This site is about my life as a farmgirl, wife, mother and grandmother. We have a beautiful granddaughter and the cutest grandson. We own two farms in Craig County Virginia, leasing one and raising beef cattle on the other.
Every two or three years we try to replace old cows with new heifers. Over the last year we kept eight of our raised on the farm calves and purchased eight from a farm down the road. They are all black angus and all about the same size and age, 15 -18 months old.
We pulled out nine of them to go ahead and breed back in June with one of our new bulls because they were the oldest and heavier of the stock.
We made the mistake of not having that group far enough away from the ones that we wanted to wait for a bit until they put on at least another 100 – 150 pounds. Well, the young bull took care of business sooner than we expected and he decided to venture through a couple fences and took care of business as soon as one of the younger heifers came into heat. We’re not sure how many he bred before we got him out but should know toward the end of May. There have two of the younger to come into heat and thought they were far enough away from the bulls BUT one heifer didn’t want to wait another year and went through a property fence and up the road to another farm. Everyone thought the cow in the road by herself belonged in that farmer’s field and was turned in directly to their bull. We got her back home two days ago and now we wait and see!!!
Heifers are cows that have never been bred or had a calf so come spring we will have to keep a close watch on all 16 of them. First time calves can be troublesome so we will see what spring brings forth!!!
Our breeding bulls purchased in 2014 have outgrown their herds. Their size was a problem and one was throwing a lot of twins and the other was missing opportunities!
One of our neighbors, Andy Hutton, had some beautiful young bulls ready to put with our breeding stock and he gave us a great deal on two and hauled them to the farm which was about distance of 3-5 miles away.
We have two herds that will come into their breeding heats in June. These guys will be put with our four year old herd along with two of our more mature bulls, Mick and Arby. Each herd will have a young bull and a mature bull. In about 10 – 11 months we’ll see what kind of calves are on the field with their maams!
March plagued us with unusual calving events but not due to weather events. First and previously posted was the “trouble” issue from a first time mother and a calf to large to deliver normally. Eddie assisted in that delivery which produced the largest calf we have ever delivered and to date the largest calf this year.
Our second abnormal delivery was an older cow in our spring herd and she had never had any issues in the past. This time she delivered a normal to small bull calf that was dead. Shortly after this delivery she had another small dead bull calf and then all of her insides came out. I’m not talking about prolapse, this was all of her female organs and intestines. Eddie put her down quickly after to prevent ANY suffering.
Then about 10 days later another heifer delivered a huge bull calf that Eddie and I both helped deliver in our holding. This calf lived but mother and calf were weak for about two weeks but the calf is growing.
The last one born was also a five-hour labor ordeal with a heifer and we had an issue after the deliver that Eddie assisted. About an hour or so after the delivery the calf was never able to get up to nurse. We have found in the past that if the new babe and mom are left alone things usually go as expected. We watched this calf and mother from our front porch and Eddie decided to take the heifers some grain to keep them away from the new mother and babe. After pouring the grain he went to investigate the situation and found all of the calf’s intestine had come out of its belly button/naval. NEVER had we seen or heard of this! We called a neighbor and they had never dealt with it but had heard of it and was willing to come assist. In the meantime, I googled it and how to fix without a vet’s assistance (the cost of the vet and having to take to a hospital would far out weigh what we could get out of the calf IF it survived). We got a clean tarp and put it in the bucket of the tractor and Eddie and I lifted him into the tractor bucket without issue. We then hauled him to the garage where our neighbor found us to work on the calf. First we sterilized all the equipment with 100% alcohol and then poured it all over the intestines and tried to get as much dirt and debris from the navel and the intestine without bursting them. This took lots of time and Andy was so meticulous about cleaning everything. Inch by inch he started pushing the intestines back into the body cavity and at one point he had to make the navel opening a bit larger and after about an hour he was ready to close up the opening. During this entire process Eddie was holding the back feet & legs and I was holding the front legs and feet, the calf did not move even being on it’s back during the entire time. Andy cleaned the incision several times more and then closed it all with vet staples. He gave the calf a large dose of antibiotics and covered the wound with more alcohol. We took the calf back to his mother and she started cleaning him all over again. You have to remember that his calf had never been able to get up to nurse. We tried to give him colostrum to no avail and in the next three days he got up three times that we saw but we NEVER saw him nurse even with mom’s encouragement. On the fourth day he died and as an afterthought we think we should have used a system that you put a hose down their throat into their stomach for nourishment or may should have put it down immediately but we always try to save them after the mother has gone through nine months of keeping them alive.
