Monday, April 27, 2009

Cattle Corner and Landscape Tip of the Day April 27 2009

OK, I guess I just get on here and get to talkin' 'bout this that and the other, and I have to wonder, is anyone even reading any of this? I mean, some of this stuff has got to be helpful for someone, but, who? Did you really get rid of your moles, or did you buy one more load of hay to give your pastures that extra week or so to really green up? If you are reading this, and you do find it helpful, I sure would like to know! And, thanks!

That being said, I just want to talk about the coming warm weather, with summer apparently here for us, its gotten very warm for the past few days, and you know, the cows are still shedding out, and there are no leaves on thee trees for shade yet, and its been in the mid eighties for the past several days. They look pretty uncomfortable, but not much to do for that. Just provide a place for shade and cool fresh water, and wait for more seasonable weather to re-appear. I sure wish they would shed out and get it over with. I'll bet they do, too! And no, I am not going to hand brush each one. As much as I enjoy fooling with them.........!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cattle Corner April16, 2009

Getting ready to calve. There is nothing more anticipated and exciting than the arrival of a new calf. Especially if its the first one, either first born on your farm, or first one for your heifer or from your new cow. Calving always makes all the work sweat and expense worthwhile. In a way, its really your "return" on investment; investment of your time and money, the countless hours spent tending to the everyday details (some rather mundane and repiticious), the chores that never seem to end. But when you stand there leaning on the gate, watching that new calf struggle to it's feet for the very first time and search out its first drink from its momma, you kinda put all that behind you, and bask in the moment. There is just nothing better, regardless of the size of your operation.

Thankfully, we have never lost a calf up to this point. I understand that in itself is quite unusual, but call it good luck, good fortune, or just plain a blessing (which we prefer to call it), we are diligent to a fault on keeping tabs on our livestock. Just ask my family, "where is Mom? Guess." or "there she is, looking at the cows again" (they are visible from my kitchen window....very convieniant.) I keep binoculars next to the sink, just so I can see who's doing what, who is up, who's still eating, etc. Drives my family NUTS.

Which brings me to my thoughts about calving success. Granted, somethings one cannot control, and the miracle of giving birth after 9 months is just that; a miracle, both with humans and cattle. Not much we can do with that process, except, heres the key I believe; keep things as healthy and natural as we possibly can. For both humans and our cattle. This is how I have always approached cattle health (and it mirrors our health as well). Check the animals daily, twice if you at all can. Move around your livestock, run your hands over them in passing so they don't freak out at a human touch. Talk quietly as you go, so they get used to your voice, which comes in handy if you ever have to move them at night and they can't see you. They will recognise your voice, and stay calm. When a heifer gets close to her due date, I check her udder, getting her used to the feeling that soon there will be some "action down there" in her world. I handle her all over, so she's not afraid of us when we get in the pen or out in the pasture to assist (or just gawk) if neccessary. I stand with hand on side, feeling the calf moving around, is that the head, butt, a leg? Things getting a little tight in there? Towards the end, the calf will begin to move in a feet forward position to be born. The wide-slung belly will appear slightly flatter, due to the position of the calf at this point. The best way I know how to prepare for the correct presentation and birth is to allow the heifer and or cow to walk around, alot. Like out in the pastures. Walk to water, walk for food, get moving. This is a great aid to getting things moving in the right direction. Most calves will turn themselves the right way, and providing the animals with room to roam around freely before and during the calving process is critical.

