Making Hay
Week of May 2nd, 2004 | The weather was chilly. Happy May Day.

Mama and baby enjoying the green pasture.

Mama and baby enjoying the green pasture.

Hello! The temperature was below average the past week. Many farmers have been working ground and planting corn. We are planning on planting our corn and soybeans by the middle of the month of May. This way, we can work ground after the weeds germinate. The soil is cold and we cannot get the corn to come up before the weeds in this temperature.

Wednesday night, I worked a small area where we used to have a grove of trees with the field cultivator. After getting the ground flat, I planted grass seed with the grain drill. This was the first time I ever planted with the grain drill. It was fun! We are planning on parking some of our equipment and machinery in this area after the grass seed starts growing.

On Saturday, two neighbor girls helped my dad and I pick rock in a barley field. The barley is a few inches tall now. Picking rock is very important. In our area, we have a lot of rock on the ground each year. Rock can cause both minor and major damage to equipment. We picked 5 full loads of rock with our rock trailer.

We had six calves born this past week. I really enjoy watching the calves run around with their tails up! Since it's birthing season, I thought I'd share with you different calf rearing practices that we do on our farm.

Rarely do we have to pull calves. Pulling calves is a farm term for pulling a calf out of a cow during birth. This happens when the cow is having trouble. Usually, farmers call the veterinarian service to help and make sure the cow and calf is healthy. Veterinarians can come out to the farm on an emergency call. Dad said he only had to pull calves twice in the past ten years of raising beef cattle.

Sometimes, a cow and her calf can have a bad relationship with nursing. If the calf does not have its first milk from the mother within 24 hours, it will die. The first milk is so important because it has colostrum. Colostrum gives the newborn natural immunities. We always watch for a new calf not nursing her mother. If that happens, we have to move the cow and calf to the farmyard where we have a head gate. A head gate is used to restrain animals, holding them by the head. Then, we tie the tail and restrain the cow's leg so the cow cannot injure the farmer. Next, the calf is pushed towards the bag and teats so it can have the chance to learn to drink the mother's milk. The farmer often has to get the calf to suck on his finger as he holds the calf's head near the teat. We usually keep the cow and calf in this restraining pen for about 24 hours. We have to be sure that they are bonded as a pair. We have feed and water for the cow and bedding around the cow's body for the calf to sit, lie, or sleep on. Bedding also gives the farmer some cushion to kneel on while teaching the calf to nurse. Teaching the calf to nurse is a backbreaking job, it saves the calf's life but we hope that it is not a frequent job.

Calves need special care and medicine after they are born, and when they are sick. Other than treating the standard vaccinations, we commonly treat calves for pinkeye, scours, and pneumonia.

A cow can abandon their calf. This is very rare, but we have had it happen. This means the cow does not care about her calf, and does not want to give milk to the calf. When this happens, we usually do not know who the mother is, so we put the calf either in the barn or in the cattle yard. Everyday, we have to milk the calf with a bottle. The milk is a special calf milk replacer mixed with hot water. If we have to do this, the calf is marked as non-organic and sold as such. Organic milk replacer is not available. It can be fun bottle-feeding a calf, but after doing it for a whole summer, it gets exhausting. There are bottle holders that can be mounted on the fencing of the pen or lot.

Farm Fact: When farmers see a calf nursing its mother, it is a joyful sight for the farmer. Watching a newborn calf nurse on a sunny day in the pasture is a pleasant sight, compared to a newborn trying to be saved in the driving rain with a mean cow. Teaching a calf to nurse its mother can be very hard to do. It looks easy at first, but the calf can kick, push back, sit down, and be very stubborn. The cow can be a problem at times, too. If the cow is not restrained, she can swat her tail, and kick the farmer. A 1400-pound animal kicking you is not very fun. She can even injure the farmer.

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