Is there a calf in there?

A few weeks ago, we had a crew of people out in our pastures. Although the set up and take down took a little time, the reason behind all the work was definitely important. You see, we were ultrasounding our cows, to find out which ones were going to have calves and when they would be having them.

Just like at the OB’s office!

That’s right, we used an ultrasound machine…much like the one that is used every day by obstetricians when they are looking for a baby’s heartbeat, measuring the size of the baby or checking for any other problems.

Why would using a machine like this be important for our cows? One reason is where we live. Since we start calving in February in North Dakota, it’s important to know which cows should be calving and approximately when. That way we can make sure that they are closer to the barn, so they can hopefully have their calves inside, where it’s warm and protected from the elements.

The head gate makes sure that the cow stands still and doesn’t hurt itself.

Another reason we use ultrasounding is so that we can more accurately determine those cows that are definitely having a calf, and those cows that are not having a calf (we call them “open”). It’s expensive to raise cattle, even more so right now. We only keep the cows that are bred and the ones that are “open” are sold. Many times our open cows go to other farms that have a different calving cycle then we do, allowing them the chance to become bred later.

The girls, waiting their turn!

The ultrasound technique is very similar to the same used in a doctor’s office…well, in general theory anyway. 😉

Once the probe is in the cow and an image is on the screen, a measurement can be taken, just like how the technicians measure the length of a baby’s bone to estimate it’s gestational age. On a calf, the measurement is taken of the space between the eye sockets on the head. The number of centimeters between correlates between the number of days the calf has been in the uterus, giving us an estimated “due” date.

The calf’s age can be measured on the screen!

Of course, these numbers are just estimates, but every bit of information that we can use to ensure our herd is taken care of and healthy is definitely a step up from before!

Calf in a cast

What happens when a 1200-pound-plus cow steps on its newborn calf? Well, lets just say that the calf isn’t usually a winner. But in this case, the vet was called in and so far, things are looking good.

He may be wearing a cast, but it's not slowing him down!

That’s right, we have a calf in a cast. He’ll keep the cast on until the first week of April or so…and while he has his cast on, he’ll be treated to a special pen in the yard, and will spend his nights next to his mother in the barn.

Broken legs don’t happen often on the farm, but when they do, it’s important to have them heal as best as they can, so the calf can walk normally and be able to stand and regain use of the limb. And so far, this little guy seems to be doing great.

Walking around, checking out his surroundings.

So what does it cost to have a cast put on a calf? Our vet bill was right at $200. Plus a little extra time for a few weeks.

And it was a great teaching moment for the boys.

And those moments are priceless.

 

The beauty of calving

This weekend was absolutely wonderful. The weather could not have been more perfect…well, maybe a little less windy yesterday, but it was still very nice. And with nice weather came a little boom in our calving.

When the weather is nice, though, it’s a little easier. The mud isn’t fun to mess with, but thanks to the wind, it’s been drying pretty nicely.

Here’s some of my shots from the weekend. And I’ll have more on Wednesday! Enjoy!

Hmmm...My calving instincts aren't always right on, but I'm thinking something here is telling me that she needs to head to the barn.

Just another beautiful bovine.

Our lilacs are trying to tell us that it's spring.

The cousins, in a race of epic proportions!

Mom, can't I just nap here?

Thankful Thursday – Shelter

Our blizzard turned out to be not so much a snow event, as it was a wind event…but it still made me so very grateful. And after the storms in Illinois and elsewhere, I thought it would be appropriate today to give my thanks for shelter.

I'm thankful for shelter for our calves...and a Boss Man that cares for them!

 

The calves love playing in the fresh straw.

 

Snug as a bug in a rug.

 

I'm thankful for the equipment and technology that allows us to care for our animals, like this bale processor.

 

The bale processor (above) grinds up the corn stubble (left over corn stalks) that our farm baled at the end of harvest last year. It provides great bedding for our cows, as well as a treat or two, as they find leftover corn cobs and other goodies in the bedding.

It's kind of like an Easter egg hunt, in your bed.

 

And I’m grateful for our home, and for all of those that make it possible for us to provide shelter for our animals, our children and ourselves.

