Let it snow, let it snow, LET IT SNOW!

There is nothing like a new snow fall, when doing chores, to  make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The first reason is this: if it is snowing, it means the temperature is moderate. I know less-than-moderate temperatures are coming, so I enjoy the snow when it comes.

The second reason this snow makes me warmer inside that a teenage-love affair, is that I think snow is amazing beautiful – especially before people mar it up with foot prints, cows muck it up with poo and the wind casts it’s spell and turns it into a brown, dirty mess.

This morning, while the temperature hovered around 20 degrees F, I couldn’t help but take pictures. My thumb was frozen. Of course, I did forget to take pictures of the excitable bull calf causing a brouhaha with the cows. Somehow the big bugger managed to escape his Polydome. He was out for a while too; he was almost licked to death by pseudo-momma cows. He was so full of cow saliva, even my gloves were wet by the time I finished, which is why my thumb almost froze off and fell into the snow, while taking pictures.

Too Sweet!
I caught this image while I was watching the gates for Russell. Zach, our herdsman, was petting his Jersey heifer Cassidy.
There's gold in that there milk house.
Who says we don’t have class. Even the milk house has a golden faucet. I give it about a week before it looks icky. I took this picture just before I came into the house for breakfast.
Tubby
This is Tiny, the small Angus beef calf I purchased from our son Joe. I should change her name to Tubby as she is getting kind of fat. Today she was fed a different ration in an attempt to keep her lean and svelte.

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This is my, OK, our favorite dog since our Chocolate Lab Bob passed away last year. Ole is a pit bull-cross and one of the smartest and sweetest dogs I have ever owned. I owe it to the person we adopted him from. She trained him well and he loves it here on the farm.

Sadly, I lost a video I had of Gaston, the goat. He was just giddy in the snow! He was literally bouncing off the walls in his open-front pen by Tiny Tubby. So you will have to accept this image of defiance. He actually did his stunts just after I snapped this image. We love Gaston!

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Breeding is good

Every item I mention in my story is pictured here.
Every item I mention in my story is pictured here.

Breeding is very important on a dairy farm.

Maybe, I should reword that to read, “Breeding cows is very important on a dairy farm.”

Yes, I think that sounds better.

So, when a cow has reproductive issues and Steve and Zach have a hard time getting a cow pregnant, they call in the expert.

That would be me. I consider myself an expert, but the “others” just laugh at me when I say that.

(OK, seriously, I am not an expert, but my numbers are impressive.)

I have a 50 percent conception rate when I artificially inseminate cows.

Seriously! That’s an amazing number!

On average, most people who artificially inseminate cows to get them pregnant will have approximately a 30 percent conception rate.

I am very proud that I have successfully impregnated three of six cows.

Such is the case with our Jersey cow Amy.

Both Steve and Zach were having a hard time getting her to settle. (That’s what we call it when a cow is confirmed pregnant.) If a cow doesn’t get pregnant when she should it costs us in lost semen and lost milk production down the road because she will be so many days in milk. The longer a cow is milked, the less milk she produces.

Believe me, getting Amy pregnant was no easy task for me either. I made several rookie mistakes.

I had absolutely no problem getting prepared for artificially inseminating Amy. I warmed the semen straw in the automatic heater. I tucked the insemination gun in the front of my pants to get it warm.

I don’t know why the tool is called a gun. It’s more like a really thin and long syringe and has no capability of “shooting” the semen into the cow. There is no gun powder involved when inseminating a cow. Rest assured no animals were harmed during this entire breeding process.

A long tube of plastic is also shoved down the front of my Carhartt jeans. This time, if I recall correctly, I shoved all the equipment that needs to be kept warm, through my sports bra and into my pants. Hey, it was super cold outside and cold equipment kills those invaluable little sperm. The temperature of all the equipment needs to be body temperature.

Amy was in the perfect spot when I walked into the housing barn – first stall by the gate. I carefully cleaned her back-end with paper towels. (I think cows need Cottenelle. I mean the bears on television have Charmin.)

I inserted the insemination gun into her girl-cow parts and yelled, “Bang.”

Just kidding. If i did that she would probably haul off and kick me.

