The needed but dreaded sorting of animals

It had to come, the animals all needed to be worked and sorted but it is always a painful task.  Making matters worse is the fact that we decided to work the sheep and the cows in the same day and to complicate it even further the barn lot flood damage has not been repaired.  Annmarie went down stream with Mouse to push the cows up to the house.  They were doing great, one of the cows then the herd tried to bolt around and Mouse headed them off and got them turned around.  Five minutes later one of the cows decided she was a greyhound and took off, Mouse was unable to get ahead of her, he was able to catch up to her but ran alongside her and could not get her to turn.  This caused all of the cows to break and Slim and I and Zeke had to go down to the school house to help bring the cows back up.  This event seemed to crush Mouse’s ego and he then became a terror towards the cows and would not listen.  He was determined to get a few licks and bites in before we quit working the cattle.  Despite a couple of warnings he persisted in ignoring us until it was pointed out to him that he was not the boss by me.  He kept ignoring Annmarie, which is unusual as he prefers to work for her and not me.  It took us an hour to get the cows up into the corral.  The bull and boys were just on the other side of the gate.  We needed to pour insecticide over the cows and to tag and band Cupid who is another boy.  The really screwy part is that we thought there were two calves that needed to be addressed.  Nope, one of the calves managed to rip its ear tag out.  I had to grab its ear and find the hole to make sure.  We sorted the cows and took our original green tag cow and three more heifers off of the main herd then let the bull, the steers and our little bull in with the the rest of the cows.  The little bull is only six months old and the cows are in heat so by the time he is ready to breed them they will all be pregnant.  We are going to eat him this winter.  Cupid doesn’t have the true white heart on his forehead like Valentine does.  I took more pictures of Valentine while he was in the corral.

 

I am going to have to work on the corral next year.  When I built it I had talked about installing thread all bars between the railroad ties in the chute.  I decided that it would stop me from walking down the corral on top which I like to do.  The cows have spread the chute far enough apart that my two internal gates are no longer latching and we had to chain the chute exit to stop them from pushing out.  I may just use cable and bolts with an inline tightener and some thread locking compound so it doesn’t come loose easily.  I will shrink the chute back up another three inches.  I won’t lay boards over the chute as it would form a tunnel that would cause the animals some consternation.  The four separated cows will go up onto the Upper Prime field.  They have lots of food and fresh water.  This will get them two fences away from the bull.  The old cow will just become hamburger and stew meat.  Annmarie and Donna have both been victims of this attacking cow and they will be very happy when she is gone.

 

Slim was helping us with the cows and then the sheep.  The sheep were a lot harder.  First, we did not know how many we had, I assumed we had about 105 and Annmarie thought we had 120, in reality we had 112.  Getting to the number 112, that took us sorting the sheep five different times and four people counting.  On the plus side, both Annmarie and I had the count right the first time but Slim and Mr Professional had different numbers so we kept counting until  the numbers stabilized and matched.  It’s hard to sell what you cannot quantify.  I realize this sounds easy but we spent almost two and a half hours sorting sheep.  We thinned the herd again hard this year.  It was time to do another heavy cull, we do this about every 5-7 years.  The first time we sorted off breeding ewes we had 48!  Our ram has a hurt foot and is kinda fat, he needs fewer females so we sorted ewes until we had 34 ewes and 1 ram.  This herd went into the upper prime pasture with the cull heifer cows.  We have 77 sheep to sell, 28 of them are cull ewes and we are keeping 9 lambs for us and for local customers.   We will put them into the orchard after I finish getting the hay put up.  The rest of the cows went down into the lower bottom, winter feed field. It has peas growing in it but the thistles and cheat grass are still present in significant quantity.  It will not be hay this year but the peas are good for the soil and good for the cows so it is a win regardless.

Slim and I then went onto fixing creek crossings to keep the sheep in their allotted space. Mr Professional went to go bale the hay in the orchard while the Future NASCAR driver worked on getting lawn beat down with a weed eater.  It is out of control and our mower needs more work.  The flooding caused some severe erosion in Stewart creek.  The picture on the right shows the ripples in the stream bed, every one of those ripple edges is part of a volcanic solid rock shelf, those were not visible prior to the flooding.  It just tore the earth away until it hit something solid.  We tried to move the stump out of the creek but its too heavy.  We cut branches off and once the creek dries out I will get in there with the chain saw and cut it up.  We needed the branches moved so we could drop the panels back down into the creek.  A new cable was installed across the top of the fence from rock crib to rock crib.

