Tag Archives: jerseys

Starting 2017 on a Rise

I’m not going to lie to you. The year 2016 was one I’d rather forget. In my mind, I’ll remember lots of stress, running around, frustration, and the time when I was convinced that I had legitimate memory loss issues (still think I’m not 100%). (My mom tells me it will come back when the boys are a little older.) (I don’t get that!)

Here’s the thing, as I was pondering a post and thinking about what I might write reflecting about the year and how horrible it was, I saw the title of the post from last year come across my Facebook memories: “Buh-Bye 2015.” Stop it. Did I write about 2015 in a good-riddance way too?

What is wrong with me?

Hold on. I think its human nature to dwell on the negative, right? But wait, that’s not me. I can always find the silver lining in something. And there were some redeeming things about 2016, so here goes.

I discovered the book-turned-tv-series Outlander, written by Diana Gabaldon (@WriterDG on Twitter), which immediately became my guilty pleasure. I read all eight books plus the graphic novel. That’s like 15,746 pages (not really, but they are huge books). I had not read for pleasure in such a long time – six years at least, that I forgot what it was to get wrapped up in a great story. (In full disclosure, the idea for the title of this post came from @WriterDG when she casually said she was ending 2016 on a rise.) (She’s so cool!)

I grew both professionally and personally, continuing to exercise the “choose wisely” mantra my husband said to me once. Sure, I learned a lesson or two, or seven, but all in a good way.

And of course, the boys are wonderful. They are both in school now. TK can read in Kindergarten! How crazy is that? They go from being these tiny beings incapable of the slightest care for themselves to reading in five short years! Big E keeps us on our toes. He is very quick-witted. When he starts in with the “MAWEmmeee I want some chocolate milk” for the eighth time in a two minute span, I reply “Well I want a million dollars.” To which he replies “But mommy, I don’t have a million dollars and we do have chocolate milk.” He’s 3 folks. How many more years of this?

So that leaves, the farm. As I’ve reflected on why I feel like I won’t miss 2016, it’s mostly about the farm. Don’t get me wrong, we are still very happy with our choice to farm and be here, but between the low milk prices and waiting all year for something to happen (hopefully soon) (we’re still waiting), the slightest thing tend to get you down and maintaining perspective is hard.

But even at that, by late fall, things had started looking up. The milk price started to come up. The forecast for the year is to be much better than 2016. And we had a beautiful Thanksgiving and Christmas with lots of visiting family and friends we are blessed to have in our lives.

And the first calf born for 2017 was a Jersey heifer…okay, she was second to a Holstein bull but it was the same freaking day. After my bad luck with not getting many heifers, I am rejoicing in small victories.

Which leaves me with one goal for 2017: To be able to look back on the year in the last week of December and feel a little less good riddance and a bit more nostalgia for auld lang syne.

 

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Meet Circle S Lemonhead Trisha, aka Miss Trisha Yearwood!

 

 

 

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Losing the Calves

I love posting pictures on social media sites of all the fun stuff around here: the fresh cut hay, cows grazing on rolling green pastures and cute baby calves. Farming is not all fun stuff though; it’s tough, sometimes so tough that you find yourself asking why you continue to do it. Sometimes those baby calves don’t make it for whatever reason, but reason beyond your control.

This spring, we have had a string of bad luck with our calving. We lost three heifer calves – all to freak things. I wrote the following post on my phone while the second one we lost was struggling to make it. When I wrote, we had done what we could for her and we were in wait & see mode:

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Towanda and me on a random Tuesday night.

There’s a heifer calf in the barn struggling to live. While her future is bleak, there still is hope. I found myself in the same position a few years ago with a cow who is now seven years old. In a similar way it was a very cold day in March and she came unexpectedly. We brought both into heated parts of the barn. We dried each calf, rubbing them down with at least a half dozen towels. We “tubed” each calf, inserting a small tube down to their stomachs to get them colostrum with vital nutrients and immunities they need to fight off whatever they may have to fight off in these first few hours of life. We put blankets on them, said a little prayer and tried to make them as warm and comfortable as possible while we left to go do the next thing.

