Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The waiting game

I think I can honestly say that I am having a harder time with the waiting, for Sassafras to have her calf, than I did with birthing my own children! (Laughing but I'm serious).
With the birthing process of my own offspring, there were ultrasounds, doctors input, opinions & helpful advice from other moms, support groups, videos to be watched... Ways of KNOWING what would happen, & that ultimately my baby & I would be alright, even if the birthing process didn't go as well or in the manner that I planned.

With my silly pet cow, it's anyone's guess how long her gestation period is. There is literally a 20-day window  which this birth could fall in, (cows have been 272 - 292 days gestation) & we are in that "donut hole" right now. The vet said one date (7/12/2017), & the AI, who is an expert on miniature cattle, said a different date. (6/24/2017). Well, the 24th was here & gone, & we're still waiting.

Jill, from Prairie Homestead, studied her cow & documented in photos as well as a blog post, the changes & so forth that her standard size Jersey went through in the 2-weeks leading up to the birth. Things like the vulva swelling/becoming engorged, the udder becoming so full that she didn't know how there could be ANY MORE added or the poor thing might burst, then more being added still. She even made note of how the teets themselves resemble coke bottles in shape until just a few weeks ahead of calving, at which point they fill out to what one thinks of when thinking of a healthy udder. This observation was also made by another cattle owner I'm not familiar with, who also described them as resembling coke bottles, & stated that the wrinkles would fill out the closer she got to calving.

★ This theory was confirmed through personal observations of a friend's cow. The friend is new to cows & #2 heifer was freshening for the first time. She was going crazy not knowing how far away the birth would be, so due to the experiences gleaned from the milk route & interactions with the Amish dairy world, she called us. She was just SURE something was wrong, because the heifer was over her due date & wanted a second opinion on if everything was OK or if she was over reacting, so I was able to visualize these pre-calving signs in #2 before needing to recognize them in Sassy.
★ Going over the approximate due date isn't uncommon. Just like humans, the first time around the body is just trying to get the hang of things, so it will go over the due date sometimes.
Yet another owner, who's apparently had quite a few cows to watch this in, had observed that just prior to calving, (24 to 48 hours) the cow will begin to arch, or kink her tail in preparation for the calf to make passage. The person stated that this is a sure shot way of knowing you'll have a new calf shortly, & was confirmed by several others in the forum.

I find this all very interesting, but what I find even more interesting, is there are really not THAT many people who have been watching their cows that closely, so there isn't a ton of info out there on this. In today's day & age... It just hits me as interesting. So I've been trying to observe & take photos. The photos haven't turned out well because she's a dark brown/black, but I have good intentions.

When I bought Sassy, I intended to have a family milk cow. Nothing more. I never actually thought I would grow to love her like a pet, or that I would enjoy her as much as I do. I mean what can you do with a cow? You can't exactly play fetch with it, or cuddle up with it on your lap to read a good book... But ... Despite that, she has been very good for my battered & bruised soul. She behaves like an overgrown puppy. A 500lb, exuberant, genuinely affectionate puppy, who wants nothing more than to be petted,  brushed &/or scratched. She sometimes gets so thrilled to see me coming that she dances. Literally, dances a jig. Other times getting so happy that she rubs her head & face on me. So, I can honestly say that it's kind of nice to be so loved by an animal that she dances for you...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday, and the cat decided to have her kittens last night!  Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Old friends, new changes, better life

Several months ago when I first bought Sassy, an old friend reconnected with the family and although many things have changed since we went back & forth consistently, there are just some things about the friendship that have not changed despite having not seen her or her family in a long time.  Funny how that works!

Years ago, she was the person who would fix our computers when we screwed up this or that.  She taught me a lot about the computer world as well as helping me to get through some tough stuff that I had going on at the time.  She was married to a serious creep of an idiot, had two sons by a prior marriage, and had one daughter from the idiot.

Mom & Dad got tired of constantly needing to fix this or that, and bought a new system.  Since we no longer needed her to fix our broken down fix-r-uppers, we lost touch for a long time.

Since losing touch over the last 12-years, she was able to get away from the abusive idiot of a pedafile she was married to.  Her two sons have gone off the deep end, with one believing that he is a girl and the other being such a chronic liar that nothing is trustworthy from his mouth.  Her daughter on the other hand, is doing "OK", because our friend was able to retain custody of her and she has remarried a really decent man who has a daughter of his own from a prior marriage as well.  He supports and loves her the way she deserves to be loved, and through his support & due to some serious health issues, she has chosen to begin hobby farming in an effort to get healthier and improve the quality of life she has left to live.

