Well our annual second winter came this week. We got about eight inches of snow and the temperature dropped into the single digits. The cows were happy I took them another big bale of hay. I fed out two more big bales this morning and only have five big bales left. I have half the barn and the machine shed full of 40# round bales that can be fed out! Once I get all the big bales fed I can let the cows into that four acre area. No animal has been in there to graze since last fall so with a little warm weather that area will perk up quite nicely and allow for some decent grazing.
This weekend some time had to be devoted to the sheep again. We have to get the ewes and babies in the jugs tagged and banded so we can make room for more babies. Currently we only have two jugs open. I think I can tag and band the single under the stairs and the other single. Both of those babies are healthy and moving around well. It gets a lot harder to find mom when there are 25 other screaming little lambs running around.
Yesterday morning I had three different sets of babies in the barn. I was able to let everyone out but those thee ewes and their babies. One of the ewes was crazy! I know this because after 20 minutes I had still not managed to trap her in a jug. I also noticed she had a notch out of the no ear tag ear. I have a notcher for marking the bad ewes. I almost never use it as I don’t like it, but this ewe is getting another notch and we need to cull her. I ended up trapping her in the chute then opening up the barn side of the chute and chasing her into the jug under the stairs. This worked surprisingly well. It did require moving stuff around but in the long run it would have saved me time. I had a set of twins and a single in with the two ewes. When I separated the ewes I must have messed up. I went out there this am and the dark black ewe was head butting both of the pure white babies I had in the pen with her. So I swapped babies and will need to go out later and see how the babies are doing. When I swapped them out the mothers went right up and were sniffing the babies. Yesterday the ewes were eating and they let the babies nurse. So I could not tell who belonged to whom.
Date of update- Feb 26, 2023
# of Lambs born – 41
# of ewes who have delivered babies – 25
# of ewes still pregnant – 16-18 in area, I don’t think they are all pregnant
# of single lamb births – 10
# of twin lamb births – 14
# of triplet lamb births – 1
# tagged male (weathers-neutered) lambs-13
# tagged female lambs-13
# of bummer lambs – 2
# of lambs who died in first two weeks – 2
Total # of lambs on farm -37
% birthing rate- 164%
% production rate -148%
% survival rate at birth – 100%
% survival rate at 2 weeks (bummers count as death as they need help and leave the farm) – 90%
The ram and his cronies got out of Alcatraz this week. I am pretty sure they got out through the lamb shed. I did not reinstall the gate in front of the barn after it got knocked off last summer. Not only do I need to reinstall the gate but I need to mount a cattle panel onto it so the sheep cannot pass through the bars. I managed to lure them back with grain and used the horseshoe door anchor in addition to the clip.
It can be rough on everyone living on a farm sometimes. It has its benefits, which far out weigh the retractions but it is definitely not for everyone. This week was a prime example of everyone taking their lumps.
Gizmo our little Brussels Griffin dog keeps getting out of the yard. I have yet to find his new hole but it is starting to get annoying. He is usually out in the pasture eating sheep poop, back on the compost pile eating trash or standing by the gate waiting to be let back in. He won’t use his escape hole to get back into the yard. The alpaca do not like dogs. He survived.
Annmarie and I had not seen one of our two back door outdoor cats for a week or better. Luna was missing. We calculated her age and it came out to 14 years which has been spent outside on the farm so her going off and dying is a reasonable assumption. I even went out and looked in the dog igloo that the cats sleep in to make sure there was not a dead cat in it. No cat, so we assumed she was a goner. Early this week Annmarie calls me at work and asks if I knew that Luna was trapped in the root cellar! The answer is of course not but I had been feeding the cats and I dump our compost out for the chickens near the root cellar door. The cat was a victim of my bad hearing! I could not hear her yowling. Annmarie said the cat could hardly meow when she let her out but Annmarie has owl hearing which saved the cat! We figure the cat has been in there over a week. There are two windows that are screened over and it has been raining most of the week so she was able to get to water. She is quite a bit skinnier, she was nice and chunky, not any more. She is also fairly grateful and the first to eat now. She survived.
We have been under a windstorm warning for most of the week. We had to put off delivery of three new cows due to the advisory. Annmarie discovered a hole in our house siding. We got to looking hard and found at least six damaged spots from the wind hurtling things at our house. I will be calling our homeowners insurance company on Monday. The house will survive with some repairs.
I was out feeding the sheep yesterday and the mommas are getting ready to lamb soon. We are now locking them up at night and letting them out in the morning. This makes it a lot easier to find babies. We now have to go feed the ram and his boy friends separately as they are in Alcatraz. I fed them and looked over and spotted one of the young whethers laying on the ground. He was weak and unable to stand. I drug him out of the pasture, went in and got a 22 and ended his misery. Disease is bad for any group of animals, especially if you don’t know why. My solution is always permanent and quick. He did not survive.
I was up getting large hay bales for the cows after dispatching the sheep when I came upon a very large possum running around the bales, it is probably living in them. I of course did not have a weapon because I left it at the house. It survived.
I was feeding the cows in the orchard, had the large square bale set out and then used the forks on the tractor to lift up the feeder guard. It consists of four curved pieces of metal that are pinned together so they are movable at each joint. When laid out correctly they form a circle, but will also form an ovoid like shape that goes around the square bales. The trouble with this is once it is up in the air on the forks it does not just drop down over the bale. So I set it on top of the bale with the tractor near the bale so the back half doesn’t fall until I move the tractor. Then I get off the tractor and went around to the far side and started tugging on the two panels on my side. It can get pinched due to the four articulated joints but usually I can get it with a little elbow grease and swearing. I got it all right, but I usually have time to jump back before it crashes down. I ended up 12 feet away on the ground on my back with my hearing protection somewhere on the ground and aching all over. Damn thing slammed into me and tossed me like a paper doll. The bruises are already starting to show up the next day. I survived.