And now we wait. Last time, I went back to check on the baby calf at noon and found a spritely little thing be-bopping around the room. She was very cute- already a very small calf having come early and out of a first-calver and we only had a large Holstein calf blanket available.  I think it made her even cuter – she was swimming in that thing! Because of her spunk, I named her “Towanda” from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. I hope for a similar outcome today, but am not optimistic. Maybe I’ve become a little jaded as I’ve gotten older. Maybe I’m more realistic – this isn’t exactly the same situation, and it seems the calf this time is struggling a bit more as we think she may have aspirated during calving. Maybe I’m just feeling depressed because it just keeps snowing. Or maybe I’ll be wrong and she’ll make it.

Later that night:

Turns out I was right. Unfortunately the calf didn’t make it. When I went back down to check on her, she had gone further downhill, not even able to pick up her head. It is an indescribable feeling, holding a dying calf in your lap. You feel sad, hopeless, and maybe a little angry that there wasn’t anything else you could do to save her. It certainly makes you want to work harder and smarter for the sake of all the rest of the animals who did make it and are in your care. It reminds me of a line from that Paul Harvey speech made famous by a 2013 Super Bowl commercial:

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.'”

And while this doesn’t happen often, it happens on farms regardless of the label put on the package its product sells in. Again it leaves you wondering if it is all worth it. Then you look around at all the faces watching you as you walk back through the barn to get ready to feed or clean or milk or for one last check before you leave for the night and you realize it is.

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Wordless Wednesday Part One

A few pictures of the goings-on around here today!

I almost stopped to join them today.

Feeding the new baby.

The DF having some fun with our next project.

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It’s a Good Day to Put the Old Girl Down

Yesterday, my husband came into the house after he finished milking as he sometimes does to get something to eat and said, “You’ll have to say your goodbyes to Liesel.” Liesel (pronounced “Lee-sell” as I found out after I started calling “Leezl” like diesel fuel) was one of my jersey cows. So I said okay, put my boots on and headed to the barn.

As I walked down there, I noticed what a beautiful day it was. It was really bright out as the sun was out and against the snow it made you feel like you were walking in a dream almost. It wasn’t too cold, but crisp, and you could feel the freshness in your lungs as you breathed in. Altogether it made you feel that much more awake and I thought to myself, “you know, it’s a good day to put the old girl down.”

Truth be told, Liesel wasn’t really all that old as far as cows go. She was 7 1/2. The problem was she somehow developed arthritis in her hips which made it difficult for her to get her 1400 pound frame up and down. Despite all the aspirin we gave her to help with the pain, she wasn’t getting any better and only began to get worse. 

She was a bigger jersey, not exceptionally tall but boy could that cow eat!! Some cows sort their feed and pick out the things they want to eat first and then maybe eat what’s left, (we feed a “TMR” – total mixed ration that contains grass silage, grain, corn, minerals, etc.) Not Liesel, she was like a vacuum, usually exhaling the feed in front of her. When she was big with calf, she was as wide as a house. I used to marvel at it and wonder if we had the right calving or due date for her. I now know a little about how it feels to be as big as a house when you’re carrying a baby!

I showed her when she was younger and in fact she was grand champion at the Woodstock Fair one year. Unfortunately that was the same year we were involved in a barn accident that involved a really mad loose Mama Simental cow trying to get back to her baby. That cow didn’t care what was in her path, including Liesel and a few of our other cows as she stepped on them while they were laying down. Our girls and the people involved ended up being okay but the cow and her calf went right home after that to avoid another accident. The folks who had them weren’t experienced in showing cattle and didn’t realize how crazy a beef cow will get when separated from her calf if it’s not weaned. Regardless, it was a crazy experience and we were lucky no one including the cows was hurt.

People say that putting an animal down is one of the most humane things you can do for it. Even though I’ve been through it several times before, it doesn’t get easier. When I got to the barn that beautiful morning, I scraped down behind the girls, pushed up their feed so they could reach it a bit easier and then took some time to scratch Liesel’s head, behind her ears and under her muzzle. I said my goodbyes and told her how she was going to a better place and she wouldn’t be in pain anymore. I felt kind of silly, like a little 4-Her still, as even now tears well up as I write this. Her dam (mama-cow) was the first cow I bought as an adult. Her first calf was the first I delivered by myself. I never particularly cared for broken-colored jerseys until she came along. She’s always been a good worker and pleasant in the barn. So the last thing I said to Liesel was simply, “thank you.”

Circle S Hallmark Liesel

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