Weather always changes.

The whole ground was covered in snow recently and now the grass is turning green again!  It is amazing how much Mother Nature can bounce back and forth.  We are still feeding the sheep but not as much.  We are letting them range the back hillside. They know to come into the barn just before dark. This is a disappointing development for Zeke as he does not get to chase them all over the hillside. Surprisingly, the back creek is not running.  All that snow got absorbed into the ground and did not run off the mountains.  We need another few feet of snow in the mountains so we can get the moisture back in the ground. 
The horses are being piggies and keeping the cows from their feeder.  So now we have to lock the horses up in their feed area overnight.  This lets us feed the horses and we can feed the cows. It will take a little trial and error to get the right amount of feed to the cows.  Right amount being the amount they can eat completely overnight so the horses cannot have any!  We calculated 60 lbs/day for baby cows. 
I went out today to measure the upper prime pasture.  I am hoping to seed it on Friday.  According to my smart phone and agricultural plotting app I need to seed 4.25 acres. The ground looks perfect and it shouldn’t be too hard.  I just need to vacuum out the dead bugs out of the seeder before starting.  I purchased enough seed for ten acres. I am seriously considering ripping up the orchard and replanting it. Maybe the lower pasture gets done first I just don’t know. 
The chickens are only laying 5-6 eggs/day from 18 hens.  I have a light going every day so that is not an issue. I only get about 33% productivity in the winter. I am starting to get peeved at my one rooster, he is not doing his job.  All our other roosters would encourage the hens to go out and eat and scratch in the dirt.  Our new rooster hides out in the chicken coop all day, so the hens follow his example.  He is being a lazy bum.  Who knows maybe he is agoraphobic?  Unfortunately for him, that will be a death sentence.  I think one of the buff orpington pullets may be a rooster.  I will know for sure in the next two months.  If that is the case then a execution will be forthcoming. 
Yesterday, today the sun is shining through white clouds.

Sunday Shenanigans

Sunday morning I was all dressed for church and putting Sprout on the breeze porch.  That means I was ready to head out the door.  I was actually not running late, but I wasn’t exactly leaving early either.   Steve, of course, was at work, so it should not be a surprise that I heard the telltale panicked crying of a lone lamb. Sure enough, when I went out to put Zeke on the run, there was a single panicked little lamb in the yard. The rest of the sheep, including mama, were out on the hillside, 3 gates and a couple of 90-degree turns away from where the lamb is. I try putting Zeke in the “down” position to help confine the lamb near a gate that he doesn’t know about yet, but Zeke really loves baby lambs, and it’s just too much for him.  He kept breaking and scaring the lamb away from where I want him to be.  I end up opening every gate into the yard to maximize the ease of exit, but the lamb just can’t seem to see the holes. Remember I am dressed for church – not exactly lamb-wrangling attire. I am almost to the point of going inside and at least changing shoes, when mama finally realizes that is her baby that has been crying incessantly for the last 15 minutes or so, and comes running down the hill bawling her fool head off. She knows about the gates and comes right in.  Mama and baby are reunited and run happily off to a day of grazing and basking. I even made it to church in time – barely.

Reunited mama and baby headed out for the day.

Working animals

New calf feeder in the barn lot.

We decided to move the old iron tire from beside the machine shop into the barn lot to feed the calves.  This way the horses cannot guard both locations.  In the background of the picture you can see the horses coming over to check things out and chase off the calves.  Luckily, the two biggest animals are food, soon to be slaughtered and the two little heifers will be breeding stock in the late spring.  We will be that much closer to getting our ten animal herd. 

We had presold our little bull this summer after he was born.  So we kept him intact and did not neuter him.  Fast forward six months and now our buyer is not ready, pasture wise, to have a bull.
So Zeke and I sorted the cows on Wednesday.  There was much swearing and angst on my part, with lots of walking.  The cows ran to the farthest corner of the lower pasture.  I had climbed halfway up the hill and sent Zeke to go “circle round” the cows.  Which means he is supposed to run up to the top of the hill run across the top and push the cows down the hill.  Nope. He did not comply.  Instead he ran up the hill and into the CRP to chase mice.   I had to walk up to the top of the hill and call him out of the CRP.  He was not complying with my wishes.  We did eventually get a plan of action established and Zeke was helpful.  Once all the cows were in the new barn lot pen it only took about ten minutes to sort everyone out. 

This morning we had to run the calves into the square pen it took a few tries but eventually they went in.  It is funny to think about people who have never worked cows watching that work.  The calve is around 300#.  That is a lot of cow to wrestle to the ground and try to get a small rubber band the size of an eraser onto a scrotum the size of baseball.  At one point we had five ropes in play, one grown man laying on top of the cow, one small woman stepping on its head and two people holding onto ropes.  It only took about 35 minutes to put one small rubber band in place.  We had to reposition the calf onto its back to get good access.  While the calf was on its side we could not get both testicles into place.  One testicle was 50% bigger than the other! We did finally get it done!  No one got hurt and the calf only had a small bloody nose from trying to jump through the gate Annmarie was gamely holding closed. 

Afterwards, Annmarie and I went into the barn and tagged and banded all five babies.  Everyone of them was a boy, we are hoping that trend does not continue.  So they are now all mixed in with the whole herd.  This makes morning baby check a little more time consuming. You have to check each ear for a tag. 

