Thursday, May 12, 2011

Miniature Herefords : fencing, pastures, and educating yourself

Well it has finally stopped raining (for a bit at least) . We have had several days of sunshine, warm temperatures and light breezes!

It has done wonders for not only our mud, but dispositions as well! Even the cattle look happier.

This weekend will be spent cleaning out the barnyard, as during the winter we cannot get out onto the fields to spread manure (snow) or load up the small ground driven spreader for later (freezes me I found that out the hard way last winter....), SO we have to pile it where we pitch it, essentially. Which makes for a rather large mound of poop and bedding by spring. Unsightly, yes, although the calves like to play "king of the hill" on the pile!

Anyway, we borrow a skid steer and spend the day cleaning the barnyard and bedded stalls.

Its kind of neat, when one thinks about it; we buy the clover seed from the neighbor farmer, and seed our pastures with it. Our cattle eat the pasture, and stay fat and healthy on it all summer long. Then, we buy the hay from the neighbor, and feed it all winter long. The straw we use for bedding is from the neighbor as well. The cattle live off the very high quality hay all winter, and we pile up the resulting "waste / fertilzer" till spring, when we then take it all back to the field to fertilize the pastures and clover seed..... and the cycle begins all over again.

I swear some folks like to make everything too complicated in life;(remember when you could just order a "cup of coffee"?) every now and then I get an email from someone new to small scale farming / ranching and livestock, and they are so full of questions, confused as to what to do about this that and the other thing....especially in more urban-suburban / rural areas, many well-educated and well intended individuals feel the need for countless books and instructors, classes and endless discussion about the finer points of raising livestock....which is all fine I suppose, but like many things in our lives presently, sometimes TOO much imformation can be paralizing.....I know it can be for me! Fact is, folks have been raising livestock since time began; it is a learn as you go occupation mostly.

Best thing to do is become a listener and a keen observer. Take that ride to real rural farming areas (you can write it off as a business expense). Observe how the farmers fence their animals, what they use for feeders, gates, lanes. Check out the barns, run in sheds, waterers, etc. Go on line and look for a real cattle auction and go to one (at the actual farm). Listen to the farmers talking, walk around, see how things are done, how things work (or dont work...!) Ask questions. Even if you have no interest in buying, a real cattle / farm /equipment auction is an education and alot of fun....(and no, most of the "real" farm auctions do not look like they could appear in a know what I mean....)

We try and keep things simple here, our fences are mostly electric, nothing fancy but extremely effective (altho I would love split rail along the road out front!) Our barn / run in shed is simple, affordable, but very effective as well. The gates all swing to help move the cattle when and where we need them to go, and most of the time the cattle can be moved easily by just one person; from pasture to pasture, to the barn for the vet, across the driveway to the other chasing, hollering, pitchforks, etc. Just a "come on" and I basically just get out of the way, hold open a gate and they know the routine.

Raising livestock should bring joy. It is a great stress reliever most of the time. Sure there will be times when the animals get loose (leave the gate unlatched anyone??) or its miserable outside and muddy cold raining ,windy, etc; There are animals that get ill on occassion, calves that no matter how hard you try will not make it.....but in the end, there should still be that deep sort of satisfaction, regardless, when you walk in the house after its all said and done. That is what keeps you going back out, day after day after day, to tend to your livestock....and to lean on the gate and watch the babies romp around, or the cattle running full out with tails in the air out of the sheer joy of being alive and well...

That is what

that is why

we do what we do

day in

day out

and love it.

Now if only our spouses would, could, understand.....

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