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July 13, 2012 / 74

What a Summer! HEAT! Broody Chickens! Cows! and etc!

Wow. This summer reminds me of the summers of 1988 and 1989! Hot & dry! So since this would be 1988, I expect next year to be 1989. Hotter!! Dryer!!

But maybe not. The Space Weather people seem to be putting off Solar Maximum – seems like first they said it would be in 2011 then, “ooop! Make that 2012… ummmm ‘scuse us while we go into the back room for a conference!” Now they’re saying 2013! Whenever it comes it will be hotter and probably drier, and the Global Warming folks will feel powerful that we puny humans can affect our climate… NOT!

Egg production is way down. First I made the mistake of letting the hens sit on eggs in the summer. Not doing that again! They directly wasted around 70 eggs, none of which hatched, and they pretty nearly stopped laying. So now that I’ve cleaned out the stinky messes they left in the nests (we seem to have an egg-eater in the flock!), and put clean grass in them… they’re starting to increase production. We’re up to about 6 eggs a day from 19 hens. We now have a total of 35 chickens – those we bought last year, those we hatched this spring, and a couple of singles that hens hatched earlier this year. (Before it got HOT! and DRY!)

When we started the chickens-hatching-eggs thing, it was okay because we were giving most of the eggs away. But now it’s farmer’s market season – and one customer from a small town near us said, “NOBODY’s selling eggs!” So we got rid of 4 doz that day and plan to sell more next week. But we’re changing our location (the farmer’s market we sell at.) The one we went to last week charged us $5 a day, and the sales taxes in that town are a penny higher than the “new” place. After selling a bunch of fresh-picked peachees and the eggs, we owed the State a whole $1.10 in sales taxes… almost wasn’t worth the stamp to mail it in.

Our two Jersey cows are doing okay. Had the Vet out and determined that only one of them is with-calf, the other is open. We’re debating whether to use artificial insemination (AI) or to just leave it open and when the other has its calf, eat the open cow… provided that the open cow doesn’t get jumped some dark night by a neighbor’s bull… in which case we’ll let it have the calf and then sell them both. The open cow has “issues” – curling hooves among them. And the open cow was supposed to be “bred and 3 months along” – it wasn’t.

Getting ready for the vet was kind of difficult. Since we don’t have a regular corral, we had to improvise one. I used combination cattle panels and T-posts to form a pen-with-a-chute. It wasn’t very impressive, no gold chased fittings or shiny steel pins and bolts, and there were plenty of rusty parts in plain sight, but it worked and around here that’s all that really counts. Oh… and we already had the panels and posts – so it was sorta free – which is a HUGE consideration!

While the Vet was shoving the calves through the chute, he’d get behind them and twist their tails and push. Sometimes this activity “stimulates” the cow’s back parts… the Vet got a little splattered with some fresh fertilizer… and he sez, “Ahhh…. I thought I was clear!” ;-D

We got the cows fly masks when we discovered that one of them was getting pink eye, which will blind a cow. We gave her antibiotics, and had the vet give her a shot when he was here, and saved the cow’s infected eye, to say nothing of the other eye that hadn’t been infected yet. Our first cow ever – many years ago – was a blind calf that the farm manager had neglected and pink eye got both eyes. So the farm owner called us and literally gave us the calf. When we picked her up, he’d said, “I’ve never seen a blind calf do anything but go around in circles and die!” As my late father in law said, “The animal is blind. Ain’t nothing wrong with the other end!” With careful management, the calf ended up being a fine cow, and gave us seven fine calves!

But the masks, are just that, masks. They’re mesh hood like things that keep the flies from getting into the cow’s eyes. There are several varieties of “face” on the masks – primarily for the amusement of the farmers, I assume. The ones The Boss got have a cartoonish Groucho Marx face on them, and the cows DO look funny!

A week ago, one of the cows stumbled on a log and fell over the fence – which wasn’t all that great at that point anyway. So finding herself OUTside of the little pasture she’d been in, she made a break for it – having been trained from calf-hood by her former owners to RUN through any open gate that presented itself. She saw an open gate and entered the back yard – with no more fences between her and the wide wide world! Em – their main handler, headed the cow off and back inside the primary border fence, then stood guard while the rest of us assembled for the Cow Hunt! (in about 60 acres of dense woods/forest. It looked to be a long hot process.)

But brains and training will out! When you get livestock, one of the first things you do is to “bucket train” them. You put corn, or whatever feed they like, into a bucket, rattle it and call them, and then give it to them when they come and you are where you lead them. It takes about a week for them to get the idea that when they hear the bucket being smacked and rattled, and you calling them, it means CANDY! (Corn to cows is like candy to kids.) and they come a-running! So instead of a long hot hunt, in just a few minutes, here came Em up the lane from the lower meadow with the cow docilely following behind. She was put back in the fence, given the corn, and we fixed the broken part of the fence and all was well.

Last weekend The Boss and I went and got some big boards and tin, and she built the basics of a Cow shed – got the corners and the roof done. It’s coming right along! But we’re out of money for now – so it will have to wait for completion until later in the summer – maybe early fall. And we have to fix the truck – I think we broke the rear shocks… 😦

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