April 27, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

Another busy week has flown by.  Mark was able to get all of the field work done in preparation of planting corn.  The fertilizer company made it out and sprayed our fields for weeds and got all of the fertilizer applied.  We are now ready to put the corn seed in the ground.  We have also been getting ready for our annual branding.  I spent several evenings after work this week gathering medical supplies for the calves and groceries for the help.  It is raining now so looks like it will be a little sloppy sorting cattle in the morning.  We may move the branding inside the big shed to keep the calves and us out of the mud.

Cow #6 is consistant this is the 3rd calf in a row
with a small white spot on their head.

Even calves multi-task.  She was eating and resting
at the same time!

040 was flexing his big muscles for the camera!!

"All State" the bottle calf (he is a spare in case we need 1) loves him some
Dry Distllers Grain.  He was wiggling so much it was hard to get a clear picture

April 25, 2012

Branding Time is All About the Food

We are getting ready for our annual branding.  The 1 day a year where we will "work" the majority of our new baby calves.  This is the day where we begin the journey of setting them up for sucess as they make their way down either the production chain to a consumer ordering a high quaility cut of beef or into the replacement pen to make the next generation of mama cows.  We will give the calves their 1st round of vaccine, brand them, the bulls will get a growth hormone implant, and castrated.  I will get into more about the reasons why we do all this and how it all done with the calves best interest, health, and safety in mind. 

But first it is all about the Food. 
Branding time is a day that family, friends, and neighbors all get together and help each other out so it is just as much about the quaility time with good company as it is about getting a hard day's work complete.  There is a lot of times that friends and family have to decide which branding to go to because often times there are several the same day.  Many times that decision isn't made by who has the best facility, who has the smallest calves (not as much work as big calves), or who has the best wrecks that you don't want to miss out on.  Often times the decision is made by who's wife cooks the best.  Plain and simple the men need to make sure the farm wife can cook if he wants the best help.  Now I have spent my fair share of time out doing the work and listening to to all the "guys" complain about all the bad meals they have been served not just at branding time but also harvest time.  I have this huge fear knowing they will judge my cooking just as hard as the any other farm wife's cooking.  So needless to say right now my grocery list is longer and way more detailed than my list of medical supplies needed for the livestock.  Not that I care about the calves any less but that list is pretty straight forward and needs less planning as we have worked on building a complete health program long before the week before we decide to vaccinate calves.  We are generally short handed and being I know the details of what each group of calves needs I will be in the pen working calves the day of the branding instead of in the house cooking and making sure the meal is hot and ready when the work is done.  I have been working out a game plan for the last 2 weeks on when the food needs to be bought and prepared, when the meat needs to come out of the freezer to thaw, the house cleaned, what can be done a head of time, and setting up a spot to serve and eat.  

The good thing is I have a secret weapon to getting the meal on the table when the crew is ready to eat that I like to call "MOM"!!!!  I will have most of the hard part done by the time she gets there, but mom will make sure the plates are layed out, the food makes it from the oven and roaster ovens to the table, and I sure she will give it all a 1 last taste test for quality control.  I hope her taste buds are working good on Sat morning, I don't want to be the one they guys complain about at the next get together....  Now to just get the groceries bought, prepared, cooked, and ready for her to finish up for me.

4th BSE found in the US

USDA announced yesterday that the 4th confirmed case was confirmed yesterday in a Dairy cow in Central California.  The cow was tested at a rendering facility and the meat from that cow was not bound to enter the human food supply chain.  The animal has been condemned and will be destroyed. 

Here is a link to a web site that has some great information on what BSE is, how we are monitoring it in the US cow herd, the safe guard system to detect and prevent high risk animals from entering the food supply.

Here is the video of the USDA's chief veterinarian speaking during the announcement.

China, Japan and the EU have all stated that they will not halt imports of beef from the US.

April 24, 2012

April Showers brings May Scours

I know the rhyme is suppose to be April Showers Brings May Flowers but in our world it can also bring scours in our new baby calves.  Scours (really bad diarrhea) is a very common illness that effects young calves and from a quote I heard last week costs the beef industry over $1 billion annually.  We work hard to prevent the calves from getting scours in many ways but it at some point in time every beef producer will have deal with scours.  Weather plays a pretty big role in scours as the organisms that cause the problem tend to like wetter environments.  The reason that scours are so costly to the beef industry isn't just the cost to treat the infections it is also the loss of life and the loss of production efficiency.  Scours can kill a perfectly healthy calf in within a few days (sometimes less when it is really hot) if not detected and treated fast enough.  The calf doesn't die from the diarrhea but from the effects the diarrhea has through dehydrating them and weakening the immune system opening the door for other illness like pneumonia.  Sick calves don't gain weight especially when their bodies are moving the nutrients the take in out of their bodies at an astronomical pace which can lead to substantially lower weaning weights.  With the welcomed rains and little cooler temperatures we have seen the past few weeks we have been watching the calves like a hawk watching a newly swathed hay field for mice.  Every evening when I get home from the day job I am on "poopy butt" patrol.  Right now we have about 125 calves (only 22 cows left to calve) and I make sure that I see each and everyone to make sure that they don't have any "bad" looking poop.  I know sounds like a crappy job but I don't want any problems and any sick calves. 