There are many great articles written by vets about the actual calving process, which I will gladly leave to their expertise. Aside from the basics of correct presentation (feet first, nose to follow), I wont go into details. We do expect a cow to deliver within 30 minutes after we see the hooves, shorter if its an experienced cow. We will give her a hand if we can, just to the speed up the process for her and the calf, BUT this is a learned art, and I do not reccommend everyone start pulling their calves by any means. It is, after all, a natural process that has been going on for a long time without any help from us. But if you do decide to give your girls a little help, please make sure you are aware of what is happening, and, when, otherwise you could do serious harm to the momma.(and the calf!)?
As soon as that calf is out, we wipe out its little snotty nose, and let momma get to work cleaning it off, which will stimulate, bond and dry the baby all in one step. We have a squirt bottle, or clean cup of iodine for the navel when we can get a clean shot at it, as long as its clean (yes, clean) where she calves, we may wait till the calf stands up to dip the navel. We do like to get our animals in a prepared pen, which ours is 10' by 12', freshly bedded with bright oat or wheat straw (not old moldy hay, or sawdust, which will stick to everything that is wet and sticky... i.e. calf). The animal is free to wander around until it is obvious she is ready to drop that calf before we move her into the pen. We bring her closer and closer to the barn as the days to delivery draw nearer. She stays in the pen a day or so so we can keep an eye on momma and baby, did she clean, is baby nursung well, everybody up, eating and drinking normally. If there are any problems or need for a vet, everybody is easily accessable in a pen. We like to check on them every so often as well. After a day or so, they are let out to explore a safe, penned in paddock for a few days until baby has it legs well under him, after that, they go out to join the other herd members.

Works for us. We hope it works for you as well!
Happy calving!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Landscape Tip of the Day April 15, 2009

Well, I found the data about the small tree vs. the large tree at transplanting, I just do not have it with me right now, so I will move on for this post.
Mulch. Lets talk mulch. This could be a very long post on mulch, but I am going to make it as short as possible.
Mulch, love it, hate it, don't care. Why care.
Mulch=good. Too much=bad. Who cares=skip this post.

Mulch is an important component to the overall health of trees and plants PROVIDED it is properly applied, and the right stuff. Properly applied mulch creates a no competiton zone for the plants roots, enabling it to utilize water and nutrients without competition from grass, weeds, etc. It keeps the root zone cool, helps to retain water, and provides a buffer zone from mechanical injury (ie: mowers and weed-wackers).
Mulch should be applied no more than a few inches deep, and should NEVER EVER EVER be coned up, volcano style, around the base of the tree. Those who do this should be tied to the base of a tree and completely buried in mulch for a week. Deep mulch is home to little chewing mammals, who will find tree bark a welcome meal in the colder months. Deep mulch will smother and hold moisture against the tree base, eventually rotting the bark, and killing the tree (this also applies to planting too deep....same thing).Think of being in wet shoes for a week. Gross. Thats the same thing a tree experiences when wet deep mulch is piled up around its trunk. Etch! As in life, find a middle ground for mulch, not too much, not to little About 3 inches more or less.
Nice and neat, not too deep, water should be able to percolate through. Keep mulch away from the base by a few inches. Add more as needed, if none is needed, lightly fluff what is there.
These products take huge amounts of nitrogen (away from the plant) to decompose; pile them up somewhere for a year or so, then incorporate into your mulch beds. Use any organic composted material native to your area. Do not use plastic to keep the weeds down under a tree. If you like, you can use a water permiable landscape fabric, then cover with much. Newspapers will work as well.
There you have it. Mulch 101.

