Forget about Part II….

I know, I know, I promised Part Two to a previous post, but today has just been such an awesome day, I have to change my topic.

On a previous post I talked about Hairy Joey, our heifer that was due to have a baby. We named her Joey because she was born on our son Joey’s birthday. In my post, I referred to the animal as Hairy Joey, to prevent confusion.

Well, Hairy Joey had her calf this morning, just before 5 a.m. She’s a cutey.

I found her in the maternity area. I flagged Steve down as he drove past the barn in the skid loader, and he helped me get her into the warming box in another room.

I was so excited, I sent Joey a text message exclaiming the good news. Of course, I apologized for waking him up. (During a phone call later, he confessed that it didn’t wake him at all, but it was fun to get such good news right away in the morning.)

Both of our boys own a few cows. They have for years. I recall when Russell was in middle school, more than six-years-ago now, his Jersey cow Speedy had a calf during the school day. I was so excited I drove all the way to town to share the news with him and his classmates. All the boys and girls cheered. If I could have, I would have brought that calf to school with me.

We’ve done that too. Everyone gets a kick out of that! It’s more fun for Joey or Russell to bring a calf to school than for Mary to bring a little lamb.

During milking, Zach, Steve and I were trying to come up with a name that we loved that started with the letters J and O.

The only thing I came up with was Jorge. (Sure wish I knew how to add that little mark above the E in Jorge.) Well, we all started calling her that. When I asked Joey to come up with a real name, he thought Jorge was just fine.

I was in charge of getting her fed and she drank like a champ! She’s sharing the box with a boy calf. He’s not as smart as Jorge.

I climbed right into the warming box with Jorge and the other calf and we chatted and got to know each other rather well.

Did you know that when a calf slips off the nipple of the bottle it sprays milk everywhere. You can get the idea by thinking of slinging food off a spoon at the person across the table from you. (We’ve never done that at our house. Wink. Wink.)

When that nice, thick colostrum dries on a person’s face it feels like a face mask. Feeding calves is a messy job; especially when everyone is crammed into a small box.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here she is getting her first breakfast from a bottle!

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Hazmat suit needed?

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Working in the milking parlor everyday can be a bit of a hazard.

Standing at a lower level than the cows allows for all kinds of nasties to be splattered your way.

It’s not uncommon for my co-worker to holler, “Incoming!”

That’s like a code red for get out of the way, a cow is going to relieve herself in your area.

Most of the time the splattering isn’t all that grand. A healthy cow will leave a very well-laid-out pile.

Now, the sick cows leave a very chaotic pattern, probably because they have a very chaotic pattern going on in their tummies.

It’s not uncommon, as awful as it sounds, for manure to splatter onto a face, for example. It should also be noted that it doesn’t take long to learn to face away from the splatter, until you no longer here it splattering.

Wednesday morning the cows were a bit on edge. Hubby was at meetings, so we had a replacement milker for him by the name of Tarah.

She must smell better than Hubby, because the cows sure knew something was amiss in the milking parlor.

When something is amiss in the parlor, there is a heckuva lot more splattering.

It just so happened that Tarah was up in the holding area bringing cows into the milking parlor when the word “Incoming!” should have been shouted.

It landed in my eye.

Now, there was no burning sensation and it didn’t feel like anything from within the poo was scratching my eyeball, so I figured no harm  done.

I continued, and finished the milking chores without a hitch.

I didn’t sleep worth a hoot Tuesday night. The first thing I did after milking this particular Wednesday was shower up and climb back into bed for a quick nap. (Quick turned into an hour and it still wasn’t even 11 a.m.)

I woke up feeling even more tired, made a pot of coffee and ventured into the biffy.

I peered into the mirror and was horrified.

My contaminated eye was redder than red can be. It doesn’t hurt.

It’s just red.

I may have to consider using goggles as a piece of safety equipment. 

 

 

Spring-cleaning dairy-farm-style

I have spent more time outside helping with the cleaning out of our compost barn than I have ever spent doing that silly activity referred to as spring cleaning.

I clean portions of my house every day; I’ll just pick a day of usual cleaning and call it spring cleaning.

A true version of spring cleaning happens in the compost barn every spring and fall. Come February, we need to clean all of the used bedding out of the barn and haul it to nearby fields and spread it.

This task requires an army. OK, an army might be and exaggeration. Tuesday morning there were four of us participating.

One person was driving the tractor with the loader on it removing the bedding from the barn and loading it into the semi-trailers and manure spreader. That’s not that easy of a job, in my opinion. The manure in the barn is about four-feed deep and steams like something fierce.

Guess who was driving the tractor with the manure spreader? Me!

It’s been a long time since I have helped with this job.

Why? I don’t know.