Fast forward to today.  Here we are, both of us having lived through our abusive ex's, both of us deciding that we can feed and care for our families, better, through growing our own food than by buying it in a store.

She now has chickens, ducks, rabbits, cows, and dogs, and is loving the country life!!  She's smiling and laughing, has stopped smoking (due to the health issues) and seems to be genuinely happy!

[In comparison:  I have horses, cows, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats & toddlers (ha ha).]

She raises the rabbits as pets for the local feed store, the chickens lay eggs which she uses to feed her family then sells the extra to the public who may stop into her home, and raises the cattle for the milk they might produce, for her family to drink, but mainly for the meat they will produce once they come of age/weight.

Yesterday she called asking if I could come down and look at her heifer who is overdue to give birth.  I went down, and what could have been a 3-hour run, turned into 6-hours.  I looked at her cow, and I guestimate that she should give birth any time between now & tomorrow.

Because of dad being a milkman for over 24-years, I was raised around dairy cows.  Cows are, dare I say, part of who I am?  Although the cows were never my own until now, I still learned a great deal from the producers along the way.

After owning their own business for that long, my parents saw so many crazy animal drama's, equipment failures, life or death emergencies & FDA dramas... that we used to joke about how we should write a book of memoirs, and call it "As The Milk Churns" (haha).

One example of such drama's: when I was around 7-years old, we pull into a producers yard and he rushes out to the truck as we pull in, begging Dad to come help him pull a holstein calf.  They didn't have the proper equipment, the farmer wasn't properly prepared, despite it being a heifer on her first calf.  They pulled and worked to get that calf out for over 3-hours, and when they finally got it, it was dead.  The mother died shortly after from exhaustion. A sad story for sure, but an example of how although Dad wasn't properly "trained" in farm husbandry, he would always get pulled into it anyway.  It would seem that the Amish producers we served, thought that Dad would just know the answers to whatever problems they had.

Now, years later those unexpected experiences have helped me.  Have given me confidence to go on and begin my own hobby farm, and because of how calm dad was in these emergency situations, it laid the groundwork for some of my choices and how to handle emergencies better.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Today's many adventures

Interesting happenings around here today!

When I went down to check on Sassafras this morning she was feeling pretty uncomfortable because the calf was crosswise. I walked in to put her halter on for the day, & she just walks over & plants her face against my stomach & leans on me & moans.

She does this when she's uncomfortable, in pain etc.

I can't do very much about the calf being in the wrong position. So I just try to help her be as comfortable as possible. Walking her around a bit, then tied her out in the yard. Kind of figure if it works for humans maybe it will help her to...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Anticipation is building!

Although there was some doubt initially as to whether I had actually gauged the heat cycles in my mini Jersey cow correctly, I believe it is safe to announce that she is pregnant & her little bundle of joy is set to arrive sometime in late June, or early July.

If her little one is born on 7/4 it will be named Freedom, which can be either a male or female name. If it isn't born exactly on the day I'd like, it's ok. I still may be name it Freedom, but another name that's optional if it's a girl, is Honey, because Dad's honeybees paid for the some of the expenses necessary to pull this off.

I wanted to sit down & "record" some of the information I learned from the second inseminator, (Elmer Detwieler) but I didn't have time at that point, because I was trying to do to much. I thought I would have the opportunity to come back to it, but one thing led to another, as it always does, & here we are.

We've come through 7/9 months, she has approximately 60 days to go, a little less, & I have forgotten a lot of what he shared with me.

Elmer is a very unique, information rich individual. While observing her during the initial heat, that we missed** he revealed just how much information he had in his brain concerning artificial insemination, & cows in general. 30+ years, living in multiple countries as an AI, using the AI training to be a missionary... Working with lots of different breeds of cattle, & how each breed is different... The entire conversation was highly educational.

** (Elmer said it was OK, he'd rather we miss a half hearted heat & KNOW the cycle, than to guess & waste the semen straw)

Along the way, prior to beginning the process of getting her bred, I had her checked & dehorned by the vet. While he was out, the vet shared how exciting it was for him that I had gotten a mini in the first place, because it gave him a reason to go learn more about them since they're so rare. More than that though, I learned through that conversation that Rick Ultz... Yes THAT Rick Ultz, is this areas leading expert on jerseys! I was flabbergasted! Imagine the chances of that happening! All these years I've known, looked up to & respected this man, who has quietly been an expert on something that I love but never had the money to get into till last year!

