Monday, 09 September 2013 04:09

Small Farm The Calving May-August Featured

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6th September 2013
Miscellaneous happenings

Ben brought a beehive yesterday. He has put it to the east of a wattle shrub so that in the summer, the evening sun does not cook the hive. They will enjoy being out when the temperature is over 16 degrees and can travel to find blossom two to three km. Bees that have to travel far have shorter lives than those that feed close at hand. There is still lucerne tree blossom, some almond and maybe a cherry within fifty metres. That should start them well.

Merrill discussed buying lucerne tree seedlings. She and Ben would like a screen along their fence line. Merrill will order a hundred, the minimum batch and we'll plant half each. The weather has turned cooler and wetter which will suit the job better. These are resilient plants, and provide fodder for cattle when the fields are bare. I have a couple of rows, now three years old, about forty in all which have survived. The blossom has been tremendous this spring. Many of the natives I planted earlier have struggled and certainly look less well. Three or four gums have streaked away.

As it was wet, I called in the cows with their calves. They came running and jumping. It is a lovely sight, especially when the big girls spring about like the young ones.

In the lower calf shed not far from the dam, the Muscovy duck has a nest of about ten eggs. I have fenced that off from the calves with a old iron garden gate. She covers covers them with straw when she goes out. The sitting may have begun as she is there much of the time now. So in about a month, may be a few days more, she might have ducklings. They are going to need some changes. The duck can fly over the fence to the dam, but her ducklings will need to go through it. A mini gate would work, but that is just what foxes like too.

Usually the four resident llamas, the poultry guards, Mozella and Negra, and Tofu and Tilla, mother and daughter pairs, graze in the bush paddocks surrounding the calf shed. One night without them guards may be all right but two is asking for trouble. Last night they were happy to stay up on the hillside paddock rather than come down with the cattle. An incentive to join the throng would be a good thing. They have an uneasy relationship with cows when there is feed put out for them. Eventually the cows win out. They are almost motherly with the calves. These stand amongst them fairly at ease.   

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Small Farm – Much-a-do! 5th Sept 2013

The calving began in mid-May this year. The heifers were due to be sold as springers, in two batches. Eight, about half were intended to go to the dairy market a day after the first calf, Tara was born. On the day I found another curled up out of the rain, under the ramp of the cattle-yards. 'Whose is this?' The carrier and I spent about twenty minutes sorting heifers and looking for signs of afterbirth or something. He knew more about detecting which one had delivered the baby than I did. Eventually we settled on Ann, the smallest heifer, and later that day she was feeding both her own baby and Tara.

The prices for the heifers were low, just over half what it had cost to rear them. The stock agent said as Crossies they had made more than some Friesians probably not accepted for the export market. Still it was a blow. So I turned to look at the herd of remaining springers, to work out whether I would keep them as nurse cows.

The price of milk powder for calves have risen more than 50% since I first bought it in 2008. The selling price for weaned calves had been up and down again. During 2012, the price of week-old Friesian calves in the market had risen extraordinarily. I wondered if the buyers had some knowledge about future markets the rest of us lacked. But the buyers seemed not have reckoned on a decline in the China imports. Several calf rearers were left with these heifers that had cost more than they could recover four to six months later. What a gamble!

If I kept my heifers, I could cut down on the buying of milk. They were not bought for me as nurse cows, by an experienced stockman, as my beautiful Jersey cows had been. If these Crossie heifers proved non-maternal or difficult to turn into foster mothers, there was always the dairy market, and in a herd of milkers they would soon learn the routine. But they are all here still, with some dramas related to calving, but not so much their role as mums. So the winter has come and gone, and six heifers and two elderly Jerseys are feeding fifteen calves. They all look pretty good.

The two Red Friesians, Rhonda and Ruby had heifers, Rosie and Rusty.

Dinah and Dorrin, two black heifers who moved about together, had bull calves, Damion who managed to slip into the dam just after he was born and David who was large and needed to be pulled. Accounts to follow!

Terri who looks like a large broken coloured Jersey had a heifer, Traxie, and Ann, a very small stocky Jersey, a bull calf, named Angus, that has grown like a beefy. The sire is a Broken coloured Jersey and most of the offspring are light tan coloured, so that theyre is no Angus blood there! Both of these are good mums, but Terri quite equal to the Jersey girls, and to be treasured as a very tolerant mum.

These two older girls, Gayle had a huge bull calf, and still looks as though she is carrying another, and Trivet had a small bull calf that died. Thereby hangs a tale! Trivet went down with milk fever.

The good part about having these nurse cows through winter has been the availability of some good Jersey heifer calves from farmers that calve down during winter.

Sourcing calves direct from farmers avoids the stressing period in the market. Some of them have had minimum care before getting there. In the past, I have spent many hours on some of these trying to keep them alive until they get going. I had thought that I could manage to buy some weaker calves, that others did not bid for, and then restore them. Quite wrong! The effort of caring for weak animals is demanding, and the costs high. Not a plan I want to repeat, although it is good to see a calf get going again.

One year I bought in a little Black Baldy with what could have been viral pneumonia and it spread. I should have stopped buying at once, but did not. So the damage and deaths went on. The info from the UK on the web on this implied that a third of calves died of this routinely. This is a huge loss.

So this year has been easier. I have not carried buckets of milk, slopped them around in the van, been covered in the stuff myself, and had all the washing up of gear. Not being the foster mum, I am not treated as mum, which alters their handling a little. They do not follow me in the same way. As time goes by they know roughly when I bale up their mums. The less I hurry, the better this happens, and the calmer they stay.

While they feed I do the dunging out, spread a little straw, replenish their feed bowls and check the water supply. The established 'families' down at the hay-shed need some grain, so I carry a bucket down there. Later I plan that the newly arrived donkey, Finnegan helps me with this using either panniers or a small cart. Grain down hill, and small amounts of chopped wood back up to the house.

Read 8911 times Last modified on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 23:20

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2 comments

  • Comment Link Bob From The Bush Saturday, 21 September 2013 22:18 posted by Bob From The Bush

    Great article. You have really set the scene and I felt like I was taking a walk with you. You are quite right about sourcing your calves direct from the breeder. Have had much better success buying this way.

    Hope to read some more soon. Thanks

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  • Comment Link Mike Monday, 16 September 2013 00:00 posted by Mike

    It is so good to read your articles Flo. Brings back memories of the days in Northwest NSW with the feel of the country air and the sounds of the Aussie bush

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