Once I had properly inserted the insemination gun containing the semen I had to work the tool through the through the cervix. A cow’s cervix is all lumpy and wavy and, if you lucky, it’s not what they call “tipped.”

Because I was manipulating the gun with my right arm, my left arm was in Amy’s rectum, which makes it possible to feel for her cervix. Amy’s cervix was tipped toward the ground, and a bit to the right.

The key to successfully getting a cow pregnant using artificial insemination is getting the semen in the correct area.

A cow’s cervix and uterus are shaped like the letter “Y.” The semen needs to be deposited right where the “arms” of the “Y” reach for the sky. That’s now a lot of space. Using my left hand to feel around, you can tell when you pass through the cervix, then you pull the gun back and sloooooowly deposit the semen using the plunger on the gun.

I was struggling a bit, so I called Steve over to see if he could help me out. Believe me, that’s the last thing I wanted to do.

“Um honey,” he said. “The plunger on the gun is pushed in. You need to start over.” Essentially, I deposited the semen long before I reached the “Y” in the road.

I trudged all the way back to the milk house and prepared another straw of semen, a pipette and the gun for the second time.

I trudged back to the barn and proceeded to start the insemination process all over again.

It again took me a while, but I managed to accomplish the deposition of the semen in the correct spot.

But something still felt kind of funny in my pants. Remember, I kept all my equipment in there.

I pulled it out and it was the first straw of semen that I assumed I had placed inside the cow.

The bad news…this semen cost 25 dollars per one-quarter cc straw. The other bad news…it was actually Zach that had purchased this expensive straw of semen to use on his cows. More bad news? The semen was actually sexed semen, which means the boys have been separated from the girls.

I could do nothing but hope and pray that Amy settled.

And by golly, Monday morning the vet confirmed with an ultrasound that Amy is just over one month into her pregnancy.

Of course I ran around the farm like Rocky and claimed to be the champion cow breeder. I even did what I refer to as the “Expert Dance.”

“If you’re so good, you can breed Pontiac this Thursday,” Zach said.

I’m all in. Pontiac is Joey’s cow and I am going to work my magic. Besides, I want to my dance again.

It’s a Debbie-Downer kind of day

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This is me immediately after milking the cows this morning. It’s not always fun and games being a dairy farmer. Today I am frustrated. Continue reading to see what’s up in my world.

If you recall, last week (Well, I think it was last week.) Steve and I had placed a bet in the milking parlor regarding the quality of our milk.

He switched the teat dip we use on the cow before and after they are milked. Remember, the post dip smells like a Dreamsicle.

It still does and that color of orange that it is, well that’s enough to make a person smile every morning.

Well, it appears to me that I am winning the bet. I haven’t started counting my money jars and loose change at the bottom of my purse.

Even though I am ahead in the contest, I couldn’t be more frustrated.

I am the kind of girl that says, “Well, that’s not working. Let’s move on. Can we switch back to the iodine dips now?”

“No. I want information. We are waiting until the milk tester comes in 10 days to see what is going on,” Steve said. “If there are a bunch of new infections in cows, we will switch.”

That’s what I find so frustrating.

We’ve been through teat-dip experiments before and they all end up the same way.

To me, it’s blatantly obvious the foaming pre-dip and popsicle-like post dip are not working. The filter that keeps all the gobledy-gook out of the bulk tank was full of infection indicators. Those little indicators look like curdled milk.

Icky!

Through a piece of paper in front of me that contains a bunch of numbers and other information and it’s like my mind freezes up.

I don’t have time to analyze all that info.

We have tested the milking equipment and that has been adjusted accordingly. Apparently, the vacuum, which is needed to collect the milk from the cow and send it through the pipeline, was set a bit low for the speed at which our cows were letting their milk down.

Oh, they have little computers they can hook up to individual units that measure all the intricacies of a milking unit.

If you thought milking was just about putting a unit on the cow and chatting or discussing the low down on politicians, children and supper, think again.

That was the old days; back when Steve and I were young. Now we are old and there is no time for standing around in the milking parlor.

So, here it is mid-experiment, I have to deal with 10 more days of cows getting mastitis.