I want to thank our wonderful neighbor, Andy Hutton, for all he did that day and help he has given us in the past. He hauls our cattle, helps us find good buyers for our stock, helping in repair our equipment and there for us to answer our questions. Though we’ve been farming for 40+ years it’s always good to get first and second opinions. Andy is our “go-to-farmer”!!!
We only have two more heifers to calve and about 9-10 older cows in our spring herd to deliver. Wish us luck!!
Our calving season has begun and I’ll share some quick pics of the new babies.
We’ve just started the season and we have two heifers and three bulls so far. They’ve all been very small but you wouldn’t believe the energy they have. They’re keeping their mothers busy keeping up with them and when they run across the meadow they thing they’re Super Babies!
It was still dark when I left for work last Thursday morning at -5* and Eddie said it would drop more as it became daylight. He had both stoves going when I got home that night, extra bedding in the dog boxes, extra hay left in the woods for the cows, wood boxes filled to overflowing, made sure new chickens given by a friend of his were settling in and he’s taking them warm water several times a day. The house was a “toasty 81*” when I got home but the wind was howling and made it feel like 75*. We even threw on an extra blanket and the bedroom window was closed. Even though my waist isn’t thinning I believe my blood may be!! I think the winter is just getting started this year and we’ve lots more cold, wind and snow yet to come.
As for the new chickens, a friend of my husbands had to get rid of them because they were eating his neighbors cat food everyday. This has caused my usual 3-5 eggs a day to jump to 12-18!!! French toast in the making!! Custard pies on the horizon (to heck with the weight)!! Egg salad for lunch! I could go on and on and of course we can’t forget the infamous fried egg sandwich w/cheese!! Of course, our benefactor will receive free eggs for a time.
The new chickens and my old chickens fought each other most of the day and the rooster that came with them is thankfully one of a kind and will not be with us long. I want a Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Black Orpington or a Dominique. Sussex and Americana are beautiful and good egg layers. I’ll check around in the spring when some of my girls tend to get broody!!
My older hens stick close to the hen-house and aren’t ranging out very far but there’s a very good reason. A couple of weeks ago a bird hawk, smaller than my hens, decided to invade the inside of the henhouse and killed two of my hens and the day before we found Ms. Crow dead in front of the door. We have a feeling the hawk got it as well but couldn’t carry her off. The hens are still skittish and stay close to buildings they can get under fast. They quit laying for a couple of days or are dropping the eggs outside of the nesting area.
This winter is the first in a long time that I’ve had to buy store-bought eggs and glad it was only for a couple of weeks. There’s nothing like fresh eggs from the farm. The eggs are coming more generously now and I can start selling them again but we’ve decided to raise the price on them to $2.00 per dozen because the is needing a new roof and we’ve had to supplement their feed with scratch grains because of the very cold winter. Keep them fat and the cold won’t hurt so bad!! We don’t believe in heated and lighted chicken houses. We keep everything as natural as possible.
On another note, Fuzzy is missing!!
I haven’t seen her since last Wednesday when she came to meet when I got home from work. I fed her that evening and haven’t seen her since. She left once before for about four days but this has been over a week and I’m so afraid a coyote pack got her. I hope I go home today and she has returned.
This winter has been much, much colder than normal for Virginia, I think. I can’t remember having a whole week of negative temperatures in our area. We haven’t had an abundance of snow like I thought we would have (knock on wood) but the wind and cold temperatures have taken a toll.
Two weeks ago we lost one of my favorite cows. She was a fifth generation cow raised on the farm and though she was a headache until she had her first calf. She was kept for breeding stock along with six other heifers and would lead those other girls through every hole in the fences or make her own wherever and when ever she wanted. Hubby threatened to send her to market so many times.