This healthy heifer was very interested in
what I was doing while out on poop patrol
last night! 
 We do all that we can to help prevent the calves from getting scours.  We vaccinate the cows pre-calving to help build the calves immune systems before they are born, we try to group the calves by age in separated pastures, make sure there are plenty of clean dry places for the calves to hang out and sleep, and the later calves we give a shot of immune building minerals to help their immune systems stay strong to fight off infections.  Any calf showing signs of scours are immediately treated with an antibiotic according to the FDA directions for use and dose along with a shot of immune building minerals.  We also keep a record of which calves were treated, what they were treated for, which antibiotics are used and the date.  So far the few we have treated have responded well and have stayed healthy.   

April 20, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

It has been another busy week at the farm.  We are getting toward the end of calving season.  WOOHOO!!  We had a little over 80% of the calves born in the first 30 days, now we are down to a few of the stragglers.  As much as I love calving time, it is always a nice feeling to get done with calving.  Our last heifer finally decided to let her calf enter the world on Sat, even better feeling having all of the 1st calf heifers done for the year.  Mark started getting the fields prep'ed to plant corn.  We did get some much needed rain last weekend and a little more yesterday.  Which put a hold on field work for a few days.  The next couple of weeks are going to be a lot of crazy and stressful.  We will be working calves, moving the pairs to summer grass, fixing fence before we haul the pairs, finish getting fields ready to plant, planting corn, and when we get done with that it will be time to start getting the haying equipment ready for summer haying.

The last heifer calved right before another thunder storm came through.  We hurried and got them in the barn before we got some Nickle and Quarter sized hail!  We put the twins in the other half of the barn so they could stay dry too!! 

Got some new hunters for the farm Monday!!  5 of them!!! 

Our older Simmental Bull gave us another
Red calf!!  I love when recessive traits apear!!

WOOHOO we got some wet stuff
falling from the sky!!!!!!

One of our heifers sharing some supper with
someone elses calf!!  Her calf is the big
one at her side.  The thief snuck in from behind!!!

April 13, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

He wasn't sure if he was suppose to eat the hay or wear it

The 2nd set of twins (far right and far left) hanging out
with their friend 041 (the calf that was born C-section)

After some much needed rain it didn't take this one long
to figure out the it is lots of fun to play in the mud!!

Doens't take them long to figure out that the hay is
pretty tasty!! 

The 1st set of twins!  The closer 1 was tasting out the
hay and distillers grain the cows were eating!

April 12, 2012

Health Care For Bulls

If I had to speculate that if a survey was conducted asking reproductive age (you make your own assumption on their actual age) men if they had a general health exam prior to reproducing the answer would sound something like "uummm well, uuummm, no".  The vast majority of them would probably say they had not been looked at by a health professional since their last sports physical so that they could play high school football.  All of our cattle have a top rate Health Care Plan as all of them have at least 1 annual health exam performed by our veterinarian and yes that includes the boys!!!  We take our bulls to the vet every year prior to the breeding season to have them examined to make sure that they are fit to reproduce.  The vet makes sure that their body weight is appropriate for their age and mature stature, makes sure that all of their reproductive organs are healthy, checks their feet and legs for general soundness and checks their semen for an appropriate count of healthy sperm cells.  While we have them in the chute we also give them their annual vaccination booster shots and apply a medicine that will kill internal and external parasites that may be present.  They either pass or fail this exam if they pass they get another year hanging out at our farm except for the 75 days that they are expected to earn their keep.  If they fail they have a 1 way ticket to the sale and will be used to make lean ground beef that everyone loves to eat.  A couple of weeks ago we took all our bulls to the vet for their yearly check up.  This included the new bull we just purchased even though he was checked prior to when we purchased him.  Over time bulls will loose their ability to breed cows either physically, mentally or they can also get to big and can injure the cows. 

Checking to make sure our animals are healthy is very important because an un-healthy bull will not produce calves.  Each bull is responsible for producing approximately 16-17% of our calves annually.  If 1 bull fails to get his portion of the cows bred we loose about 24 calves in 1 year.  That is an economic failure we simply can not afford to happen.  It is in our best interest both ethically and economically to always keep the health of our cattle a top priority.  Even if they only have to work about 2.5 months a year and spend the rest of the year lounging in the pasture together.

April 6, 2012

Farm Foto Friday

WooHoo!!  Friday is finally here again and I can share some more pictures of the happenings this week on the farm.  Calving continues and as of right now we are just 2 calves away from reaching our goal of being 75% done within the first 21 days.  We have till Monday to get those 2 calves so right now it looks pretty promising that we will reach our goal for the year.  We are also very close to being done calving the heifers there is just 1 left.  We expected 007 to be last as she is last at everything, she does things at her own pace and can not be rushed so why wouldn't she hold out and make us wait for her to calve!!  The only thing she is first at is she is ALWAYS first to arive at the bunk at feeding time!!