Happy mulching

Cattle Corner April15, 2009

Hey, its April 15th, tax day. Hope everyone is on track with that fun task!
Lets get right down to cattle business. I just finished reading a GREAT little article from the Ohio State University on cattle. NowI read alot, and I try to discern the good from the drivel. Theres so much information out there it can be a little overwhelming at times. I read online, I read at the table, I read in my car at stop lights. I listen to Public Radio and watch PBS. So much information, not enough time to even use it! (Hence this blog....!)
Well I am really excitied about this one particular article; short and sweet. To the point, understandable, and USABLE. Something you can "take to the bank", literally. I won't go into the details, but I highly encourage you to check this out, send it to others who may find it interesting as well.
The article covers alot of ground (no pun intended) about seasonal losses from calving. When do you like your cattle to calve, and, why? What are the losses at each season, and why?
Obviously, when you prefer to calve directly affects your breeding season. We all know about breeding season, and, its close partner, heat stress. Percentage information on what months are best for breeding, which season are tops for losses, and why. We all know how we feel in the dead heat of mid summer. Well, your cows feel it as well. Check out the data provided.
Endophytes in Fescue; that nasty little fungus that benefits the plant, but wrecks havoc on your cattle during the peak summer breeding season. What to do about that, and, some substitutions. Lastly, and this is going to be given a lot of thought on our farm, is when to calve based on economics. Sure we like to calve on lush spring grass, when the weather is warm and the feed is esentially free. But those of us who raise cattle for breeding stock know how difficult it is to tell potential customers each spring to "please check back with us in the fall at weaning". We all know its alot easier to sell stock in the spring, when the grass is growing and folks are looking for the four-legged mowers in earnest. Maybe we will consider fall calving, with spring weaning? A liitle more hay to feed, but a weaned calf in the spring? Hmmmm, something to think about. Breeding season in the cooler months of fall / winter? Better conception rates, no Fescue...?
These are all things to consider. This article contains the facts to help you make the right decisions for your farm operation, regardless of size.
Please take a moment to read
They will send you a weekly e-newsletter (with articles like this) if you would like as well.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cattle Corner April 11, 2009

My life is crazy busy. There, I said it. I feel like I am being pulled in 9 million directions; my head just spins. With so much going on in my life, I dont feel as thought I am doing the best at anything at times, so the guilt thing sets in. Brief, to the point, dont have time to go into it further. Cattle. Ok. This is about cattle, right? I have no idea if anyone is really reading this, but hey, its cheap therapy, and gives me a place to vent, Or, rant, whichever you prefer.
Now I could be way off here, but I see the cattle as sort of my therapy. When I am outside messin' around with the cattle, I am (usually) at peace. Its quiet (mostly), the animals move about in their slow (again, usually) way, meandering here and there, scratching an itch, stretching, eating, chewing, dozing, basically just being cows. So peaceful. I take great pleasure just walking amoungst them, scratching a back, checking a foot, trying to bump a calf (thats an interesting thing to do, by the way, if you never have. Next C.Corner). Bending over to see if the frost seeded clover has sprouted yet (it has!!), checking the fences, kicking the clods. Enjoying the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and NO ONE BUGGING ME!! Not that I do not love my family, but I take what little peace and quiet I can from the crazy busy days that are mine presently. Usually my family will not follow me as I wander aimlessly about amoung the cattle (really, its just looks aimless, its really quit calculated). Its when I can gather my thoughts, plan ahead, figure out this new pasture, or how to make a gate work or build an addition on the barm. It is constructive daydreaming. Very important.
Apparently, I am not alone with this. I sold a cow and calf to a woman who couldnt wait for the weekend so she could take a chair out to the middle of her pasture and have a picnic in the midst of her new cows! at all. Maybe we are on to something. Maybe we can write this off as therapy. A medical neccessity? A way of preserving our sanity? What is it!!???
OMG, my family has just pulled into the driveway. I think its time to go out and check the cows........!
Oh, and by the way, I will learn to put pictures on here soon!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cattle Corner April 9, 2009

Not much to post today; the worst of our weather seems to have passed us, some snow is still on the ground in shady spots. Daffoldils are beginning to bloom as well. The cattle look good off the winter; we've had over 100 inches of snow, and the new barnyard has held up well (we "boxed out" the barnyard last fall) , so there is no more mud, dirt or soil to contend's wonderful!! I am certain the animals appreciate the fact that they can actually walk, stand and lay down in the barnyard now instead of wade through it (as in previous years) as I do. Certainly makes everyones life easier.
Right now we are awaiting the first calf of the spring, due any time now, from our very first heifer calf born on our farm 2 years ago. It is exciting to see the second generation of animals begin to join the "cow" herd. Our heifer "Babette" is out of our foundation cow, "Miss Piggy", who is the queen of the barnyard on our farm. Miss Piggy has given us 2 beautiful heifers so far, and we are hoping for a third this spring as well. Her offspring are easily identifiable in the pasture; they are short and stocky, pushy at the feeder, and even the horns turn the same as their dam's as they grow.
We couldn't be more pleased with our "Miss Piggy" and her gorgeous daughters, and can't wait for Babettes calf, coming soon!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Landscape tip of the day. April 7, 2009