Last weekend I was very productive! I am still in winterizing mode and there is still plenty left to do. On Friday last week, I cleaned out the machine shed to make room for both tractors. I need to be able to park them out of the weather. Annmarie, let me know we needed to get the lavender trimmed up, another winterizing chore. I broke out the new DeWalt battery hedge trimmer and started in on the task. This turned out to be a little more difficult than I imagined. The lavender had shoots super low and I had to lift them up to cut them and the huge tree keeps dropping small branches into the lavender making it necessary to clean out the lavender bunch before trimming. I only got half the patch done before it got super cold and for sanity reasons I needed to go back into the house.
On Saturday it was cold, very cold. I put on neck warmer, wool shirt, carhart insulated bibs stocking cap and thick insulated gloves. I wanted something warm to drink, my go to drink is coffee. Coffee is the perfect drink and solves most of what ills a person. I was in a hurry and ended up just boiling some water and throwing a tea bag into the thermos. I wanted to get out and finish the ditch up in field #1. I keep trying to get it finished before we get a hard freeze. I was able to get another 200 feet dug up, reinforced. I found a 20 foot section of the embankment that had been washed out in the last flood. It took quite a while to get this section built back up. It was cold, so I broke out the hot tea. Yeah, it’s tea, simply not a substitute for coffee. I only tried it a couple more times out of thermoregulatory needs, it was cold! The oddest and best part of the day was that my coat smelled amazing. The lavender I had cleaned up and removed from the patch ended up rubbing some lavender oil on my coat and when the wind let off or I had to wipe my nose I could smell the lavender. It made for a nice surprise.
Sunday I decided to start feeding the cows out of our overflow hay in the corral. Each bale weighs around 40# and I fed 16 bales to the upper cows and 16 to the lower cows. I can get 8 on the tractor at a time. I have learned to cut off the net wrapping before I load them onto the tractor so I can just drive them out and dump them off. Its way faster this way and I can contain the wrap. This year I have started putting a bag of used wrap in the trash can weekly. I don’t want to have a huge pile by the spring. I went back to the lavender patch and got it all trimmed up. I pulled weeds and raked the entire patch. The only thing left in the garden to do is to trim the raspberries. I pulled out the prime rib from the freezer. We are going to have it for Thanksgiving
It’s that time of year again, to count how many animals we have lost to predators. We had one calf drown in the flash flood and that is not counted against the predators. We have lost no other cows.
The sheep are another story. We have lost two lambs so far. One we just found the remains of in field four this week. I had been smelling it for a week but could not find it. The smell would come and go and was hard to pinpoint. Annmarie was putting in the sheep with the puppy on a lead and she spotted a buzzard! When the buzzard jumped off, so full it could not fly, she walked over to the skin and a few bones. The other one was last week, we had one with a broken back. I blame the cougar for this one. We had a cougar go through the property that morning and we think the sheep panicked and it somehow broke its back. I had to put it down. The cougar has not passed through again but it is concerning so we will be catching all of the sheep this upcoming weekend to tag and band everyone and get an accurate count of all of the lambs.
The chickens so far I have lost 6 this year. They are random disappearances and every month I count the number left at some point. I put it on my egg counting sheet so I can calculate the productivity rate of the chickens. We know the chickens are the victims of the raccoons. So far we have dispatched three raccoons but there are at least two more still roaming the place.
I need some more target practice with my 22 pistol. The wife is a better shot with the lever action 30-30. I keep telling her that a pistol is not designed to shoot 75 feet, she keeps telling me what my excuse is when its close. Hence the reason I need more practice.
It is spring, mid April and yes we had several major snow storms! It is miserable outside so we have had to go out and feed everyone hay. Luckily, we have just enough feed left to get through one more week of any kind of weather. It did finally melt off but now we have a night and morning of snow which covers everything and the temperature hovers right at 32 degrees F. By 1400 every day the sun comes out and the snow melts off and all of the green grass pokes out allowing all of the animals to go out and feed on grass. It has been miserable to go outside, the wind is blowing and it is very cold. I have had to scrape my windows twice this week just to get to work at 0500. I even had to sweep off the walkway one morning as it had about three inches of snow on it.
The wheat looks amazing and our grass fields are really starting to come up now. If we could get a couple of weeks of warm spring weather everything would just take off and shoot up into the air. We are still considering downsizing the cows based on the price of hay. We may have to jump the price up dramatically to cover feed costs. We need about 7-8 ton of hay per month to feed all of the cows. Last year we paid around $265/ton for alfalfa in large bales. The real problem is if we have a dry desert like summer you have to start feeding by September. So you feed for about 7 months or six months if you are lucky. We will have gone through 45 ton. We did not cover feed expenses last year. So we are going to look at costs again and decide whether its worthwhile or not to have this many large animals.
The sheep are easier and cheaper to feed. We just need to raise the price on them this year also to reflect the new prices. It’s sticker shock when you go to buy something these days but meat in the grocery store is very expensive. We are hoping the snow and cold did not affect the fruit trees but if they were trying to bloom there is no way they survived the repeat 25 F we kept getting several nights in a row.