The morning temperature yesterday at feeding was 12deg and today just 6deg. Both mornings, the sky was clear blue and the sun just beginning to rise over the tree tops to shine on the fields. Fortunately, there was almost no wind, unlike yesterday afternoon when it was howling. Getting up and out to feed and check on the farm is something I look forward to, especially during the winter months. The cattle deal much better with the cold snowy weather than with either the hot, humid, buggy summer days or the cold, wet rainy days of late fall.
I love to see the cattle with their frosty fur and crispy whiskers on these cold mornings. The younger heifers are full of energy, dancing around while we pour grain into the trough and unroll hay in the field. Standing, or laying in the trough, is a power move when there is stiff competition for the sweet grain.
The grown ladies are more mellow. They are happy to see the new bale added in the hay ring, and will rub their heads on the hay to help unroll it from the tractor. Bella and Patty run the herd, and are always first to rub the bale and eat the hay. Young Lucy and Scarlet had the best whiskers this morning.
Our two senior ladies, Old Lucy and Gilley, move a lot slower more like cold molasses. On these frigid mornings, we unroll a line of hay close to where those two cows are standing, so they don’t have to expend too much energy getting to breakfast. Old Lucy is on the far right of this picture of the main herd. She is a hereford/milk cow mix and is probably at least 15 years old. Gilley is 10 years old and like most of the cows, is expecting a calf this spring. Old Lucy has the year off from calving.
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).
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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.