Ok, I am going to make this short and sweet. More often than not clients want instant everything, especially when it comes to trees. Alot goes into selecting the proper tree for a client, most of which I will not go into at the moment (I'm squeezed for time right now with a design project deadline looming....anyway). Well I am not having any luck finding the research article I want to quote in the book" The Landscape Below Ground" (fascinating reading ....really!), but I will leave you with this...
when it comes down to transplanting trees, size does matter! Think of this; a child breaks a bone, say, arm; heals up good as new in a couple of weeks. Adult breaks arm, takes longer to heal, more suceptable to problems or complications. Well trees are kinda like that as well, the younger (i.e. smaller) they are at transplanting, the quicker they recover from the shock (of transplanting) Studies have shown that a smaller tree will outgrow a larger tree planted at the same time due to that very fact (and I intend tt find that fact for you tonight in the book) . Stress effects EVERYTHING! Have a great day!

Next Landscape tip: hopefully field trial results to back this post up!

Cattle Corner April (yes, April) 7th

Well, it happened, just as predicted. For a while I thought we were in the clear, and (silly me) I even hung out the laundry yesterday during a (brief) sunny , breezy period. I love hanging out wash, it smells so wonderful when you bring it inside! Alas, the towels are still out on the line, frozen. About an hour after hanging them, the western sky darkened (oh, just a passing shower) and a steady rain ensued. I checked the radar, we'll be ok. And looks like that winter storm (warning ) will miss us as well.
Well, the rain wasn't just a passing shower, and, no, the winter weather didn't miss us either . Although I love meteorology, I suppose I'll stick with what I know. Which brings me to the cows......I know, quit yer rambling lady and get to the point. Point is this. Bed your cows and calves and keep them out of the wind and rain and mud at the very least. I was just reading an
article on the Cattle Network that stated the importance of bedding beef cattle and the ties to calf mortality, difficult births and scours. Lets face it, when animals are comfortable, they simply do better across the board. When I say I have never lost a calf in 8 combined years of owning cattle, that is due to dilligence and a genuine concern for the well-being of my stock.
Yes, I did drag myself out last night after the 11:00 news, into the cold wind and rain turned snow, to see if one of my more timid cows had made it into the freshly bedded barn for the night. Not a creature was stirring, all were asleep in the straw, but as I drew near to the barn light, I could see my poor sweet cow, standing at the gate that seperates the cows from the yearlings, covered with wet snow, as if to say, "well, its going to be a long night..." I quietly walked into the barnyard, opened the gate without a word and let her in with the young stock, who have more than enough room to bed for the night. Satisfied, I walked back to the house, checked the stove one last time, turned out the lights and crawled into bed. Now I could sleep.
The next morning I went out before dawn to feed before leaving for work, and she was still curled up tight in the straw, sound asleep, yearling heifers piled around her.
With wet cold weather, wind and mud coming along with spring, please do yourself and your stock a favor by continuing to provide adequate quality feed, dry bedding and shelter.
With calving season quickly approaching, you cannot afford not to.
Please check out the article and studies done on bedding beef cattle at: Article: Bedding Beef Cattle Essential. April 3, 2009
Your cattle will benefit, your calves will benefit, and your wallet will benefit as well. Sleep tight!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cattle Corner Monday April 6th