Honestly, I really wasn’t looking forward to helping all that much. It’s time consuming and there are a million things I could be doing in the house.

Like cleaning.

When we haul manure, Steve likes the driver of the tractor to use the auto-steer, so the manure gets spread evenly across all areas of the snow-covered field.

“Don’t you just think of all the baby corn plants that will be growing in the field this spring?” Steve asked.

“Well, no. I am just thinking about not getting stuck in a snow drift!”

Normally I prefer to be alone when I am in a tractor. It’s good to sit in a nice quiet cab for hours.

Tuesday, solitude was out of the question! Digger and Eddie, our Rat Terriers, insisted on being inside the tractor with me, getting the passenger seat all full of soft, white doggy-hair.

It was kind of funny at one point. The field I was hauling manure to is quite lumpy. Digger was with me at the time and he popped up and out of the passenger chair when I hit a rather large frozen lump of dirt. He looked like a piece of popcorn. No animals were harmed during this procedure. He landed on his feet; he’s cat-like.

Using the auto-steer on the tractor was a benefit. I didn’t have to have my hands on the steering wheel all of the time. Out of grogginess-inducing boredom, on one trip past the mailbox I stopped to pick up The Journal. It was the Tuesday after a holiday, I knew there were at least two papers with fresh crossword puzzles. No mail on Sundays and no mail on holidays means two puzzles, and I like that!

I tried to fill in the tiny squares, but couldn’t get individual letters written in individual boxes. I am anal when it comes to crosswords – neat and orderly. My letters were unrecognizable.

I did have to kick the dogs out of the tractor cab several times, but in the end they always looked at me with those darn sad puppy eyes.

No kidding. Digger would climb up the steps on the tractor, hop onto the huge tires and look at me with those eyes, through the manure sprinkled windows.

Who can resist something like that?

Digger did figure out that if he laid across my lap as we drove across the field the bumps were not as body-wrenching. Every time he wanted to sit on my lap, again, he would just look at me.

In the end, I spent seven or eight hours hauling manure from the barn out to the fields. I was proud of my even spreading of those nutrients for the small corn plants in the spring.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net.

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Joey’s Back!

(For those of you that are not subscribers to our local newspaper, here’s today’s column.)

Joey’s back!

No, not the Joey that lives in Brookings, SD, is learning all about being a great dairy-farm manager and drives a grey Pontiac Grand Prix.

I am talking about the Joey that lives out in our heifer barn with all the other pregnant heifers and cows. (Tarah, one of our employees calls our heifers “teenagers,” because they are smaller in size, compared to a cow and haven’t had their first calf.)

I was so excited the other day when Steve and I were walking around the heifers; looking at how they were faring in the blasted cold. (Isn’t this current weather glorious?)

“Joey’s back!” I yelled.

Steve never answered me, but that is not anything unusual around here.

This heifer named Joey was born on the human Joey’s birthday – April 15, 2012.

I know her birthdate because we named her Joey, rather tagging her with an identification like Deduction, Depreciation or We Owe What!

Talk about getting harassed because you have a different kind of name.

Anyway, I also know the year of her birth because for two years she has been living on a farm just northwest of Nicollet.

More than two years ago, the Hulkes came and took Hairy Joey (I’ll call her Hairy Joey because she has hair and it avoids not being politically correct. I don’t think White Joey or Black Joey would be good, although it would be very accurate, because Hairy Joey is a Holstein.)

The Hulkes take our girl calves when they are about one week old.

Steve and I started this several years ago, before we had a full-time herdsman. We were unable to take care of all our heifers the way they should be. A really good dairy farmer will spend the time observing his heifers to see if any of them need to be artificially inseminated that particular day. To have an accurate observation, it is recommended that a dairy farmer observe animals for at least a half hour each day.

We were having a hard time finding that half hour.

The Hulkes only raise heifers for us, and several other dairy farmers. So they have the time to keep an eye on them.

The Hulkes do a much better job than Steve or I ever did.

I am not sure when the Hulkes brought Hairy Joey back, but I couldn’t have been more excited. I took a photo of her with my phone and sent it off to Joey in Brookings.

He never responded.

I guess he isn’t as thrilled as I am.

Also returning to our farm with Hairy Joey was M.

Just from her name I know that her mother was Bond, may she rest in peace.

Bond was named just after she had her first calf. For some reason, and I am grinning now because it was so cute, she would sneak back into the exit area and spy on whomever was in the milking parlor.

A lot of times, all a person would see was the eyes on Bond’s head as she sneakily peered around the corner of the wall – kind of like James Bond when he’s trying to run and tumble through a maze of rooms and hallways to get to some sort of treasure.

On a side note, my favorite Bond is not the cow, it’s Daniel Craig.