She lost her first two calves because her udders were so large. Her great, great, great, grandmother was a holstein dairy cow and they can sure produce some milk. All of her daughters were good milkers but Grace’s first two babies only lived about four days and we think starved because they couldn’t get the udders in their mouth and Grace was too unruly to pen up in a shed to milk. We had planned last year to send her to market with the fall calves but something happened and she never made it on the truck. She delivered a beautiful black angus heifer in early September but it took a toll on Grace. The calf was sucking her to death and she lost a lot of weight but kept that baby of hers well fed. During the big snow week before last, we think one of the other cows may have butted her down and she couldn’t get back up and froze during the night. Hubby found her the next morning. That’s the luck of farming beef cattle! Just when you think you might get two steps ahead of the game, your forced to take three steps back!
Tuesday morning was the first time in years that our cattle were worked and I wasn’t in on the fun. Hubby did have some help though. Our daughter and two of his friends came to take care of business. This was for our spring calving herd and there was only two calves that had not had their calves yet but the work needed to be done now. The other two will be taken care of later. The work entails eartags for the moms that are missing tags and there were a lot of them. The moms also get their tails trimmed and if any are having issues such as runny eyes(possible pinkeye infection), thin bodies (usually a symptom of worms) or limping (foot evil lurking around) all of these are taken care of in the spring. The calves get their ears tagged, baby shots, banding if they’re bull calves and general care for any thing else that might show up. This may not sound like a lot but when you have 40 cows and 30 calves going through the working chute it takes several hands, patience, and time. They had a great day without me and had it all done in about 2.5 hours. I thought I would show you a couple pictures that one of the guys took during the process and a couple pictures of the herd.
Two weeks ago today one of our older cows (25+ years) had been in labor for more than a day and finally on Saturday morning had a beautiful little red/white faced heifer.
Her Mom died shortly after delivery and we were lucky to find Annabelle because she wasn’t near her Mom. We think Mom couldn’t get up to nurse her and the other cows came to investigate and Annabelle followed them looking for warm nourishment. Hubby found her about 100 yards from her Mom, wet, muddy and very cold. She was covered with the afterbirth film and mud. Hubby came back to the house to get me and we loaded her on the back of the pickup and brought her to the house. Luckily it was a very nice, sunny morning but still cool. I first got some regular milk we drink, warmed it and added about a 1/2 cup of Karo syrup and took it to her.
I didn’t have to work with her much at all to get her to take about a pint and then I let her rest. I got a very warm bucket of warm with some baby shampoo mixed in it and proceeded to bathe her as best as I could and covered her with a heavy towel to keep the cool air off until she quit shivering. She lay quietly in the yard and our other new baby, Gyp, decided to make Annabelle her new best friend. She licked her and lay with her and nipped at her trying to get her to play.
After another hour passed, she seemed a little more active and got up and walked around in the yard so I decided to try to get some more milk in her. She was ready for that bottle and grab hold quick. Gyp hung around to keep her mouth cleaned off (she’s so funny) and we got another pint in her.
Then we prepared her a good warm bed in the small garage close to the house. This building has electricity in it and made it convenient for those after dark feedings. I filled a clean five gallon buck with water for her and hoped she would find it and not knock it over and fill her bed with water which was a little below the bucket. While I was preparing her new home, Gyp watched after her.
We fed her a full bottle in the mornings before I went to work and during the day Hubby would feed her 1/2 bottle every four hours and then I fed her again around 6:00 in the evening after I got home from work. She is doing really well and growing so fast!
BUT. . . . . . . .
Another of the older cows gave birth to a dead calf on Wednesday morning and she is usually such a good mother. Her calf was a red heifer and Hubby decided to try another trick we’ve used in the past. He took the dead calf away from the mother and put Mama in a small barn near the house and gave her some extra grain. While she was eating he took a large area of hide from the dead calf and tied it onto Annabelle’s back.
He then walked Annabelle over to the barn to meet a new mama (we hoped). After some more grain, some more coaxing Annabelle to the new area of milk and lots of prayers, the new mama and orphan calf quickly took to each other. Hubby urged me to stay away from Annabelle for a couple days to make sure the adoption would work and I can happily announce that Annabelle’s new mother is very protective of her and Annabelle seems to be nursing and nuzzling her new Mom constantly.
The only downside to this story is that Gyp doesn’t have someone to chase and play! That’s another story in the making!
This is the blog for our little farm in Skagit county. Here we have Shetland sheep and Nigerian Dwarf goats. In addition we have donkeys, cattle, pigs, chickens, geese, and peafowl. The blog describes the weekly activities here.