Flat Aggie visits our farm

We had a visitor at our farm this week. He didn’t eat much, didn’t take up much room, but wanted to learn about what we do. His name is Flat Aggie, and he’s a project that was started by a teacher in California.

Many people are aware of Flat Stanley, the popular children’s book that follows the adventures of a paper man. This project is very similar, except the teacher sends Flat Aggie to farms across the country, hoping to learn through Flat Aggie’s travels all about what happens on the farm.

So what did Flat Aggie learn about on our farm? He helped with tagging our heifers with their cow tags. (To learn more about what the cow tags mean, such as their color, read more here.) For our heifers, that’s kind of like being adopted. When we switch out their calf tag with a cow tag, we’re including them in our herd.

A simple hair cut around the ears helps us see the cow tag better. Notice how the number on the left is much easier to see than the number on the right? Thanks, Flat Aggie, for the help!

A simple hair cut around the ears helps us see the cow tag better. Notice how the number on the left is much easier to see than the number on the right? Thanks, Flat Aggie, for the help!

While we were tagging the heifers, Flat Aggie also helped us trim the hair growing in the cattle’s ears. This makes it easier to see the tag numbers when we are working with the cattle. It’s important that we’re able to know which cow we’re dealing with from a distance, so that we can keep track of health, calving progress, etc.

This heifer (meaning she's going to have her first calf soon) is trading her yellow calf tag in for a blue cow tag!

This heifer (meaning she’s going to have her first calf soon) is trading her yellow calf tag in for a blue cow tag!

The last thing Flat Aggie helped us with was giving pre-calving vaccinations. For our cattle, this is very important for the health of the unborn calf. Think of it as a pregnant woman getting a flu shot. The risk of being ill while pregnant, or immediately after the baby is born is greater than the minimal risk of the vaccination. In cattle, even more so.

Before she goes back to eating her breakfast, this heifer gets a shot that will help protect her unborn calf from illness.

Before she goes back to eating her breakfast, this heifer gets a shot that will help protect her unborn calf from illness.

The best part of having Flat Aggie visit our farm? Being able to see things from another perspective. Having to figure out how to explain what we do so that a student could understand was a real eye-opening experience. And it’s great to connect to others across the country that are interested in what we do, but really have no way of finding out, other than through activities like this.

Did it take a little time? Of course. Was it worth it? Without a doubt.

Flat Aggie will be moving on to his next farm, learning his next lesson, sharing his next story. But you don’t need to have a piece of paper to encourage you to share your story. You can do it all on your own.

Trust me, people are wanting to hear what you have to say…you just have to take the step to share it.

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!

Thankful Thursday – It could have been worse

This wasn’t the post I intended to write today. These weren’t the pictures I hoped to share. But Mother Nature has a funny way of deciding what does and does not happen.

Last night, shortly before I was planning to go to bed, the TV warned of a storm that was heading towards our area. They stated that it had heavy rain, some hail and strong winds. I joked on Facebook that it better go around, because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with a storm.

She showed me.

The first storm hit about 10 p.m., and although at first seemed to not be that bad, it quickly changed its tune. We had a lot of hail, wind took down sections of fence and spun our calf shelter, killing one calf and injuring another.

Hail out our door last night, storm #1.

I thought that was it, and went to bed, knowing there wasn’t anything we could do during the night.

And then at 4 this morning, another storm came through…bringing more hail, more wind, but thankfully, no more destruction.

In total, we received 1.15″ of rain, and a solid coating of hail. The pictures speak more than I can:

Drift of hail left yet this morning.

More hail…

Our trailer was “hailed.” 😉

This calf shelter is supposed to protect calves, not hurt them. But the storm last night rotated this shelter to the north 90 degrees, killing one calf in the process.

WW – Spring work…in winter?

Yesterday was the first day of spring, but Boss Man got a jump start on spring work by fixing fence this weekend.

It’s hard to believe that it hit 80 degrees in “winter,” but you won’t find me complaining…well, at least not too loudly. 😉

Fixing fence that was destroyed in last summer's storm.

The early-spring weather has let us get a lot of catch-up work done.

It's amazing what can get done when the weather cooperates.

The cows are watching, making sure he's getting the fence tight enough. Well, maybe they're actually hoping he forgets a strand!

How are you preparing for spring?

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?