We then went down and tore out the panels and fencing from down by the Mother-in-law’s house.  I built a new fence alongside the spring in the orchard so this small fifty foot section was no longer needed.  We took down all the fence and salvaged the panels crossing the spring to use down below at the creek crossing.  The stream widened the bank by at least four feet down by our other crossing so we needed a couple more panels to bridge the gap.  I have also started to install my horse shoe latches at the gates.  Once we had that done it was time to call it quits as it was almost 1700.

Slim beat me to the house as Annmarie, I and Mr Professional were discussing a weed and trying to determine what it was so she called it quitting time and headed out.  She did send me a text but I had her take a picture of the lower creek crossing as my phone was dead.  LOL.  The plan is for her to come out and help shear alpaca next week.  .

 

 

 

Haying adventure begins

Yesterday we decided to get ready for haying.  Unfortunately, there are always things to do on the farm and we had decided that this was the weekend to work animals.  On a good day this is complicated.  On a bad day it is worse and at the best of times it will stress any relationship.  Any one who thinks they live in marital bliss just needs to come work animals with their spouse and they still have to get the animal work completed no matter how hard or complicated or how many times you have to walk back down to the other end of the pasture!  All in all it was not bad, we had to use the dogs on the sheep even though they started in the ram pasture.  They would not go through the gate into the back barn area and then they would not go into the barn.  The dogs did great, Annmarie runs Mouse and I run Zeke at the same time, the dogs are trained to only follow commands after their names are said plus Mouse does better with Annmarie and Zeke works with me better.  Don’t get me wrong, all the dogs like Annmarie better as she lets them up on the couch for hugs.  Zeke is just used to the curmudgeon approach to sheep commands and Mouse is fairly sensitive and takes it personal.

We set the barn up before pushing the sheep in, they are finally getting used to the sorting chute as a group.  Making them go both ways through it helps them understand it is part of the routine.  Once we had the sheep inside and started taking a good look at them and who was going to be culled we opted to wait another 30 days.  In one month we will be able to wean all the lambs and we can cull the 10 ewes for sale.  We have 10 that are old and scraggly and they need to go.  So they got to run back out the chute to freedom.

The cows were next, Annmarie and I walked down to the schoolhouse as the cows saw us coming and ran in the opposite direction.  We typically don’t use the dogs when there are new born calfs on the ground as the cows just want to chase the dogs and not move where we want.  We got them into the ram pasture after three attempts.  Luckily they didn’t start really getting stubborn until we were up by the house and we had a closed gate stopping them from running backdown to the schoolhouse.  We tried multiple times to get them to go into the back barn lot and they would not do it.  I hollered and eventually Annmarie agreed to let me use the dogs and her and Sarah exited the area and went into the yard (behind the fence) to watch.  We forgot to do a video.  The dogs and I pushed the cows near the gate, then Annmarie came out and the dogs pushed them through the gate.  We had to call the dogs into the back barn area to get the cows the rest of the way in.  We sorted into two groups, Annmarie sprayed fly stuff on them and then Annmarie and Sarah caught the newborn little calf girl and I put in the ear tag.  Stupid ear tag pliers kept misbehaving, making the two women on top of the calf holler at me.  I got it!  I have offered to do the pinning but we have discovered that I have the hand strength needed to make ear tag and banded work and the women cannot do it so I am relegated to the easy tasks.  We are missing one calf.  The problem with this is two fold.  We know there was a cougar at the neighbor’s house 4 days ago.  The other issue is the calf is only 4 days old and the cows will hide them.  So we could of just missed it.  We will keep an eye out and see what happens in the next 14 days.

Mr Professional and I worked on the sickle mower for the tractor yesterday.  It is brand new and owners manuals are not the same as operators manuals, nor are they assembly manuals.  Turns out we had to tighten almost all the bolts, two leaky hydraulic connections (there are only two) and move a part they put on wrong.  It then took us a couple more hours to figure out how to get it to adjust right per the instruction manual.   We managed to bend a weld on a stop that we still cannot figure out how it functions, so it will need to be welded back in place eventually.  By this time it was time for lunch, he went home for lunch and I even went inside and ate (I normally skip lunch).

