Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bittersweet Thoughts

Yesterday morning was a very bittersweet morning for me as I was doing my morning routine with the babies.  I knew that at 4 PM I was having surgery on my foot and would not be able to make it to the barn to see Clara Bell or the other babies for at least 36 hours because it is also supposed to rain all day.  I know for some of you this does not sound like a big deal,  but not seeing my babies everyday to make sure everyone is happy and healthy is tough for me.  It is like not seeing or talking to my own children to make sure they are all right.  I do have a wonderful husband, son, mom and dad that are taking care of them for me so I know they are in good hands, but like any parent I want to check on them.

As I walk through the cow/calf pen and get everyone up to make sure they are well, a few tears come to my eyes as a few of the calves run toward me and start licking my pants to greet me for the morning.  Then they take off running and bucking across the pen.  They are so cute while they do this.  I then start laughing hysterically at a few of the younger mothers as they start running after their babies.  The older mothers are standing there looking at them.  I can almost read their minds.  They are thinking, "Really?  They will come back.  You can see the whole pen.  Save your energy."  It is almost the same way a mother of two, three or more children looks at a first time mother and the extreme way they tend to do some things at first.  Yes, we were all first time mothers at one time, but after a while most of us relax and aren't as extreme about things such as washing the pacifier every time it falls out of the baby's mouth.  The cows follow very similar patterns.  The older moms still do not like the calves out of their sight for at least the first few months, but as long as they can see them they are alright with them running around.

As I am taking care of Clara Bell's mom for her last treatment for the infection in her udder, I let Clara walk around the barnyard.  She starts butting me.  I can't help but chuckle at her.  Then she comes over beside me and puts her forehead on my cheek as I am on my knees to milk out the infected quarter.  She just rests her forehead there as if giving me a hug.  A few tears come to my eyes and I stop milking to love on her for a minute.  She then wonders off and walks around while I finish with mom.  After mom is all taken care of, it is time for Clara to nurse.  I get mom out of corral and into barnyard with Clara Bell.  While I am shutting up corral, the two of them walk to each other and Clara starts to try to nurse without me!  I am so excited about this!  She manages to get the front teat in her mouth and start nursing before I get to them.  This makes tears come to my eyes yet again.  This is the first time she has started nursing on her own while standing completely unassisted.  It takes me a minute to realize that I have helped her get to this point by being persistent and never giving up on her.  My children my call this persistence being stubborn, but whatever you call it, it is working!

After the teat slips out of Clara's mouth, mom walks into the stall for her feed while Clara finishes nursing. They have learned the routine and like to stick to the routine just like most of us find comfort in our routines. Clara starts following mom into the stall gets to the barn door, turns her head looks outside and stops.  I had to push her inside.  She wanted to stay outside!  She still needed help nursing the back teat (she can't nurse the infected one yet), and after she had been nursing for awhile I had to support her a little.  Though she still needs help, she is getting so much stronger.  This makes me feel a lot better because I will not be able to help nurse for at least three feedings.  While everyone else is capable of doing this task, mom and Clara are used to the way that I do it and I tend to have more patience in situations like this.  I am not trying to say anything negative about anyone else, but I am sure if you think about it there is someone in your family that has more patience in different situations than other family members.  When we were done nursing, I lectured Clara Bell and mom on being good while I was away.  Did they understand what I said?  Who is to say?  Am I crazy for talking to my cattle?  If so lock me up and throw away the key because I have been doing it as long as I can remember!

My foot is very sore this morning after the surgery yesterday.  I am sitting here feeling a little down as everyone else is out taking care of my babies, but I know they are in great hands.  Here is hoping and praying the pain and swelling go down so that I can at least go to the barn and see the babies in the barn this afternoon and/or in the morning before I go stir crazy.  Some would say I am already crazy!  ;)

Until next time,  remember.......Beef, It's What's for Dinner!  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Things Happen in Threes.......

Yesterday morning Clara Bell appeared much weaker and we discovered that mom had mastitis (infection of the udder) in one teat.  We have treated Clara for pneumonia and mom for her infection.  They are both getting better!

Last night as we were doing chores we found another calf that was down with pneumonia.   We got him in the barn and doctored him and this morning he was up and nursing mom!  That was a great sight!

Now that our three negative things have happened, we are ready for some positives.

Even with all of these extra things occurring, we still have all of our regular daily chores to keep up with.

What do you do first when you get up in the morning?  Have a cup of coffee?  Read the paper?  Check your Facebook?

