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Jane’s a Tool

May 28, 2014

I mean that in a good way.  Our original rear bagger lawn mower is on hedgerow detail right now.

"Whaddya doin' back there?

“Whaddya doin’ back there?”

lactators anon

Jane is getting an extended dry period this year, partly because I wanted to improve her condition, and partly due to her late calving date this summer (a huge comedy of errors and completely my fault) I wanted to dry her up before the grass was in this condition.  Her milk production was going back up in April at ten months into her lactation.  I don’t like drying off cows when they are going up in production.

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Jane doesn’t favor her sturdy mom, she’s got the more modern, lean dairy type build, and putting weight on her and keeping it is a constant job.

On cows you look to the topline for weight gain.  The big tummy that causes people to think cows are always overweight is the digestive tract.  If you ever have a chance to see a cow butchered, you then see all that area inside the rib cage is guts.  This old post has some great photos of the insides if you care to scroll down.

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I wanted to put some weight on Jane’s short ribs which were prominent ridges while she was milking.  Check.

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The area just behind the shoulders was in need of weight.  Check.

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Normally, when a cow gains weight, her general overall condition improves and you begin to see the beautiful shiny coat, nice lines indicating some fat cover and just a general overall bright, healthy look.

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Clean slick tails are a good sign too.  The tail should appear round, not flat and shouldn’t really have manure on it for more than a day at most.  A healthy, somewhat oily coat will help shed the manure, if it sticks and persists, probably a visit to the mineral store is on the list.

hayfield hedgerow

hayfield hedgerow

We try not to mow anything we can graze.  It saves on fuel, and labor and really, the livestock are here to work the landscape.  Grazing the edge of the hayfield was something I grew up with, except we always turned the cows in after the hay was cut. Now I understand how much we were hurting the hay ground by giving the cattle access to the grass at its most vulnerable time.  So to that end, I usually graze the edge of the hay fields before cutting hay.

Grazing this lane around the hayfield has many benefits to us and the cows.

♥  Cows are the ultimate bushhog, they can really do some bushwhacking if that’s what you need.

♥  This grass in the back swath is somewhat wasted by the time haying season rolls around.  The edge is too narrow for mob stocking, so grazing it before it gets tough gives me more days of grazing.  Having the outside round opened up too, makes for quicker hay curing.

♥  The cow(s) get the benefit of some browse in the hedgerow along with their grazing.  Ours are native to this place and not planted by humans, however human plantings of fruit and nut trees have helped this hedge along.  Daily, Jane is browsing on chestnut, hazel, plum, hawthorn, and vine maple.  Edible cleavers, miners lettuce, and some dewberries make up part of the understory.

Jane the task master, coming to see if I'm done with her fence.

Jane the task master, coming to see if I’m done with her fence.

The grazing of the family cow on this farm gets managed entirely different than the beef herd.  One size or method doesn’t fit all.  I am basically strip grazing Jane as opposed to rotationally grazing the beef herd.  The difference is that strip grazing doesn’t require a back fence, and managed-intensive grazing does.  The labor alone for water delivery to one cow would be crazy.  With that in mind I am just moving Jane’s front fence daily to her new allotment of grass, and she is free to come back to the barnyard to the gravity flow water trough.  Her minerals are in the barnyard as well.  I am sacrificing some grass growth of course, because Jane is allowed the “second bite” on any grass that may be regrowing in the lane.  But I have to say if you make your rotational grazing too rule ridden you will quit altogether.   It’s better to fudge and tweak to match your stock and grass than to be too rigid and be miserable.

Certainly too, I could mow this with the tractor and be done, but I still need to find grazing for Jane around the main compound of gardens and buildings so she may as well graze this and give me a break from tractor work.

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To even further simplify this procedure, I just start with one of our large spools of wire, and put in a few posts each day and reel out a little more fence.  It takes longer to walk to the end than it does to add more length to the lane each day.  Since Jane is dry, and we’re not up close and personal twice a day, this walk to the new mini paddock gives me a chance to observe her and monitor her weight, and just a give her a general well-being check.

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She gone.

She gone.

There she goes, off for a day of grazing.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2014 6:17 pm

    The lovely Jane! A wonderfully informative slice of your farm! Thank you.

  2. May 28, 2014 6:18 pm

    She really is a beautiful cow.. c

  3. Bee permalink
    May 28, 2014 7:00 pm

    She looks great, Nita! Nice and slick, good condition and bright-eyed. I’m struggling with Maybelle right now because she’s got some itchy spots she keeps rubbing on her neck and shoulders. Then the flies go after those areas. She’s seven this year and a little more fragile than she once was.

  4. May 28, 2014 7:56 pm

    I really enjoyed your information about Jane. Although I was brought up on a farm, we never had much livestock and it’s a pleasure to learn about the art of animal husbandry. Thanks Helen

  5. CassieOz permalink
    May 28, 2014 8:00 pm

    She’s looking lovely and sleek. I know I’m obsessed but I love to hear about your Jane.

  6. May 29, 2014 3:24 am

    You are a scientist, and Jane obviously shows the signs of being a very successful experiment! Absolutely beautiful cow! And a good lesson, that proper management = beauty.

  7. Carole permalink
    May 29, 2014 5:56 am

    Did Jane ever have horns, and do you dehorn your beef cows? We’re getting closer to getting cows and were wondering about horns or not. We keep hearing conflicting info.

    • May 29, 2014 7:39 am

      Here’s an old blog post about Jane’s horn removal:
      https://matronofhusbandry.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/bovine-big-girl-panties/
      I used the dehorning caustic paste, and followed the directions for goats – apply a small nickel size dollop of the paste to the horn bud, and at six hours I removed it with water and vinegar to neutralize the paste. It worked perfectly, she appears to be polled. Frankly, I wouldn’t go for horns myself, I have had many horned cows and it’s fine until something goes wrong. Then the outcome can be pretty bad. Our beef cows are born polled, and we have one cow with horns, who is kind of on my list of sorts to go. She’s gentle but she does use those horns to her advantage in close quarters with the other cattle.

      The horn subject is about as controversial as Cornish Cross chickens, people really get up in arms about both. Dehorning is painful no matter when you do it, or what method is used. Being born without horns is not harmful in any way. I choose that path when possible.

      • May 29, 2014 10:56 am

        Was listening to Chad Peterson recently. He now (recently?) runs highland cattle and says he can’t pack them tightly in each pasture allotment because he has to allow room for those horns.

        • May 29, 2014 11:27 am

          Yeah, tell me about it. Our one with horns has one sticking straight out, she uses it to scratch her own back and to jab everybody else in her way. Deep bedding time really gets her going. I like no horns, it’s pretty cruel to dehorn them when they are mature. Looking into that sinus is a sight to see :p

  8. May 30, 2014 2:51 pm

    I adore the Jane updates!! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Fiona stephens permalink
    June 1, 2014 10:15 pm

    I love the Jane up dates as well, and the photos.

  10. June 19, 2014 10:19 am

    Wow, your Jane looks waaaaaayyyyyy different than my poor skin and bones, Irma. Hopefully that’s how she’ll look the next time she’s dry. Thanks for all your help over on the family cow forum.

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