32 and 519 (the only red calf) hanging out. 

Supper time for the cows and play time for the calves

3 is about a week old and thinks he is brave enough to check out
the 4-wheeler

The twins are growing fast!!

This is 1 half of the 2nd set of twins that arrived this week.
His brother is tagged the same exept there is "B" above
the number!!

The white face calf is Marks favorite so far this year!! 

007 (AKA "little red") is still very pregnant and the only red cow we have!! 
She did get lots of examples watching
all the other heifers calve so she should know what to do by now. 

April 5, 2012

Another busy weekend

This time of year is always busy, stressful, and I seem to always feel like my life is resembling the song "I'm in a hurry"!!  As of Friday afternoon this past weekend was shaping up to be much less chaotic than the previous weekend.  I made arrangements with a different vet to get 1 of our bulls re-tested (I got a whole post about pre-breeding exams), Mark had to do chores at his bosses so should be done fairly early Sat.  We brought the bull up to the yard and put in the barn over night so he was easy to get loaded the next morning and he gave us zero problems walking from the pasture, by a pasture full of cows and calves and he even navigated the yard and didn't walk through my garden!!  Sat morning got the bottle calves fed, the bull loaded, and since it all went pretty smooth I had time to go check cows for new calves with Mark before I left.  Checked the heifers and 1 was just starting to go into labor, we tagged a few new calves and checked the heifer on our way out 1 last time.  It was going to be a few hours before Mark or I could get back to check the heifer so I called the neighbor to stop by in an hour and check on her.  This is where the calm start to the weekend ends and the crazy takes over!!!!  I was just leaving the vet clinic with a clean bill of health on the bull when the neighbor called and said the heifer had not calved yet.  Mark and I both hurried home as soon as possible, which happened to be the exact same time....  We put the heifer in the chute to see if everything felt normal.  I reached in and nothing felt normal and after a little more searching I finally found the cervix, verified that it was dilated enough to give birth, and I even found the calf.  The problem was the cervix was not in the right spot and the calf while in the proper birthing position was not going to make it out without tearing the heifer.  We called the vet and in 10 minutes I was on my way to their clinic.  With in minutes within arriving at the clinic the heifer was in their "calving" chute and was being prep'd for surgery.  Another 10-15 minutes later there was a new calf on the floor of the clinic.  Turns out the heifer's uterus was twisted and was she not going to be able to give birth normally and the only chance the calf and heifer had to survive was a C-section.  We got the heifer all stiched back up, gave her some medicine for the pain and to help fight any potential infection and I was on my way home with both of them.  
A little hair cut and the area numbed and sterilized
before the incision is made.  This is very similar
to C-Section in humans (except for spinal block) the
heifer felt no pain during the procedure.

There are many small details that happen during the birth of a calf that ignites the cow/heifers instinct to be motherly to their new young.  If that is disrupted the cow may reject their new calf.  Not to mention the beginning few hours of a calf's life will dictate how well he will survive the rest of his life.  They need colostrum within hours of birth to give them the strength to live and antibodies to build a strong immune system.  As soon as we got the new family home we put them in the barn.  The heifer was as expected exhausted so while she rested we took over her job for a while to make sure the calf would survive and remain healthy.  We rubbed him dry with some straw and nearly clean (leaving some of the fluids on him will help her accept him), made him a bottle of colostrum, (and another dose a couple hours later), and put him in a safe corner where the heifer could see him but not hurt him as she stood back up again later.  By evening the calf was walking around and searching for dinner.  The heifer was starting to except him but wasn't too sure about letting him nurse.  We put her back in the chute and let the calf nurse were we could keep her from kicking him and where we could help him learn where the food comes from.  By morning the heifer was starting to love him more and was letting him nurse!!  We have kept them close to the barn for the past few days so we could keep a close eye on her to make sure she was back to normal and was not fighting an infection and to make sure the calf was able to get enough to eat. 

A few days post surgery.  She is healing well and
the baby is doing great!!
I wish I could have gotten more pictures of the process but unlike in a human hospital when you go to the vet clinic everyone is involved.  I was on tail and calf duty.  Tail Duty = keep the tail from swishing in the vet's face or into the incision (could cause infection).  Calf Duty = once the calf was out make sure he/she is breathing, get him/her sat up and keep him/her in a safe spot out of the way while the vet sews the heifer back up all while still holding the tail!!!  So my hands were a little full for more pictures....

Take a virtual tour of a Real Life Dairy Farm

Click this link for a virtual Dairy Farm Tour!!


This link was passed onto me from my sister and I thought it was too good not to share.  This dairy farm is doing some pretty amazing and great PR for agriculture by allowing the public to visit the farm and see what really happens on a large scale dairy farm!!!  I personally loved the birthing barn!!  What a way great way to connect consumers to their food and let them see some of the wonderful things we see every day.

Here is the link to the America's Heartland website.  They have some pretty awesome video's and blog on modern farming in the US!!!!