As Sassy was 15-months when I got her, & of course being that young has never had a calf before, & I have never been responsible for a cow who's been bred before... We're both calving virgins so to speak. So I'm praying it all goes smoothly... Praying hard actually! ☺

I've grown to love that little cow. ❤ She's become like another child to me... & It would break my heart if something were to happen to her because of my stupidity in this matter.

But, the Lord has a plan. If he didn't, she wouldn't have fallen in my lap back when I saw the ad sin the paper. The semen shipment wouldn't have come together like it did, & nothing would have gone as smoothly as it has​...

Monday, August 15, 2016

The newest addition to our little hobby farm: Sassafras

It's been quite a while since I posted, but I had a good reason! After having my second son, my world kind of "blew up" and I got very busy.  The saying "With one child you are a parent, with two you are a referee" rings true for me and my husband as our children seem to be best friends, but also their own worst enemies, sometimes in the blink of an eye. 

In all of the hustle and bustle of parenthood, we still have to live, and in "living" we've had several livestock related adventures.  Specifically due to having a 3-year old and a 1-year 5-month year old, who both find great enjoyment in our animals. 

On June 30, 2016 I purchased a 15-month old miniature-midsize jersey and named her Sassafras.

Her lineage is of miniature stock, but she grew to be 1" too tall to suit the prior owner (he was seeking to have an entirely miniature herd), and so chose to sell her to me for $1,600.   She is a dark brown, nearly black color, with lighter colored "socks" on her legs, and lighter colored "stripes" down her spine.  (Photo shows what I mean)

She had horns when I purchased her, so those had to come off immediately, and let me tell you what... I hope I never have to de-horn another cow for as long as I live! 

After spending every day outside in the sunshine on her 50-foot tie-out rope, the jersey color pattern is a little bit more noticeable through her back and legs, but she will never be accepted into some of the more prestigious miniature jersey registries as I had planned.

Some of the registries require immense amounts of information; correct coloring in specific areas, conformation, head shape, etc. and because she is such a dark color, and lacks the prominent white ring around her nose, the woman running the main registry wouldn't accept her.  

The backstory I was given on her and who her sires & dam's are cannot be verified any further than they already have so I can't really "fight" the refusal to allow registry. 

I intend to keep highly detailed records, and to register her calf/calves but without having her full lineage confirming that she is the grandsire of Riverview Bobby (among other names), the lineage records starts with me.  Perhaps if I stick with this, I will end up having a whole herd of miniature jersey's; who knows.  Perhaps some day.

Through a neighbor we purchased some huge bales of straw to use as her bedding.  2 sections of that is more than enough to toss down on the floor of her pen, so I'll be doing well for bedding for a very very long time.   She is so partial to the straw though that she has chosen to keep her "bed" separate from her other activities in the pen such as eating and discharging waste.  This photo is of her laying down on her bed when she got bored of my presence in her pen.   I guess she decided that if I wasn't going to give her anything to eat, and wasn't going to brush her, that I was no longer "useful" and so it was time to tell me to go away by laying down.

When I made the choice to purchase a miniature jersey cow, I was also making the decision to allow the chickens to become less prominent in our livestock ownership ventures for the time being. 

I need the income from the eggs, but one of the main contributing factors on the decision to ease off on the chickens, was concerning my oldest son's fear of the birds because they have pecked his hands a few times thinking that he had food. The second factor was that I had a big old swamp coon that was eating any bird he could get his talons into, and it was just not good business to continue purchasing chicks only to have them eaten by the swamp coon.

When Sassy first came home my son was even a little uneasy around her, because of not knowing if she would hurt him or what she would do when he would come around but he has warmed up to her a lot, and even goes to the barn to scratch her and brush her without me now.  He has been over-heard telling his grandmother that "Mommy's cow is pretty good!  She is my favorite pet!" Which I enjoyed of course because I've been wanting a pet cow for about 8-years now.