Our collapsible feeder in action.

Snow is here!

Back cow feeder ready for action.

After I got the fence up in the barn lot I had to arrange for a second cow feeder.  We were going to sort cows on Saturday.  The two steers that are going to be eaten and the three small cows were going to get sorted off the four older cows.  We don’t want the 6 month old heifers getting pregnant until they are a year old.  Unfortunately, last year when we separated them they continued to nurse through the fence.  I fixed that this year by limiting contact through one small section of fence and I slapped up an upper layer of woven wire over the fence.  The whole fence is cow/calf proof now.

The back lean to behind the old lamb shed has nicely spaced posts so I was able to just chain two cow feeder panels up and they fit perfectly.  This has unfortunately not worked out so well.  The horses have claimed this area and are keeping the cows away. We are going to have to do something about it. 
I cleaned out some of the cow poop from the machine shed.  I am making progress on the trash.  I just keep filling up our trash can whenever there is extra space.  Eventually, I may get a couple of spots cleared up so we can move the dinky tractor in out of the weather and the old Ford 9N.  We may have to get the old 9N fixed so it can be used to move hay.  I didn’t realize how much more weight it can handle and it has the hydraulic hay lift system attached to it already. This plan is merely an idea at this time. 

Bull eating apples, he loves them.

Ready or not winter is here!

Barn lot fence almost ready for wire.

The weatherman said we were going to get a doozy of a winter storm.  For once, they were right.  It got very cold and dumped seven inches of snow in a 24 hour period.  It has been mighty frigid since then, getting below zero several nights.  Add in some wind and it is downright unpleasant to be outside. 

On day two of the freeze before the snow I spent the last two hours of daylight attempting to get ready for winter.  I put the mule back in the old lamb shed and parked the tractor under cover next to it.  I put away all the hoses and finished getting the barn ready.  I also managed to pound in the four T posts needed for my cross fence in the barn lot.  It was not easy, each post got about 40 strikes to pound it in the ground 10 inches.  One more day and I never would have gotten the posts in the ground.  I had dressed very warmly with my insulated overalls and jacket, and vest and coat and insulated gloves.  I was dripping in sweat!  I forgot that if I am going to be doing physical labor outside I need to be almost too cold when I leave the house.  Once the sweat starts up you don’t get overheated and sopping wet.  The only caveat is you have to keep working hard or you will get cold! 

Today, I went out first thing to let the sheep out of the barn.  Now that winter is here we are locking the sheep up in the barn every night.  We only feed at night due to having the most time at night.  First thing in the morning we only have time to open the barn up.  We just fill the feeders up with the allotted food at night.  Annmarie had accidently left the momma/baby area door open so the sheep were mixed together.  Zeke and I resorted and ended up with an extra pregnant momma in the baby area.  She will be fine.  Zeke is doing great with the sheep.  Everyone has a routine and they stick to it.  Zeke only got to push the sheep into the barn before the snow.  Now the sheep are in the barn before dark waiting to be fed.  He gets to run up to the barn door and stare in at the sheep.  No chasing them into the barn.  We bring Zeke into the barn with us and make him guard the entrance to the hay room. This keeps the sheep away and lets you keep the door open so you can go in and out freely with the pitchfork.  I have two pitchforks with shortened handles that make it easier to move the hay around inside the barn.  As soon as you move a bale of hay Zeke jumps in the hole looking for mice to kill.  He has learned that is part of his job.  He can move down one side of the barn with the sheep running all around and doesn’t break his down command.  He still has issues with the cows listening to him.  We tried to move cows around today for practice and it was a total failure.  This is the reason the cross fencing on the barn lot is so important. 

The cows will not go into the square pen easily, but they do like the barn lot.  So we are going to open up the barn lot gate, run the cows into the new pen, shut the door and then run them into the square pen for sorting.  It should make sorting them easy.  We have plans to install some chutes and small pens in that area to sort the cows easier but we are still working on that plan. 

I got all the fencing installed today and went to Pendleton for gate mounts so it could be installed.  I set up the gate so you have to swing the existing gate on the barn out to meet the added gate this leaves a 30 foot opening for when we are not using it as a sorting area.  Plus, I didn’t have to buy another gate.  I also moved two of the feeder panels behind the old lamb shed onto the front of the lean-to that used to shelter the lambs and momma sheep.  We are going to sort out the 6 month old female cows (2) and sell our six month old bull.  We will house our two young heifers and another person’s young heifer till late spring then we will turn them out with our bull.  That will give us five mothers next year.  We are still discussing whether to purchase three more next year.  We will decide that in the spring. 

We are not using the jugs inside the barn.  The new momma/baby area accomplishes the same thing and the animals can go get their own water!  We will see how things go for the next couple of years.  It may be that we end up removing the jugs if not needed and opening the barn up more for the larger herd.  Who knows at this point. 
Our collapsible cow large bale feeder is way cool.  It is composed of four semicircular pieces all bent in the middle.  The cows can push the sides in as the hay gets eaten.  It will totally collapse and still stay upright.  The cows don’t waste any feed and it doesn’t rot.  The best part was we got it on clearance and only paid $300 for it.  It is great.  We may have to have another for the barn lot. 
Barn lot cross fence completed!