And as I give thanks for the shelter that we have, I offer prayers and condolences to those that lost their homes and their lives during this week’s storms.

WW – Winter Weather

It had to happen eventually, we all knew it was too good to last. I mean, how can anything that perfect last for too long, right?

No, I’m not talking about the latest in celebrity couple mishaps, I’m talking about winter. After a few month hiatus, she reared her ugly head last night…and we have a day off from school to show for it.

It wasn’t the storm of the century, or anything close to it, but it’s bad enough in its own rights. But I did take a few shots, so sit back in your toasty warm room and enjoy winter at its finest:

A pic as I was coming out of the house last night to check cows.

 

My footprints were disappearing fast behind me!

 

It's letting up, so the cows are coming out to eat.

 

Perhaps I shall call this one, "Snow White?"

 

If you can see, the problem is that it was warm yesterday, so it's not just snow, there's ice underneath.

 

Little ones out to eat their breakfast, all nice and dry.

 

My last hurdle to get through when checking cows this morning...a nice snowbank.

Wordless Wednesday – Cows

The cows, enjoying their straw bed on the fresh snow while waiting to calve.

 

 

When is it my turn?

 

 

Cows are curious (and photogenic) by nature.

 

 

Oh, that angle makes me look fat.

 

 

You can't see me, I'm hiding behind this weed.

 

 

We’re not quite half-way through calving season, but the last few days have been very, very busy. But the weather has been wonderful, and everything is going pretty smoothly so far.

If you look back at the ear tags, you’ll notice that not one of the close-ups have the same color. Wonder why? Find out here!

Thankful Thursday – Calves

It’s been a beautiful “winter” so far…and I won’t complain one bit about the lack of snow, the brown grass or the unseasonably warm weather.

On the crop side of things, a couple of well-timed spring rains will do just as much (if not more) than any snow cover would do…and as far as the cattle side goes, things are perfect.

The weather is warm enough that if a calf is born outside, it’s not the worst thing in the world, and yet it’s cool enough that the ground is frozen and we aren’t dealing with the mess that mud causes. Things have gone very well, and we haven’t lost a calf yet to weather-related issues. (I’m knocking on wood as I say that.)

Speaking of which, I thought I would share some pictures of our herd. I hope you enjoy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy your Thursday!

Farm Friday – Calving Underway

We now have a whopping two calves on the ground. I know, I know, not much to get excited about, but we’ve been so blessed this year that I can’t help but smile.

Our lack of drastically cold temps has really helped out with feed supplies and the like. Why is that? Well, when the cattle don’t need to use up as much energy as they normally do in winter to stay warm, they eat less. And with the open winter we’ve had (meaning very little snow on the ground), the longer the cattle have been able to graze on our leftover corn stalks. It’s been a win-win all the way around.

Yesterday I grabbed a few shots of our heifers (cows that are having their first calf this spring) out behind the house. I haven’t been going out on any night checks yet, because I’ve been under the weather and hubby has been able to go out on checks and still get some rest. (We usually check the cows every 2-3 hours, around the clock. More often when it gets cold, like tonight.)

Some of the heifers, just hanging out behind the wind break, waiting.

 

 

Such pretty red things, eh?

 

 

I’m hoping to take the boys ice fishing this weekend. We went last Sunday and had a great time, even though I’ve been a bit down and out. They loved every minute of it! As soon as I get the pics uploaded from my mom’s camera, I’ll be sure to share them with you!

And so it begins

Calving season 2012 is underway, as a healthy bull calf was delivered this morning by Heifer No. 109.

New calf, just a few hours old.

 

 

With the weather the way it’s been, we have some pretty great conditions for calving. But I won’t lie to you, it’s better for the temps to stay below freezing. I must have hit my head, right? Actually, mud can be a real risk during calving, so it’s better for our little ones if we have hard, frozen ground to work with, rather than soft and soupy mud.

Plus, we’re used to dealing with cold temps for calving…it’s one of the reasons my husband breeds the cows when he does, so that they calve when the time is right for our operation. The mild winter just has us off our game a bit, but nothing like the first calf to bring you back to your senses!

Now we sort off the heifers (cows that will have their first calf this year) and keep them closer to home. And then the checks start, where we go out and check the cows for signs of calving every few hours…more often when it’s cold. Our goal is to get the calves in the barn before they are born, or shortly after.