After lunch I went out to mow the nearest field, Upper Prime (I really need a sheet with all the names on it for the fields as I occasionally change the names!).  This field was solid cheatgrass last year and I used it to practice with the hay equipment.  It is still about 75% cheatgrass so it will again be practice.  It will be filler food for the horses and cows.  I will look into spraying it down mid summer and reworking it in the spring with peas.  Something to start killing off the cheatgrass.  It takes me about an hour an acre to cut and it took some practice to figure out how to use the sickle mower and get it to function optimally.  Speed is the key, you must go fast so the grass rows up or it bunches up and clogs the tines.  Also, cutting will have to be done in the afternoon as wet spots at the base of the grass gum it up dramatically.  I had a few wet spots that I ended up butchering multiple directions in an attempt to get them cut.

The Upper Prime Squared field (next one beyond first, away from house) looked great!  It had about 25% with cheat grass but the rest looked good and about 50% looked good enough to sell.  The same problem here, I encountered three wet spots out in the field.  Luckily, they were not muddy but it was highly evident that the surface water was more plentiful.  We had sprayed for thistles but had only used 2-4-D and the thistles were shriveled up but not dead, they got put into the hay.   Again, we will spray as soon as we get the hay put up.

The real problem is it is supposed to rain Wednesday and Thursday.  I knew this but did not want the cheat grass to get more of a hold so went ahead and cut anyways.  We will turn on Monday and hopefully start baling on Tuesday night.  It is going to be close.

I tried to get done before it got dark, I even held off turning on the tractor lights until it was not possible to do without them.  I need to down grade the front light still so it doesn’t pull as much juice from the battery as my big one.  I have one that is about 1/3 power that I am going to install.  I will leave the big one mounted just in case I need it, I can just unplug my other and plug it in.

There are lots of rooster pheasants all over the place!  I did not see a single hen, but I saw roosters strutting all over the place with no regard for their safety.  I saw a thousand voles at least.  The dogs would have loved it but the sickle bar mower hidden in the grass does not make this an option for letting them run around.  No quail or foxes were spotted in 8 hours of mowing.  I did manage to eat my nuts and some Carmel popcorn while driving around in circles.  I got pretty good at moving the sickle bar and gaging how best to mow an area.

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Lucky ones

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Annmarie goes out in the mornings to do the chores and she is a much better kitty whisperer than am I.  This is a picture of our “barn kitty”.  We have 2-3 barn kitties but this one is the most elusive.  It is very hard to spot and runs at the sight of people.  It will now come out when she feeds it and lets her see it!  The fat orange barn kitty lets her pet it and I can even touch it now.  It looks like Garfield and kind of behaves that way also.

We have switched to feeding out of the other side of the barn.  The hay is of a better quality and we are using the lousy hay for bedding and filler.  We are using around 10 bales a day now.  I hope we can compost most of the lousy hay this spring and kill the weed seed that way.

I ordered a new battery for the side by side (buggy) and next week will be installing the new battery and trickle charger so the buggy will be ready for weed spraying this spring.   I may have to steal one of the barn portable lights so I can see to work on wiring the machine shed after my paying job is over in the evenings.  If I spend 1.5 hours a night I should be done in a week.

We are still lambing.  It has been ten days since I posted the last updated birth statistics.  Since that time we have had 8 more ewes deliver, for 14 more lambs of which 13 are still alive and 12 of those babies are sets of twins.

Umatilla County has had record setting runoff in the Umatilla River causing water levels to be the highest ever recorded in history.  Large chunks of towns are under water and at least 6 bridges have been damaged and closed.  We have it better than last year.  None of our fields have flooded and our back runoff creek is already lower than usual for this time of year after we had the flash runoff on Wednesday.  I wish those people luck and the perseverance to hang on and build back up.  This is really going to strain the ability of our county to get projects completed due to the sudden demand for contractors to fix all of this water damage.