I would talk sweet to Bond (We’re back to the cow now, although I would talk sweet to the human Bond too.) to get her to come back in and visit, but she never would.

So naturally, when Bond had her calf, I named her after another of my favorite characters in James Bond movies – M.

On another side not, my favorite M was Judy Dench. She has now been snuffed out of the James Bond movies – may she rest in peace. I mean M here, not Ms. Dench.

It’s always fun to have a group of heifers brought back to the farm by the Hulkes. You never know who is going to turn around and surprise you when you get to see the name printed on her ear tag.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net.

 

 

 

This winter needs to move on

The weather man says this is going to be the last frigidly cold day for a while.

How long is a while?

I am very tired of the cold. I think the animals are tired of being in the cold as well.

It was a dickens trying to get the cows moved out of the parlor this morning. When a group of cows is finished giving milk, they have to walk through a little “hallway”  and out an exit door.

The problem is that many don’t understand the concept of an exit door.

For some reason, they don’t get that they are supposed to walk through the door and back up to the barn, where fresh feed will be waiting for them.

Nope, a lot of them will stand right in front of the door and gaze out into the cold, snow-covered yard.

I can’t blame them. I don’t like going out into the cold every morning either.

I don’t, however, stand in the door way and look at all the icky snow. I mean, Steve is never too far away from me in the morning. I could just about imagine what he would say if I were to stand and hold the door open.

The first snowfall of the year is beautiful. Any consecutive snowfalls after that is downright ugly.

I like to suggest moving the dairy herd to a warmer climate – like Arkansas. We could keep the cows down there and used this farm as a summer vacation home. Of course I would need a pool. I love to swim.

There are so many issues that a deep freeze causes. The one that bothers me the most right now is in the feeding area of our second group of lactating animals. Because cows really don’t mind if they go to the bathroom while they are eating, they doo. (pun intended.) So the doo plops down to the frozen layers behind the cows and keeps building up all winter long.

Some of our animals have to get down on their knees to reach the feed. That makes my worn-out knees hurt just thinking about it. The cows look like Jessica Jerome, women’s USA ski jumper, waiting at the top of the slope ready to fly down the hill at unspeakable speeds.

If those 40 degree days come to fruition, you can bet I will be outside trying to clean up that frozen mess.

Not only is the weather hard on the cows, it’s starting to make me a bit grumpy too.

Won’t it fix itself?

Sometimes I know when items such as gaskets, my oven and my car are worn out or broken.
Gaskets leak where two pipes meet, my oven never seems to sustain a constant temperature, and my car’s battery begs for an auto-like Redbull energy drink.
Sometimes I actually try to fix things as soon as I notice it has broken.
Sometimes I can secretly hope for several days that it will fix itself.
That never happens.
Such was the case this morning.
I knew the pressure washer was not working properly.
Our pressure washer sprays water so fast and hard, it will peel decals right off a car, skid loader, tractor…skin off my fingers.
If, I am not careful, when I pressure wash the skid loader, it could end up reading “kidloader” and I would get in a lot of trouble with child protective services.
God forbid they think I use farm equipment to move my children around the farm.
I am not even going to discuss the time one of my offspring fell out of the bucket of the skid loader and required several stitches to the back of his head.
I will, however, explain that Father was watching the children while I was in Las Vegas when this particular incident occurred.
Getting back to the pressure washer. On the end of the long hose that I drag through the parlor every morning after milking when it’s time wash the space, is a nozzle.
It doesn’t look at that special, but believe me it is.
It has some sort of mechanism inside that makes the jet of water spin in a circle. It’s hard to explain, but think Spirograph. It makes designs in dirt just as fantabulous.
Well, the thingamajig inside the nozzle hasn’t been working for more than a week.
I don’t like working on the pressure washer. It requires more tools than a person can legally carry without affecting a health-insurance policy.
Hence the wish for it to fix itself.
This morning, it still wasn’t working.
(I was also in a bad mood because the hoses on all our milking equipment are worn out and they haven’t replaced themselves either.)
I did the next best thing.
I batted my eyelashes at Hubby and asked him if he could “help” me fix the nozzle when he was done scraping manure out of the milking parlor and holding area.
I secretly know that asking Hubby to help means he will just take over and make the repair.
It worked.
An old nozzle was put on the hose by Hubby, to allow me to continue to pressure wash. This nozzle was quite disappointing. It lacked the pressure clean the walls and floors to my satisfaction.
When I finished pseudo-washing the milking parlor, the first nozzle was repaired and ready to be replaced.
In essence, I guess the nozzle did kind of repair itself, via Hubby.
Now if only I could talk to Steve about those gnarly hoses on the milking unit.

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