Here in the Northeast we get some pretty crazy weather, especially when the seasons change. This time of year will find temperatures in the 60's to below freezing , all within a 24 hour time frame. Its especially tough in the spring, as our cattle have begun shedding their winter coats in earnest, and some have bare patches where they once had thick coats. The bare patches will fill in with a fine sleek summer coat, but in the interm, they look pretty "rangey" or "ragged". Yesterday was in the 50's, sunny and mild, but last night we had a hard rain, with snow (!!!) expected for tonight. A wind driven cold rain / snow mix is tough on anyone, especially if their first line of defense, their coat, is comprimised. Please make sure your animals are well fed, and can get out of a drenching soaking rain, somewhere dry, and out of the cold wind. You may have seen cattle standing out in the snow, covered with snow, but they are warm, their coats insulating them from the cold (notice how it doesnt melt?) But rain is the worst, seeping down onto their skin. Along with a cold wind, that can really make life miserable for your livestock, even the healthiest ones. We keep our cattle high and dry, with a roof over their head, dry straw to bed down on, walls to block the prevailing winds, open to the morning sun. I have been know to crawl out of bed after watching the 11:00 weather to move my cattle around so everyone can get inside and out of impending bad weather. There is no greater comfort than lying in my warm bed knowing my livestock is warm as well; well fed, dry, out of the wind and comfortable while the weather rages . For this extra effort and caring, we have not needed the vet for any health related incidents since we got our cattle in 2005. They do just fine with a little T.L.C. Its well worth your time!

Moles in the yard!!!

OK, one of the most bothersome critters I hear complaints about are moles, especially in new lawns and garden beds. Why do they always seem to appear on only the good stuff? Well, why not? I mean, if I were a mole, would I want to tunnel through the hard-packed earth next to your driveway, or that nice fluffy soil you just seeded to lawn? Where would I most likely find one of my favorite foods, earthworms, if I were a mole? You guessed it, the good stuff!
So ok, your having your morning coffee, admiring the grass just starting to fuzz over the topsoil you paid a fortune to have hauled in and spread for your new lawn. Wait, what the......are those tunnel humps? Holes in my precious infant lawn? You betcha, its the mole family, checking out your new digs. Fine, all that aside, lets help 'em Not in my backyard.! Heres what you do. Forget the bombs and stabbing traps and poison bait and vibrating things. Go to the store, get some Juicy Fruit gum. Couple packs if theres alot, or, if you just like the gum. Pick a nice morning and go out onto your lawn, gum pack in hand. Chew gum, (fun part) spit down mole hole. Check to see if neighbors are watching. If so, smile and wave. Continue until every hole has a piece of gum down it. You may want to have a shovel in hand, as I have had the little buggers come running out literally at my feet. Now you may say, "I have never heard of such rubbish!" but you know, how much is a pack of gum these days? Thirty cents or so? I have seen several articles over the years on this very subject of moles and chewing gum, and honestly I dont know if its the smell, they eat it , or what, but it does send them packing! Try it, all you have to loose is a pack of gum, and more than likely, the moles as well. And thats my landscape tip of the day. Tomorrows tip: which tree will grow the fastest, a small one at planting, or a larger one at planting....the answer may surprise you!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Here I am and there I go!

Welcome everyone to the random ramblings of horticulture and livestock! Please check back soon, as I will add updates regularly.

Todays landscape tip of the day:
Try not to roll your lawns.....rolling or driving over very soft just thawed out from the winter lawns does alot more harm than good. Why? Because as the frost melts out of the soil, pore spaces are opened up, allowing much needed air space within the soil structure, as well as allowing earthworms and other critters to move freely beneath the surface. If the pore spaces are crushed and flattened by driving on and or rolling, the soft soil becomes compacted, messing up all that cool stuff that goes on in the soil layer we never really see. Please be nice to the soil, and the earthworms. The humps and bumps will all settle down, especially when you start mowing the grass.

Next: How do you get rid of those darn moles???

Cattle Corner, Life on thsmall farm.

Try and resist allowing your livestock to graze the new growth that spring is encouraging. Confine your animals to a paddock, barnyard or "sacrifice" pasture in order that growing pasture grasses can get a good foothold and growth on before they are grazed, especially if grazed down hard from last fall. Feed hay a little each morning so your animals are more inclined to lay around during the day instead of graze. It will be well worth your while .