle were running over, then a second, larger one while the cows were busy. My neighbor called this area the little Sahara. Drought is a part of life here. So are tornadoes, wind shears, major hail storms, heavy snows and ice storms and the Mississippi and Illinois rivers frequently come to visit. I’m about 170 miles from the New Madrid fault line. And we have Japanese beetles. Moving to the PNW sounds better every day.

        If I haven’t said it in the last 5 minutes, I’m glad we wrapped up our broiler season before July1. Here’s to hoping the freezers don’t thaw.

  6. Kay permalink
    July 17, 2012 12:35 pm

    I have never seen udder rot before – you know that has to hurt like heck 😦

    I hope her health continues to improve

    We really need rain. We are going to have to start haying real soon if we do not get relief soon – like a couple or three weeks + of non stop rain. We are in a very severe drought area.

    Other good news, Ms. Molly is finally bred, and will calf mid-March. Yay for Spring babies.

    • July 17, 2012 12:54 pm

      Kay, I’d never seen it before either, but apparently it’s a fungus type infection…so neem oil, neem bark, in addition to lots of other stuff in the ointment. It amazingly is not painful to her, otherwise I would be having hoofprints on body!

      We’re just now heading into our usual 3 month drought time, which isn’t really a drought, just not much rain. I hope you get some relief soon 😦

      Congrats on Molly!

  7. Quinn permalink
    July 17, 2012 12:56 pm

    Sometimes even our own rules are made to be broken, and Jane has so much going for her, getting her over this bump in the road may be the only serious trouble you ever have with her. I hope so, anyway – she sure is a nice-looking cow!

    • July 17, 2012 1:10 pm

      Quinn, I hope so too – besides nice-looking, you would not believe what great cow she is to be around. Amazing.

  8. Sheila Z permalink
    July 17, 2012 7:21 pm

    Looks like Jane puts it in the pail rather than on her back. Good milk cow you got there! Hope the udder rot keeps healing. In all the years of milking cows that’s one I never had to deal with. It looks ugly. Hoof rot we had way to often, that is one that will destroy a cow. Hope Jane heals up and goes on to life a long healthy life.

    • July 17, 2012 9:17 pm

      SheilaZ, she is sweetie for sure! I have never seen anything like that either, but a quick search on KFC brought up several cases in the last year, makes me wonder…radiation? Or just a general decline in the immune systems of cows? Luckily it looks like the devil but isn’t sore, so she lets me dress it. Keeping flies away is the main thing right now 😦 Thanks for the well wishes for Jane!

  9. Jessica permalink
    July 18, 2012 5:07 am

    Can you explain “the Brix was up” to me? I did a quick Google and found something on the Weston A Price website about the quality/flavor of the grass?

    • July 18, 2012 5:27 am

      Jessica, the grass plants store their sugars in the roots at night or before storms, leaving the sugars inaccessible to the animals or the humans cutting hay. So afternoon paddock shifts and afternoon hay cutting will yield higher Brix (sweeter) hay or forage. Our hay equipment is at the right horsepower to make it very difficult for us to cut hay any earlier or later, much of the hay being made or sold is cut when it is convenient for the operator not necessarily for the highest brix. Other things cut down on Brix too, like high nitrogen fertilizers…

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