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  • Total lambs born (dead or alive):  42
  • # of singles:  7
  • # of twins:  13
  • # of triplets:  3
  • Stillborn lambs:  1
  • # died without a tag:  5
  • # bummered:  3
  • # ewes delivered:  23
  • # lambs alive on property:  33
  • Birth rate (alive & dead included):  183% (goal>150%)
  • Ewe productivity after 1 week (live lambs on farm):  143% (goal >125%)
  • Lamb success (live lambs on farm after 1 week):  79% (max 100%)

We have had 23 ewes deliver their babies but it looks like at least 10 more need to have babies.  We really need to to run everyone through our chutes and do an individual count of all involved parties so we know exactly how many animals there are out in the barn.

Our three cow carcass weights were 386#, 338#, 325#, we shoot for 330# so they were right there.  We are going to hold our price to $2.50 lb/hanging weight for all of 2020 again.

The chickens are making me crazy, we have 32 now and the babies keep trying to decide whether to lay or not.  We were getting 7 eggs a day and are now down to 2/day.  I keep hoping that as soon as the weather warms up the chicks will take off laying and we will be buried in eggs.

 

 

 

Wagon Train Woes

We put off taking the cows in to be slaughtered for a week due to the snow and ice on the road.  I did not want to pull that horse trailer in that type of weather and the college was gracious enough to allow us to put it off.  I needed to be at the college between 1630-1700 on Thursday so they could kill on Friday.  There were to be no more delays, the wagon train must go on!  So we planned out the week, so that the cows would be moved to the corral on Wednesday and I would come home early on Thursday and load them and go to college, this seems fairly easy.

On Wednesday it started raining in the morning and proceeded to rain all day.  The barn lot is mostly dirt.  I came home a little early so I could work the cows in the daylight.  I decided that I would need some assistance which means letting the dogs help me.  I went into the Alcatraz area and managed to sort off the three steers I wanted in 10 minutes alone.  Once I got them out of the pen and the gates latched I needed help.  I brought the border collies over to help me.  This did not go as well as I wanted.  The steers kept going into the corner of the field nearest the Alcatraz fence and would not leave.  If I tried to get one dog to go in and root them out then I had to turn my back on the other dog.  This seemed to be a signal for the second dog to do whatever they wanted, which equated to balling the steers up into a corner and not letting them get out.  This meant that I started to holler and swear at the dogs.  It took 75 minutes for us to get the steers into the corral. 68 minutes was spent trying to get them past the first gate.  I was making the dogs lay down in the mud as they assumed that a crouching position meant they could move whenever they wanted.  I could hardly talk when I was done.  Luckily, for the dogs, it was 45 degrees outside.  I washed all the mud off of them in the outside faucet.  The pictures below are of the two of them just after we came inside.  They don’t look very contrite.  I could hardly talk the next day, everyone at work thought I was sick.   

I came home at 1500 on Thursday to load up the cows.  I felt so bad after getting the cows into the corral the night before that I did not hook up the horse trailer.  I had plans to do it but I was cold, wet and muddy and was not going to do it.  Why do it then when you can put it off until the next day?

Our housekeeper was just finishing up and offered to stay and help.  Things never go smoothly when you are on a deadline so I accepted.  I drove over and tried to hook up to the trailer and realized that I needed a smaller 2’ hitch ball.  I found a triple one in the machine shed but it had a straight stinger and this was going to cause the trailer to be canted to the rear pretty severely.  So I ran back to the old house to find a 2” ball already attached to a 2” drop stinger.  We got that installed and after the trailer was hitched Tisha asked me if I wanted the bad news.  I am on a deadline, there can be no bad news!  I had a flat tire on the rear right side.  Mind you a few months ago I had the other flat and the spare tire fixed!  So we pulled the trailer up onto a wooden block, elevating the flat tire so it could be changed.  I tried to put it on backwards in my rush, luckily Tisha caught it and told me so I could fix it.  Once the trailer was officially hooked up and ready to go I jumped onto the tractor and pushed the calf table out from in front of the chute.

Tisha backed the trailer right up to the chute opening and we have an sliding half gate so the openings lined up perfectly.  I just jumped in the corral, opened the chute gate and pushed them into the the chute.  Their horns kept hanging up on the walls so they had to concentrate on moving forward so they did not fight the transition at all.  Once they got into the trailer I chased them to the front half and closed our divider gate.  These are really handy as it keeps the cows in the front half so they cannot move around as much.

