Archive for Thursday, March 18, 2004

Hey, I’m afraid that’s just farmin’

March 18, 2004

Everyone loved the column about the baby calves. We're up to 23 now and, yes, they are still incredibly cute -- for the most part.

As you'll recall, I said to remind me how cute they are come cattle working and calf loading time in the fall. Well, a little bit of fall came early this weekend. It was one of those not too cute things that make farming what it is.

One of the baby heifers hadn't grasped this whole suckling idea. She wasn't doing it or, at least, not enough. We noticed Saturday that her mom's udder looked like it was going to explode. The calf just hadn't drank enough milk.

So, Sunday morning, I walked momma and baby up to the corral. The idea was to either help heifer learn how to suckle or milk momma out or both. We did. Baby suckled a little, but not nearly enough. We did relieve mom of a great deal of udder pressure, much to the delight of the seven farm cats who ended up with a big bowl of the freshest milk you can find.

We kept the pair in the corral so it would be easier to keep an eye on baby's progress. She didn't do any better Monday and the whole process had to be repeated. The heifer did better with round two, but still not enough. Mom needed relief, again.

As I've also stated before, never is a very long time. I had never milked a cow before. Can't say that anymore. That was quite an experience the first time.

I figured out the actual milking fairly quickly. It's not a lot of fun, but I know that mom's huge and hardened udder had a lot to do with that. But, it got done and was easier once that pressure had been reduced.

No, the real fun were the incidentals. Mostly that was the various "nature calls" moments from momma cow's other needs. That was easy enough to dodge, as long as you knew what was coming.

What was much more difficult was that tail, which of course was saturated in that "nature calls" stuff. Every once in awhile, momma cow would slap her tail around and, of course, it was my head that she managed to find.

The surprise to be hit with the tail was one thing. It really didn't hurt or anything. But, what she left behind wasn't any fun. She got me especially good once and I had to take a moment to clean the glasses off. Oh, yuck!

I was sure hoping baby figured this out fairly quick. While it's been interesting to be up close and personal to the whole process to actually have hands on while it's going on with calf, the milking out thing isn't too much fun.

Luckily, when we checked Tuesday evening, the heifer definitely had milk on her face. Then, we actually saw her suckle a couple of times. So, we let the pair back out with the rest of the herd.

That was the best news I've had all week. I've had it with the tail flicking. There's nothing cute about that.

  • **
  • Now, if that's not bad enough, Monday's farming chores had even more excitement than that. On weekdays, I only have a time window of about 5:15 p.m. after work to sundown to get jobs done.

So Monday, while Laura was getting momma cow situated for milking, I was feeding the rest of the herd hay. I had big round bales loaded on the front and back of the tractor and was heading to the hay rings with the last load, thank goodness. I was tooling along fine when it happened -- the left front wheel just fell off and the tractor took an obvious nose dive.

"Holy buckets," or at least words to that effect, I yelled while slamming in the clutch and shutting the tractor down.

I couldn't believe it. I've driven tractors for hours upon hours, but I'd never had anything like that happen. The lug nuts had just snapped off. I'm sure years of use and Monday's muddy conditions combined for this excitement. Still, it was a complete and total shock.

First things, first, though, we got momma and baby taken care of and moved on to the tractor with still a glimmer of light left. After taking the cow-tail whipping, it was time for more.

The first step was to get the bales off. Two-thousand pounds of hay doesn't just jump off, I'll guarantee you. But, we got them off, put the back forks on the little tractor and used the front-end loader to bring the tractor up off the ground and get blocks underneath the front axle to get the wheel squared away.

Then I got to finish feeding hay and learned how that was done in the "old days." No cushy front-end loader for that. It's dropping off the bale from the back and then physically moving the hay rings over on them. Oh, boy, was that fun.

Yes, it was quite the night. But, "hay," that's farmin'.

  • **
  • One more bit of excitement from Monday night. The skunk that has been getting under the front porch and filling the area with that lovely smell was feeding in the cat food trough.

I snuck up on it and raised the .22, just in time for one of the cats to get in the way. I couldn't believe he was providing cover for this stinky intruder. The skunk got away.

But, there wasn't similar luck Tuesday night for him. Cats were out of the way.

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