Calf coats

Two years ago, one of our heifers, Josie, gave birth in the middle of the night during a March snow storm. At daybreak, we found her calf in the field near death. After calling a friend for advice, we ran to the local farm store and bought a calf coat. I wrapped the calf up, loaded him into the bucket of the tractor and drove him to the barn, with mama following close behind. After 12 hours wrapped in the coat, lying in a warm and dry barn with his mama and a tube feeding of colostrum, the calf started to gain strength.

Josie was a willing mama, but having her in the head gate made holding baby up easier. These weak calves tend to have trouble standing on their front feet. After a day or so of assistance, the calf was able to stand and nurse normally on his own.

After this experience, I keep a calf coat on hand for early spring or late winter births. The extra warmth of the coat can make all of the difference in saving a calf born in cold, wet weather.

Flashback to a Summer Day

Sammy looking as big as Lucy’s calf

One of my all time favorite photos from the middle of a hot summer. Sammy, my miniature pig, found his way to the front field. He spent the entire day, grazing amongst the herd, gaining even more weight than I ever thought possible. Fortunately, Sammy has slimmed down during these more austere winter months. Dry pig pellets are not as lovely to eat as sweet, shoulder high summer grass.

Winter Feeding

Fresh hay on a snowy morning
Willow getting a warm start to the morning

Feeding is a daily event during the winter months. This time of year, coveralls, coats, boots and warm clothes are a necessity. The cattle become much more docile and accepting of close contact, just the sound of the tractor brings them running. I take the opportunity to walk among the girls during unrolling of the hay. The cows are happy with the colder temperatures, no flies are buzzing around and as the hay hits the snowy ground, many of them accept a pat or a rub.

Willow, my first bucket baby, still looks for that blue bucket of milk each morning. She is almost 5 months old, and I will be weaning her in a week or so. I am hoping for a few mild days so the weaning is not too hard on her (or me).

Small-Scale Cattle Farming

This blog is a forum for those who keep small scale herds of any breed of cattle. Share your ideas, experiences, learnings and best practices from daily life raising and selling cattle.

As well as a place to posting photographs of your cattle, use this blog is a resource for asking questions and initiating discussions within the cattle community so we can learn, improve our herds and have fun!

There are many pleasures and rewards that go along with keeping a small herd of cattle.

Working with fewer animals can be easier than a large herd, and in a small herd, you get to know each cow personally. Some, especially bottle babies or difficult births, can reach pet status. Many small herds are a wonderful mix of animals, like a bag of skittles, while others focus on just one breed.

Small herds can bring a unique set of challenges to the farm. Large equipment expenses are harder to justify, and deciding on which cows stay or leave may cause more heart ache. Having enough pasture space to separate the bull from the cows when his job is done for the season can be a struggle, as is keeping young heifers separate from a bull until they are old enough to breed.