I was headed to town when I noticed the junk in the passenger floorboard and seat.  Annmarie was supposed to jump in and show me where to go when I got to the college.  She thinks the pickup should always be cleaned out.  I believe that it is a working vehicle and when stuff starts falling out when you open the doors then you need to clean it out.  A small difference of opinion.  As I was pulling up the college hill I messaged her.  She said she would meet me just outside her office building.  Well I had two cars behind me as I came even with her building so instead of just stopping in the road I kept going up and around the corner.  She called to ask where I was going and then we had a long discussion about being a farmer and how when you are hauling a trailer it is acceptable practice to just stop in the middle of the road.  She even argued that it was commonplace (hard to refute that) and I should have joined the club.  I made sure to take the extra time it took her to walk to my stopping location to move trash and stuff from the seat and floorboards so that nothing would fall out when she opened the passenger door.  Nothing  fell out but she was insistent that I needed to clean out the pickup.  We got the cows unloaded without incidence and went home.  Once they give us the hanging weight I will send bills out to the three buyers.

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I should be inside

Annmarie tells me that it is time to start working inside again.  I went to the tile store and had to get some input on what color of grout to order for our backsplash.  Annmarie and I chose the brown color.  I am using sandless grout for the backsplash as all those little squares will get some grout around them.  Luckily, I only have to do a 4’x4’ section for the backsplash.  We have some fancy edge tiles and a chair rail to go across the top to install also.  The chair rail will hold the mirror that I will be mounting on the wall.  They had to verify the tile was still being made as we had picked it out a year ago.  I was going to epoxy a table top for our bathroom vanity but instead I am going to trace out the top pattern and order a small piece of granite to sit on top, it will be less than 4 square feet.  I will use the backsplash tile to pick the granite color and have them drill a hole for the drain and the faucet.  I will glue the granite to the top of the vanity.

 

8F386D9F-8265-4547-B197-A4C71285F933I purchased all the mastic and hardiboard needed for the floor and now I just need to patch the walls and start laying in the hardiboard.  I am going to use Redgard as my water proofing membrane.  I just need to roll on a few coats and then I can tile over the entire floor.  So I will be working on that this week.

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I spent most of the day on  Saturday outside working on the tractor.  I was supposed to be inside working on the upstairs bathroom but had to go outside to feed the sheep and cows.  Annmarie and had gone out first thing in the morning to check for babies and one of our old Baker girls pushed her way into the momma/baby area.  It was our old and infirm ewe so we let her.  She went outside and fell over, and could not get up.  We decided she was just too old and weak.  I came out later and put her down with a bullet to the brain.  She went up onto the bone yard at the far end of the property.  When we decided that we also sealed the fate of our other ewe with the lost hair.  She is losing more hair and has failed to turn around.  Her baby looks great so  we are going to cull the momma at 3 months age on the lamb.  That will be two culls for the year already.  We think we have at least 4 more this year.  We will be saving ten female lambs to use as replacements this year.  Most of the ewes  will come from the July 2019 bunch of lambs.  We are saving the old brown ewe’s baby as it is a little girl and if our old #1 ewe has another female we will save her also.  Choosing for temperament and mothering ability has benefited us and created a great herd to be around.

I ended up feeding both groups of cows.  I tossed my large hay hooks and have had to use a strap to try and drag out the large bales from the machine shed.  It takes longer to get the strap in place.  Now that I say that I may be able to use small all metal hay hooks and a chunk of chain.  I may try that next week.

When I went up to the boneyard I ended up dragging the upper fence line again to clear any rocks.  I did this last summer but I had a few rocks still in the path.  I now have a rock and debris free zone about 5’ wide next to the upper fence.  This means I can run the pull behind mower along the fence and not hit anything.  I like to do this to create a fire break alongside the fence line in the spring and early summer.  I ended up dragging the new fence line I cleared last summer also.  I also smoothed out a section for a gate and cut into the hillside so I can install a large rock crib for a gate and fence ending point.  All the moisture and moderate temperatures made it very easy to move the dirt and rocks around.

I even drug some dirt around in Alcatraz to clear the dirt away from the concrete footings of the old granary.  The cows were trying to bury it on one end and dig a hole under the other end.  So I just moved the dirt from one corner to the other.  At some future point I would like to work on this footing and build a floor and some walls.  This may end up being a retirement project but I would like to do it at some point.  I will also need to build about 120’ of stiff fence to keep the bull and ram out of my work area.  This is a project for another day, maybe another decade.

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