Want to come along on a calf check? Check out this post from last year…and stay tuned for more!

Preparing for calving

I had been tossing around the idea of doing a post like this for a while now, but never actually wrote it out. But after a dear friend sent someone my direction today for this type of information, I decided that I better get to typing while the juices were flowing.

(Sorry if there are many typos…my desktop is in the shop, and my new keyboard for my new iPad is a tad tough to get used to!)

Anyway, I was asked what kind of things are needed to get ready for calving season, from a new farmwife, getting ready to embark on her first calving season. And since we are just about a month away from calving on our own farm, I thought this was a timely topic. So here’s my calving top 10 list (and please remember, this is a great list for my farm…each operation has their own way of doing things, but this is what works for us):

1) Figure out your schedule ahead of time. Write down appointments, meetings, etc. Make sure that you are both on the same page. That way, if you’re taking night checks (like I do), you can start getting ready for it by going to bed a little earlier. No need to go into calving season already tired and worn out. That’ll come soon enough!

2) Have a working (and effective) alarm clock! The first few nights of getting up every two hours isn’t a problem for me…but the last few weeks seem to be pretty rough. If my alarm clock isn’t obnoxious, I’ll sleep right through it, which can be bad news for a new calf born in subzero temps!

3) Get a good set of walkie-talkies. Charge them. Use them. In our area, cell phones don’t always have the best of signals, especially in the barn. Walkie-talkies can be a God-send. But only if they’re working! 😉 (It also helps if the other party has theirs on them…and on. Right dear?)

4) Have the vet’s number in your phone. And posted near the door. And have the phone readily available…and charged. Hmm…I seem to be speaking from experience, eh? Anyway, there’s nothing worse than searching for the vet’s number at a ridiculous hour…and then realizing you don’t have a phone nearby anyway!

5) Be prepared. Have your supplies on-hand ahead of time, and readily accessible. That includes: calving sleeves, lube, pulling chain, rope, warming box, milk replacer, colostrum, ear tags, ear tag marker, calving record book, baseball bat and whatever else your vet may suggest or request.

 

We have one of these for every calving season, since 1988.

 

 

6) Be prepared for the weather. In our area, we generally have very cold temps and snow. Although this year, we’re going into 2012 with no snow on the ground and above average temperatures! Yay! My calving wardrobe includes a set of Carhartt coveralls (purple, in fact), a pair of Muck boots and a good set of gloves, various hats and a scarf. A good pair of coveralls makes bundling up at 2 a.m. a little less painful, and a good pair of boots make sure my feet stay dry and toasty. Both are very important to me!

7) Have some meals ready ahead of time. Freeze lasagna, have some pizzas on stand-by, whatever is appealing to you. Soups, chili, snacks…and hide some, so when you think you’re out, you have an emergency stash. Unless your husband takes that as some kind of personal challenge to find your hidden treasures, then you’ll go into your stash and come up with empty wrappers. Kids are good for that, too.

8) Don’t forget to pay bills. Set them up on auto-pay, set your cell phone to send you a reminder, whatever may be. Sometimes calving season can seem a little crazy and hectic, and sometimes the days kind of meld into one another. You’ll look at the calendar and realize that a week has gone by…and perhaps you should shower. (Just kidding!)

9) Don’t forget to take time for yourself. Yes, it’s a crazy time, but it’s amazing to watch the new calves playing, watch a heifer loving up on her first-born calf, and experience all the craziness that comes with calving. But you can’t forget to spend a moment or two snuggled on the couch, watching the news before you both fall asleep; enjoy a warm meal together, even if it’s something as simple as warmed-up pizza; and take a moment whenever you can, to thank God for all you’ve been given. I’m going to double up on that last one this year…I couldn’t thank Him enough for the gifts of 2011.

Our cows are normally red...not snow covered!

 

10) Don’t forget to pack your patience. It’ll be tested. When everyone is tired, no one is getting a good nights sleep and tempers are running hot, even the silliest of missteps can set off some fireworks. But just remember, this too shall pass. And before you know it, life will be back to “normal.” Whatever “normal” is.