Small Farm - Much-a-do! Featured

04 Sep 2013

Do you have a small farm? A patch of ground you cherish? And so much to do on it that there is hardly a moment to exchange views on what happens there. Or perhaps you wish you had such a retreat and would like to read about doing this. Either way, I hope you will enjoy 'Small Farm – Much -a-do' and maybe comment so that I can hear another point of view.  My name is Flo.



Last night as I took the dogs out for a short walk, I listened to the frogs calling to each other down on the dam. They make fluty, burpy and gurgling sounds which seem loud in the dark. They are all small enough to fit easily on the palm of your hand and some are minute, many different varieties. Late last spring they all seemed to be gone just after I had had some fertiliser spread. There were none all summer. The dam went down. Their shelter, some logs lying on the bank was reduced as I tidied up, and in the heat, the weeds were slow to grow.

But I think many small frogs must haver been in the mud. As the dam rose from June onwards, the noises began, and are now back to normal. This year I will listen for any reduction as the summer comes, and try to wok out what happened.

The weather is warm and the grass is beginning to grow. The nurse cows are grazing rather than emptying the hay rings. Their calves born since May are eating the grass too. They are mostly out at night. The bull has been talking to a couple of the mothers over the electric fence.

If these two cows go to the bull now, their next calves will be due again in May. There are several factors to consider.

1 The supply of healthy Jersey calves: when I can get a second and third calf to put on to the mother cow with her own baby. Some of the best Jersey calves I can buy round here in Gippsland, direct from farmers I know, are born from May, June, July through to August. These are the windiest, coldest months, involving much labour intensive housing, and the feeding out of hay and grain. But this is needed, calves or no calves.

2 Timing the births: whether the mothers, ten of them, will calve at the same time, or not. If they all calve within a month, the work load just feeding, is full on. And the housing, and cleaning up, a cold wet business. I have three places where I can house calves, bale up mothers and manage the feeding times. And a fourth place, the hay shed, where well established 'families' can cope by themselves. The calves can slip under the electric fence protecting the hay from the cows, and sleep in the shed.

3 If they calve at different times through the winter, as they have done this year, this spreads the work, and allows me to have different batches of mothers and babies in different areas.

There are always bigger hungrier calves that will take milk from willing mums, mums other than their own, leaving the smaller calves short on. So there needs to be some separation of mother and baby units. This is where the constant work lies, morning and evening. I enjoy it. It's a good reason to get going in the morning and satisfying to have everyone fed and housed by night.

As soon as this marvellous September weather comes, they are all better out in the paddocks.

If August and September are better months for calving in terms of weather, putting them with the bull in December and January should be the time. Deferring the decision awhile!


Last modified on Sunday, 15 September 2013 23:42

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