I grabbed a drink of Dr Pepper to take my allergy medications on my way out the door.  I took care of all of my baby calves, feed the yearling calves and helped Clara Bell nurse.  Then I changes clothes, fixed my lunch and grabbed something for breakfast to eat in the car on the way to my job.

I understand that we are all busy, but imagine adding the responsibility of the lives of multiple animals to your schedule everyday.

Until next time,  remember.......Beef, It's What's for Dinner!  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Clara Bell... Our Little Miracle

I know that I have not done an entry for a few days.  Give me a few minutes of your time and I will explain why.  It has been a very busy few days!

On Thursday morning while checking the pasture that has the cows with calves at their side in it, I heard cows in the next pasture bawling.  This peaked my curiosity because these cows either have not calved yet or are open (not pregnant).  I looked over and saw a cow that I didn't think was anywhere near calving was licking a calf.   I went back to the barn to get the four wheeler so that I could get it to the barn.

When I got up next to the calf, it didn't move except for the constant shivering.  I am thinking this is not very good.  I got off the four wheeler to pick her up and could very easily do so and climb on four wheeler while holding her in my arms.  (Even though I do not consider myself weak, I should not be able to do this with a newborn.)  As I start for the barn, mom has her nose on the calf and walks beside us all of the way.  Alan has the barn open, heat lamp on and the stall ready.  I climb off of the four wheeler, calf in hand and take in under the heat lamp.  Mom is right behind us.  Alan leaves for school and I call Dad so that he can come to help me.  Mom is licking Clara Bell so I went to look for a twin since she was so small.  I looked and looked, but did not find one, so back to the barn I go.  I get a couple of clean rags and start rubbing on Clara Bell, because she does not seem to be getting warm.  After some rubbing, she starts to raise her head.  Mom is licking on her the whole time I am rubbing to help get her dry and get blood circulating.

When Dad gets here he starts the truck so that it can warm up.  After it is warm, we put Clara Bell in to help warm her up.  We let mom back out into pasture to see if she will go to a twin.  She doesn't she stays right by barn bawling.  At this point, I leave for my job off of the farm and Dad and Mike continue to care for Clara Bell.  They get her warm in the truck. They then give mom some feed in a feed pan, place Clara Bell over a straw bale (the straw bale is used to support the calf so that those helping her nurse do not have to hold the calf too) and help her nurse so that she gets milk.  Yes, all of this is done in a stall in the barn without restraining mom or giving her any medications to calm her.

After work, I give mom more feed so that Clara Bell can be placed on straw bale and assisted in nursing again.  I don't feel like she is getting enough milk so while mom is still eating, I milk her into a bottle.  I then put the nipple on the bottle and feed Clara Bell some out of the bottle.  Mom was let out of the stall to get water and hay while Clara Bell went to sleep under the heat lamp.  After a volunteer commitment,  it is back to the barn to give Clara Bell more milk.

On Friday morning it is up and repeat the process of feeding mom and helping Clara Bell nurse.  She is trying to get up on her own now!  We are celebrating baby steps.  Off to my job for the day after Clara is under her heat lamp with a full belly.  Evening chores and we repeat feeding mom, helping Clara Bell nurse, but tonight she can keep the back teats in her mouth too!  Another baby step (starting to think she might make it)!  After she eats, I stand her up off of the straw bale and make she has her balance.  She stands unassisted for 15 minutes! (It's getting hard to contain the excitement now!)

Friday evening, Ashley has come home and is begging to help me feed Clara Bell so to the barn we go.  Feed mom, get straw bale and Clara Bell, start nursing.  We can keep all teats in our mouth!!!!  After nursing I stand her off of bale again and make sure she is balanced.  SHE TAKES HER FIRST STEPS!!!!  (OK, my excitement is no longer contained.)  After taking a few steps, she starts playing with Ashley (above picture)!  Tears come to my eyes.  (Excitement, shear exhaustion, delight, a mixture of all?  who knows and who cares?)  My baby that I thought wouldn't make it when I found her is showing real signs of pulling through.  We decide to weigh and measure her like every other calf that is born on the farm.  She is 47 pounds and 25.25 inches tall.  Much smaller than we are used to, nut a live calf none the less.

Saturday morning I stand her up while I let the other calves out with their moms.  All I had to do was lift a little under her hip and she did the rest!  She stood for about 25 minutes while I was working with the others.  I then get her straw bale, put her on it and then poured mom's feed.  As mom walked past her to get to the feed, Clara's head immediately went up and her tongue started working like she was trying to get the teat in her mouth without my help!  After I arranged her where she could reach, she continued trying.  I helped her for a while to ensure that she got milk to continue to get stronger then I let her try on her own to learn.  After we were done nursing she stood and walked for another 20 minutes!