One adventure which I was concerned would scare him, was the fact that during "standing heat", I was careless about watching my back, and she mounted me, pinning me against the fence until she was finished humping.  My son watched the whole thing, and even though it hurt (she weighs in around 500lbs) I knew I had to talk to him about what he had just seen otherwise he would be fearful of her.  But how do you explain to a 3-year old, why the cow had just mounted mommy and was humping her?  It was quite comical I suppose, the way I was stumbling around trying to explain it in a way that he could understand, yet wouldn't scare him... yes I pulled it off.  I basically just told him "Mommy is OK.  Sassy is lonely. She wants Mommy to find a daddy cow for her to have a baby with."  He looked at me very solemnly and said "OK Mommy".  Later, he was talking to my sister and he said "Mommy got humped by the cow".  Meg said "What!?"  He repeated it, and she asked "Did you see this happen??"  He nodded and repeated "I saw it!", then when he thought she didn't believe him he told her very emphatically "I'm not lying!  I saw it Aunt Megan!  I saw Mommy get humped by the cow!  Sassy is lonely!  She wants Mommy to find her a bull so she can have a baby!"  My sister's jaw just hit the floor I guess... which kind of made the whole situation all the more hilarious than before because how many other people can say that they got humped by a cow in heat?  And that their 3-year old has given his 20-year old aunt a bovine biology lesson!  lol!

All in all I would say that Sassafras has been a good addition to our little farm.  She has proven herself to be a sweet tempered little girl, and if all goes as planned, I will have her bred to a miniature jersey bull of the Dexter Corners lineage, by the end of the month.  The bull resides in Texas at this point in time, but of course artificial insemination is always an option, and one which we are going to attempt this time around.  DC Ebenezer is supposed to be within the size range I would like to see but is heterozygous polled, which means we have a 50% chance of horns. 

** Sassy is 100% horned, I had her DNA tested during the registry negotiations so I would know exactly how likely we would be to having a horned calf, as well as if she had any DNA issues that I should be concerned with such as having the bull dog gene (a gene malformation in Dexter cattle; some people will cross dexters with jerseys in an effort to accomplish size requirements.  It's a method of cutting corners instead of actually doing the breeding correctly.

Updates on the cattle breeding adventures to follow! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Butchered 4 roosters; unexpected adventures

So, had some pretty interesting although catastrophic adventures yesterday.

It was a nice day, I thought "OK this one reader person has asked for photos of the butcher process, I'm feeling OK, & I need to stop putting this off... let's get this done."  Got all the stuff around for it, started boiling the water, and headed for the barn to catch the intended "victims".  I think they must have sensed that their time had come because although I was able to catch 2 of the 4, the other 2 evaded me to the very end, even after using my pistol to try to take them out.  Finally, I thought "Fine, I'll just do these two, maybe I can catch the other two later after I've gotten these done...", however in the meantime I handed my dad my pistol (because I got frustrated and fed up chasing birds..) and even my dad got fed up. 

While Dad was chasing down the other two, I got my gloves and went for the kill cage (an old dog crate used to isolate them until they are ready for death) to catch a roo.  There were two in there, both were larger than I normally like to butcher, both with long long spurs, but I thought this would be to my advantage for an easier time cleaning them.  It was not.  These two big roosters ganged up on me and rushed me at the door as I went for them, both flapping their wings, attacking my head and face.  I got spurred in the arms, chest and back as I ducked from their barrage attack.

After that, I was 100% done with messing around on a humane kill business.  And of course by not doing a humane kill it wouldn't be clean either, so I knew I wouldn't be able to get photos.  But regardless, I needed these birds gone, so I turned my husband, dad & brother loose on them.  Told them to take them out however they wanted as long as they were dead.  The three men thought this was an awesome idea, since they all hate my chickens, but specifically my roosters with a passion.

After locating them all, they were successful, but there was one rooster in particular that was very good at evading us, even though we shot at him he would keep running.  Once we finally did take him out and I took all his feathers off I realized that we had all hit him when we were shooting him, he just had like... 9 lives. lol  The other three roosters went down a lot easier.

However, interesting facts (to me anyway) was that when I tried to shoot the escape artist rooster several months ago, I thought I missed him, I did not.  I did indeed hit him, and not only that but I hit him exactly where I was supposed to to take him out.  I had just missed his internal organs by mere millimeters. When I finally opened him up, he had 5 bullet holes, (4, 9mm & 1, .22) plus the healed hole from my original 9mm several months back.  Tough old bird was way too good at staying alive!! 

After all of that, I ended up only getting one bird that was usable out of the 4, mainly because I was just so tired I couldn't finish.  My hands were shaking and I was close to collapsing, ended up nicking the gall bladder on the last one I attempted which means I had to throw it away.  Asked my brother to take care of all of the guts, feathers, carcasses etc. which he did, while I showered, then colapsed.  Mom even texted me that she needed me to help her, with my kids, and I didn't even hear my phone.  THAT showed me this morning just how utterly exhausted I was.