About 2 weeks ago, Joe and Eric finished the perimeter fencing and one cross fence on the far side of the gully. Joe dug out the spring with a big excavator and there is a 3000 gallon accumulation tank which works as a reservoir for the spring. Joe did some work with a backhoe putting in a road into the middle of the lower four acres.
Shaen worked every free minute he had to get the pasture ready for moving Patty and the calves. Shaen has 700′ of 3/4″ black poly hose running from the spring. There is a filter to reduce particulates in the line. He has about 45psi at the bottom of the hose but this pressure increases as the accumulation tank is drawn down. He finished off the roadway with a backhoe and made a turnaround large enough for us to bring in our big truck.
Shean moved an 8’x12′ tool shed to the property. It was scary for me to watch him move the heavy building but he got it into place without anyone getting injured. This building is a secure storage area for equipment and supplies for the cattle. It will also be one side wall for a hay, feed and chip shed which we will be building this summer. We built a small paddock about 30’x30′ to train the cattle on electric fencing. Shaen called it the ugliest fence he’d ever seen. The fence is pretty rickety too, but we were running out of time and just needed to move the cattle. The idea was to use the paddock to train the cattle on electric fences. Thus, strength wasn’t really needed.
We moved the cattle to the new pasture on May 30, 2010. Patty immediately started eating the wonderful rich forage. The calves started running around, leaping and jumping. But the training on electric fencing in the small paddock did not go well. Patty hit her nose on the electric fence then backed up in a hurry and hit her butt into another electric fence. She was quite upset, having no place to go but up. The calves found ways to break out of the paddock and would walk through the electric fencing taking the shock over stopping their romping. Then Patty walked through an un-electrified gate as we madly chased the calves around the property. It was not an auspicious start!
Shaen was worried we would never catch them again on the property. We stopped chasing and started working to secure the paddock so the calves could not get out. Patty headed up the gully to feast on some delicious forage. The calves leaped and jumped for joy at their new found freedom. After we got the paddock secure we worked together to catch the calves which were tired after all that wonderful play. I caught Patty and we milked her. But she did not want to go back into the paddock. As I led her towards the paddock she took me for a run. I did not let go but instinctively dropped to the ground on my knees. This spun Patty around. I weigh about 125lbs and Patty weighs about 800lbs. After that incident we got her into the paddock but without power to the electric fence. We were betting Patty wouldn’t walk through the fence, even through she likely could. We thought Patty, having been trained to fences, would not consider the idea that she could just walk through our weak fence. This proved to be true and we found Patty and the calves in the paddock in the morning.
The next day’s milking went better. Our netted electric fencing arrived too. Shean worked to get the fencing up and make a new pasture area for Patty and another area for the calves. We also had another problem. Two of Patty’s teats had sores from the vigorous feeding of the calves. One teat was especially damaged. We decided to try two controlled feedings a day. This time we protected the damaged teats with our hands and would allow each calf one undamaged teat to drain. When the calves started to seriously butt Patty they would be pulled off and returned to their electrified pasture area. We carefully milked out the damaged teats. After we were finished milking, we used Bag Balm on her teats and udder. I am somewhat uncomfortable using Bag Balm because of the petroleum product and antiseptic chemical in the preparation. We will shift over to straight coconut oil as soon as possible.
Within a few days Patty and the calves got used to the netted electric fences and the double strand electric wire. We are getting used to the twice a day milking. We are getting about 14 gallons of milk a week, even though Patty is feeding twins. With the fresh forage the cream line is going up from about 10% of the volume to 30% for night milking and 50% for morning milking. Patty’s teats are healing but we have to clear brush in the pasture area because Patty is getting scratches on her udder as she moves around to feed. We are starting to understand why farmers coddled their dairy cows. They do have special needs.
Undated July 11, 2010: After about a week of controlled feeding, Shaen decided to go back to bottle feeding for the male calf. He is just too rough on Patty’s teats. We have to allow the female calf to suckle on Patty or Patty will not let-down her milk. The calves are always in a separate pasture from Patty, though Patty can see the calves throughout the day. We cannot understand why the female calf fights us going to the feeding. We understand why she would fight us when we pull her off to milk Patty. It’s a lot of extra work to manage the cow calf relationship. I hope we will not have to do this for Patty’s next calf.
Krystal, our relief milker, started using an Ouch Cream on Patty’s damaged teat. This cream finished off the healing of this very big wound on one of Patty’s teats.
Patty has been plagued by hordes of flies so we have moved our layers to the pasture. It took about a week for the chickens to realize the wonderful maggots to be found in the cow patties. Our little manure spreaders are enjoying a wonderful meal while cleaning up the pasture. The number of flies on Patty has halved.