During this time I had some people tell me that I was putting to much effort into one animal or that it would be much easier just to bottle feed the baby.  It maybe a lot of effort for a few days, but it is worth it if the animal (calf) survives.  With only 40 cows to calve this year, I can not afford to not try to save one especially since it only cost me time and a little gas.  As far as bottle feeding, that is a long term commitment.  This way I have a few days to work hard and then mom can do the rest.

Until next time,  remember.......Beef, It's What's for Dinner!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Have Plans? God Sometimes Has Different Ones!

Very recently Alan and I were trying to finish chores so that we could change to go to an MFA dinner.  When we went to feed the yearling heifers, one of them was missing.  Alan started walking to look for her while I was doing stuff at the barn.  A few minutes later, I hear him yell at me.  The conversation went as follows.  Mind you most of it was yelled across a field.

Alan, "You need to come here."

Me, "Do I need anything (such as a halter)?"

Alan, "No."

I say, "Why is it too late (meaning she is already dead)?"

Alan, "No, everyone is alright."

I am thinking to myself 'everyone?'  there is only one heifer. As I am fast walking across the field he tells me that I can slow down.  I can't because in my mind with all of my experience I can not figure out what is going on over that ridge.  Finally, I get there and look over the fence.  To my amazement there is a newborn calf at the feet of the yearling heifer.  I know this is not her calf because we feed her twice a day and she has not exhibited any signs of pregnancy besides she is too young.

Now we have a real problem.  We have a new born calf in a field where there are no cows or heifers that are due to calve and the nearest fence is at least 100 feet down a hill and across a creek from the baby.  As Alan and I are looking around formulating a plan on what to do because the calf is shivering from cold and where he is the four wheeler will not go, a two year old heifer starts pacing the fence and bawling.  One problem solved.  We know who mom is!  Alan went to the closest gate between these two fields to let his mom in while I got the baby up and tried to get him walking so his blood would circulate more.  This will help him warm up some while we are waiting on his mom.  As soon as she sees the open gate, she runs straight for the calf and me.  Alan and I decide the calf will probably not be able to walk all of the way to the barn so he goes to get the four wheeler while I start walking the calf and cow out until we can meet up with Alan.  The calf and cow walked right along the fence until we reached a spot to where Alan could get to the calf with the four wheeler.  I handed him the calf onto the four wheeler with him and let mom smell the calf, Alan and four wheeler.  After this, Alan started to the barn with the calf.  The cow would not follow so I told him to get the calf in the barn under a heat lamp and then come help me with mom if I don't have her up there, yet.  I tried driving the cow up there and several times she turned around in the very same spot.  I decided this was ridiculous and headed to the barn to get some feed to see if she would follow that to the barn.  As I walked away, I turned around to see where she was and she was right behind me following me!  Some things we make things way too hard!  she followed me to and inside of the barn to her calf.  The calf nursed and all is well with both of them.

If you are wondering, no we did not make the MFA dinner that night.  We did however save a life!  My husband and father showed up to assist just as the cow was going in the barn.  They were on their way here, but I was not going to just stand and wait when I could try and get this done.  Working together and communicating helped us to be efficient in saving this calf.  An awesome first calf heifer whom immediately accepted her calf again (which dies not always happen) was also a HUGE help.

Yes, that yearling heifer not being up to eat was an inconvenience, but if she had been up to eat we may not have found the baby and he would have died from hypothermia or starvation.  We may have thought we had plans, but God a plan for us to care for his creatures in the way that was best for them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is Raising Calves Like Raising Children?

The answer, in many ways, is YES!  The calves need to be checked at least once a day to make sure there are no signs of illness and that they are thriving on mom's milk.  This check can result in many actions being taken.  The best action is when nothing needs to be done but enjoying watching them play and petting them as they come to you.  If one is showing signs of sickness, this must be diagnosed and treated.  Sometimes we can do this ourselves and sometimes we have to call their doctor (our Veterinarian).  This is often more expensive than taking our children to the doctor and they don't have insurance!  During periods of mud, we may have one stuck in the mud that needs to be rescued.  Being separated form mom by a fence can be very dangerous and must be corrected as soon as possible.  The younger the calf is, the more dangerous this situation becomes to the calf.

