Nature Drama Episode II

Graduation!  The bull calf has found the teat, learned to suckle and is packing on the pounds.  We drive the calves out to the herd, and mama follows with laser focus.  As expected, the herd welcomes excitement and gathers to greet them.   What we didn’t see coming was the challenge for herd dominance.  The cow had only been away from the herd, to bond with her calves, for three days.  But the new leader is not about to give up her place.  These cows weigh around 1700 pounds each, so the action is earth-shaking.  After a little head-to-head shoving, everyone settles down to graze.  Now for the sad back story…  The heifer twin has been rejected by her mom and we have become her only source of nutrition.  Although “Fiona” can bask in the sun, play with the other calves and nibble inquisitively on grass, she has to wait for the bottle to fill her belly.

 

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Nature Drama

One of the joys and challenges of farming is not knowing what you will find when you step into the field each morning. Twins!

They are somewhat rare for cattle, and as we soon heard from another farmer, you often lose one. The little heifer was up and about, somewhat confused and trying to suck on any animal standing still. But mama was kicking her off. And then the little bull calf, clearly the focus of mama’s attention, was listless. So we wait and watch to see what will unfold — best not to intervene needlessly. After a couple of hours without any signs of mamma nursing either calf, we activate our emergency plan. We steal the calves in the ATV and head towards the barn. Mamma follows the script of trailing along, in huffing indignation. Once in the barn, we secure mamma in the squeeze chute and bring the calves to nurse. The heifer shows a fine enthusiasm, but the milk is not coming much, and the bull calf’s nursing gene has clearly not kicked in. We try various positions with him, and finally are able to coax him to take a few sucks. But none of this is enough. So we start to thaw the spare gallon of colostrum we have kept for such an emergency. Calves need this within the first few hours to establish healthy immune systems, and basically to survive. It’s an immune system in a bottle at this point. We get maybe a quart down each little throat, using the calf bottle, and resolve to try again later.

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Magical Season of Calving

First calf born in 2018

What a joyous time of the year, when we turn the cattle out on pasture and get to see the calves nursing. These are the first three — a little bull calf and two heifers. Many more to come, with visions of easy calving. Joan attended the “calf clinic” and hopes she doesn’t need to use any of her untried delivery skills.

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Winter scene

With the warmer weather, the cattle enjoy spending time outdoors, rather than in the barn. We feed them our aromatic baleage in the bale ring. And then we unrolled a bale of bedding hay down the hill. The age-old quandry looms — to eat the hay or sleep on it? Or both?
 

Click here for a video of the bull helping us unroll the bedding bale.

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Our porterhouse on the menu!

bone in steak for two*

Hotel Vermont is now offering our porterhouse steak at their restaurant! You no longer need to know how to cook to enjoy our beef.

Juniper Bar & Restaurant’s spring inspired dinner menu addition: bone in steak for two with salads, Red Hen Baking Co. bread & Ploughgate Creamery butter, roasted veggies, and 100% grass fed beef from Health Hero Farm. Please support the Juniper Bar & Restaurant with your business. It takes a special effort on the part of the chef to source their ingredients from small local producers such as us. We so appreciate this opportunity to get the word out.  *Photo credit Hotel Vermont.

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Measuring progress

Thank you neighbors Fred and Erin

We just brought the cattle into the barn to weigh them and have a good look at their condition.   Great news!  The average yearling weight was 77 pounds over projections.  And no wonder, the baleage had a rich fermented smell, as would inspire hearty eating.  The calves were a little lighter than expected, but then we’ve just weaned them, which is stressful.  Still they look bright eyed and energetic.  Special thanks to our neighbors Fred and Erin who helped us persuade the cattle to enter the handling facility and stand in the squeeze chute.  Erin is amazing, she has such a way with animals.  I understand she is a horse whisperer as well and speaks chicken.

 

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Where there’s a will…

Got milk!!!

Got milk!!!

OK, round two!
AFTER

AFTER.

This calf, with her mom’s cooperation, has figured out how to nurse through the corral panels. It’s a little complicated, since the calf has to turn her head sidewards to get it through the horizontal bars. So yesterday, we heavied up on the polywire — both sides of the corral panels. Both parties are encouraged to get with the program.

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2-strand electrical fencing on a pigtail budget

Pigtail GroundingThis winter, with all the dry (electrically insulating) snow we have had in Vermont, our attempts to wean 9-month-old calves were thwarted by those who were willing to take a weak hit from the single-strand polywire, in order to continue their habit. We ran a second, grounded polywire just below the hot wire to gain the respect we deserved for our 10kV reading. We did this by wrapping the second polywire around each pigtail, on the conductive metal part, pulling it tight and attaching a little binder clip to keep it from slipping down. Only once did we need to tie a broken ground wire. (Lesson learned) Peace has been restored on the farm

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Daddy Time!

Two yearling steers chosen to keep Justin company.

Two yearling steers chosen to keep our bull Justin company.

The bull has been pulled out of the cow herd, thus ending the breeding season. Two of his male offspring are with him now, to ease the pain of separation. Our bull, Justin, mellowed out fairly quickly, after starting to lift up the corral panel fence inside the barn and bust through. Fortunately for us, Justin is very “respectful” of the little white electrified wire surrounding him now.

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Birds Eye View of Health Hero Farm

Breath taking view of the Conserved "Sawyer Bay Farm"

Breath taking view of the Conserved “Sawyer Bay Farm”  – credit John Larabee at Camp TaKumTa

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