And that directly affects my personal goal of keeping the quality of our milk well ahead of where it is right now.

You see, it’s not all fun and laughter out here on the farm.

It’s hard working with your spouse, especially when two people have such different personalities.

Every day I find myself trying my hardest not to get into a full-blown “discussion” with my favorite man in the whole wide world.

So this morning, he went his way.

And I am going mine.

Steve, Russell, our herdsman Zachery, my father and several others are working on cleaning out the compost barn. This involves two full days of moving compost out of the barn and spreading it on the field.

Our compost is amazing. Not only does it have a ton of food for this next year’s crops, it doesn’t smell all that much either.

Oh, living on the farm place allows one to totally appreciate the smell of organic fertilizer.

Those that live around the field where that fertilizer is spread can hardly smell anything.

Believe me, that is a relief to Steve and I. We don’t need to upset our neighbors.

We do our best to keep them all happy.

(I know I promised a story on my construction project here at home – still working on it. Will share soon. Patience is a virtue and is one that i don’t possess!)

With age comes issues

Steve and I were a sight for sore eyes Tuesday morning while we milked together.

As we find ourselves getting older, we find that we are much slower at many things than we used to be when we were youngsters in our 20s.

Being tied down to the couch because of illness isn’t just a one day ordeal anymore. Heck, when we were young we still worked like mad when we were ill.

Hacking because of a cough, didn’t slow down the well-oiled machines we were.

A sprained ankle? Forget about!

Cast on the foot? Cover that baby with a bread bag.

We had to carry milking units between cows, throw feed to the cows using a silage fork-I miss seeing my biceps bulge – and unloaded 13 wagons of small-square bales one at a time.

Five loads with almost 200 bales on it were wimp-work for us.

Being out of our prime became very apparent this particular Tuesday morning.

Steve was feeling under the weather. His cold was throwing him under the John Deere tractor in our shed.

He finished milking with me and even helped finish all the chores after milking. He felt “good enough” to help with cleaning the manure out of the holding area. We put fresh bedding in the second barn.

His body allowed him to attend a meeting in the morning with the Farm Business Management lady.

He sounded like crap when he talked. His voice was all gargley. I told him he should not go to the teachers house; she probably didn’t want him spreading sick germs anywhere near her young children.

They had their meeting in the garage!

I can’t say too much.

I wasn’t in all that great of shape Tuesday a.m. either.

While milking, during his moments of cold-induced weakness, a cow kicked the teat-dip cup out of Steve’s hand. It flew toward the front of the cow, just out of arm’s length.

“Here, just a minute,”I said, “I will get it for you.”

I tossed the water hose, with a spray nozzle on the end, near the teat dipper. It’s very handy to use the handle on the nozzle as a hook.

Just as I tossed it forward, the cow kicked in the perfect direction to land her foot directly on the top of my arm.

This happens quite frequently in the milking parlor. Most of the time the 1800-pound beast will feel the uneven ground and step off my forearm.

No harm done.

It just so happens that in this particular melee, Steve was standing right next to me, and he gave this beast a shove.

He shoved her as hard as he could.

Well, if you don’t know cows like I know cows, here’s what happens when you push a cow.

She pushes back with all her might. When you stop pushing, she stops pushing. One time, an employee was pinned between a cow and a post and he yelled for me to help him. I just looked at him and calmly said, “Quit pushing her.”

She quit trying to turn him into a pancake and he walked away a little red in the face.

So…when my doting husband tried to push the beast off the love of his life, well she dug in – right into my forearm. and I mean she dug and tried extra hard by grinding her left hoof into my skin.

All I could do was scream, “Ow! Ow! Ow!”

My arm was toast. It felt like ground-up toast.

I have no idea what ground-up toast feels like, but my arm really hurt.

My right arm was out of commission. Steve was slower than molasses.

We were a sad sight, but with no other bodies them to help finish, we were stuck with each other gimping along.

It’s several days later and my forearm is the size of the sausage stick I saw in the deli case at Cashwise. It’s probably going to turn the same color too.

Age sure makes illness and injury a problem.

Till next time…HUGS!

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