For each farmer you talk to, you will usually get a different answer on how they care for their cattle.  This does not make one way right or wrong.  There have to be different ways to fit the farmer's schedule, available facilities and other individual factors.  We start calving in January so we do some extra work to help ensure the well-being of our calves.  Most nights we take the calves and put them in stalls in the barn that are bedded down with straw.  This protects them from wind and any precipitation.  This also allows us to get a good look at each calve twice a day.  In the mornings I am generally at least assisting in putting the calves back with their moms.  We do this a few at a time to make sure they are with the right mom.  The consistency of having the same person around them at least most days allows that person to know each animal's personality.  This knowledge makes it easier to tell if an animal is sick before they are really sick.  This is very similar to a mom knowing her child is coming down with something before anyone else can tell.  Since they are the barn most nights, the stalls are sprayed with disinfectant spray everyday to try and keep down the number of bacteria and virus in them.  Every couple of days or when the stalls become to dirty to put calves back into, all of the bedding is taken out in the morning.  During the day the stall is allowed to dry and that afternoon at chore time the stalls are bedded down with straw for that night.  This is a lengthy process, but it helps ensure the health of our calves so it is worth it in the long run.

As you can see, there are many things that we do for our calves that take is time and effort, but it is in their best interest.  This is just like our children.  There are many things we do for them when they need it done, because it is best for them.  See, there are many similarities!

Until next time,  remember.......Beef, It's What's for Dinner!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Teaching the Next Generation

Just as a cow teaches her calf the basics of life and survival so must one generation teach the next what it takes to run a farm and care for the animals.  Without proper care, there is no way the animals will make you any money.  Our yearly paycheck comes when we take the calves to the market.  For every illness and injury our calves and cows have endured during the year, our profit margin shrinks.

I have some difficulty with this because I am one of those that would like to do it myself so that it is done the way I prefer it was done.  However, if my children are going to have the knowledge and skills to take over the farm one day, I MUST slow myself and teach them how to do everything.  No, we do not teach them everything at once.  Since, they were raised on the farm, they have had the time to learn a little at a time.  It is rewarding to watch them realize they know how to do something without our help.  An example of this was earlier this year when my son and I were the only ones home.  We had a cow that was having difficulty calving. At 11:30 PM I hollered down the stairs at him to tell him I needed his help pulling a calf.  Before I could get all of the stuff together, he was in the kitchen getting dressed to go to the barn.  While I was preparing the calf to be pulled, he got the pullers and opened the stall up.  When the calf was ready, he handed me the the proper end of the pullers for me to hook onto the calf.  After I had done this, he immediately went to work getting the calf out of mom.  The calf was successfully pulled and both mom and baby are doing well!  As we were walking to the house, he looked at me and said, "Mom, I am sure am glad the first cow that I had to run the pullers by myself on was Sweetie (an old show heifer)."  It suddenly dawned on me that though he had assisted many times in this procedure, he was never in charge of pulling one on his own.  It made me ecstatic to see how proud of himself he was!  These are moments that all parents love to witness.  He has pulled a few more this year when has been just him and I and each time my heart bursts with pride at how well he does.

Our daughter is dating a wonderful man whom has three kids.  These kids come to the farm when Dad has them.  It is amazing to watch how they are picking up on the farm life and philosophies.  This morning one of them went out with me to put vehicles in the barn before a storm.  When this was accomplished, we went to check the pregnant cows to see if they needed to be put in the barn to calve.  As I was getting ready to walk to the house, I noticed he was not with me.  When I turned around, he was leaning against a fence.  I asked if he was coming to the house.  He said, "In a few minutes.  I want to stand here and watch the calves play for awhile."  That made me smile.  This is something he would not have done just a few short months ago.

Until next time,  remember.......Beef, It's What's for Dinner!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Passing on Traditions

This picture shows three generations of the family moving cows from one farm to the other.  There is only a short distance of gravel road between the pastures so we choose to walk them down the road instead of putting them in the trailer.  We feel that this is less stressful the cattle than being put in the trailer and therefore it is best for us too.  This operation takes coordination so that we don't have cows in neighbor's yards, but everyone has their job and does it well.  It is exciting to see how children that have not had much responsibility change after they have been given some on the farm for several weeks.  It has been our experience that when this occurs, the children become more respectful and responsible in everything they do.  This is one of the reasons that I am thankful that we are able to raise our children in this lifestyle.  It is a true way of life that affects everything you do and the way you think.  Beef check-off research shows that nearly one-half of cattle ranchers and farmers volunteer with youth organizations and more than one-third donate their time with other civic organizations compared to a national average of seven percent of all Americans.

Until next time,  remember.......Beef, It's What's for Dinner!