Pregnant X Two!!!

Well, the romantic Valentine's Day weekend for Maya paid off! We received confirmation yesterday from Biotracking that she is indeed pregnant.

There are several ways that one can determine if a cow is actually bred. The first clue is when she does not come back in heat within 21 days after being inseminated. While this gives a pretty good indication that a cow has been bred, it is certainly not conclusive. Another method is to palpate the cow. This is usually done after three months after the breeding has taken place. If a cow is palpated before that time, they stand a greater chance of aborting the calf. One can also have an ultrasound taken of the uterus to determine if the cow is pregnant but this is a little more expensive than palpation and requires a veternarian who is skilled in the use of the ultrasound equipment. A very inexpensive and reliable method of determining a bovine pregnacy is by use of a blood test through Biopryn. Biotracking involves taking a blood sample from the cow and shipping it to the lab for testing to confirm a pregnancy. It must be done at least 30 days after insemination and at least 90 days post calving. It measures the presence of Pregnancy-Specific Protein B (PSPB) in the blood circulation of the animal. The PSPB is a protein is produced by the placenta of the growing fetus.

Looking back, I now believe the first time we AI'd Butter, we must have AI'd the wrong cow! We thought Butter was in standing heat and called my nieces husband out to AI her which he did based on our word. However, when Maya came in heat three weeks after we AI'd Butter, it was pretty evident that we had AI'd the wrong cow! Oops!

Butter came in heat about a week after Maya was AI'd. This time we got it right! Butter has also been confirmed pregnant through biotracking.

Since this is my first adventure with artificially inseminating my cows, I am quite pleased that we have been so successful with this venture. Maya's calf is due the end of November and Butter's calf is due the first week in December.

Now that I have pregnancy confirmation on Maya, I am listing her for sale. I have a number of heifers that I will be breeding this year and with the purchase of two new heifers in November of this past year, I need to sell off some of my older stock. It's always bittersweet for me when I sell an animal as I get so attached to them, but I know this is something I need to do.


Busy Week

It's been a busy week and I have not kept up with blogging the way I usually do. We had family visiting from out of town and had a wonderful time with them. In addition to all the normal activities, I had the vet out this week and we spent 2.5 hours getting vaccinations caught up on all the animals, trimming (goats) hooves, drawing blood to send off for biotracking, a health check on a young bull calf going to Michigan, Brucellosis vaccinations and tattoos for the young heifers and a new experience for me..............cutting a bull calf.

Normally, we band shortly after birth any calves that we want to be steers. However, this particular calf was suppose to be a herd bull for someone and we never banded him. When the deal fell through on little Nellson and I could not find a buyer in a reasonable amount of time, I had to make the decision to steer him. I could not have him accidentally breeding the heifers that I have here because that is Davie's job. I assumed that the vet would band him with a callicrate bander, but he told me that he has found cutting the bulls that age to be much better. After watching and assisting with the procedure, I am not so sure about that but I guess I will take his word for it. After all, he is an experienced vet and a man and what do I know about either of those things? All I have to say is it is not a job for the faint hearted and although I am glad for the experience, I have to say that I will do all I can to either make sure future bull calves are banded when small, or given every opportunity to use what God has given them rather than have them cut off!

(Picture of Elliott Folmar courtesy of Damon Folmar. Elliott and his family sold me Emmy and Elliott use to show her as a heifer. He made a trip with his dad last week and was able to stop and see Emmy's new baby calf, Ezekiel.

The other picture includes all of my Jersey girls (cows and heifers) except for Emmy.)


Free Range Eggs

I started with about a dozen hens, but it didn't take long for us to have more eggs than we actually needed. So, I proudly hung a sign out by the road that said "FREE RANGE EGGS" and waited for my first egg customers to arrive.

Imagine my surprise when the folks coming to get eggs didn't want to pay me for them! Evidently, they had never been educated to the term "Free Range" and assumed that I was giving away eggs. It was very interesting to see how many of them didn't want the eggs when they found out they had to buy them!

Just in case anyone is wondering, free range means that every morning I open the door to the chicken house and my birds are able to have the run of the farm. They are not contained and have free access to go wherever they would like to go. They scratch and peck and have a jolly time being exactly as God intended them to be without restraints. In the evenings, they all gather inside their house and I shut the door so that they can't be eaten by predators during the night. I have lost a few hens to day time predators but that number has been very small.

I have never had to vaccinate my chickens and have never had any illness to date. My hens stick around here usually about three years before I sell them at a reduced price to folks who want a few for their back yards. In addition to ranging for their food, I also supply them with all the milk clabber than can eat. I like to think that I have happy hens.

We have now grown from a dozen hens to around sixty hens and I am currently getting close to four dozen eggs a day from my free range hens! There's absolutely nothing better than eggs from free range hens, even if the eggs aren't free!


Chicken & Dumplings ~ Nothing to It!

Want to make chicken and dumplings?

Here's how I do it:

First of all, you need chicken. Being the opportunist that I am, I jumped at the chance to get some free chicken. You know, the kind you have to feed. I got a call from my sister-in-law who informed me that the FFA group at the local high school had some peeps they had used in an agricultural fair that now needed a home. Never mind that it was late fall with winter on the way! Of course, I said, "yes". Thinking I was getting laying birds, you can imagine my surprise when the peeps began growing even more quickly than they normally do? It didn't take me long to figure out that I had meat birds on my hands instead of laying hens.

Now what was I to do? I had meat birds that I really did not want to feed commercial feed. There were not any bugs or grass for them to eat because of the late season. Since I have cows and milk in abundance, I fed them clabbered milk, of course. (These birds ended up being Cornish Cross meat birds and I really don't care for Cornish Cross. They have been genetically modified to have huge breast and as result, many are not able to even carry their weight as adult birds. They basically sit in front of the feeder and eat until their short lives are complete. I really don't get any joy out of raising such a bird, and think it's almost cruel that they have not quality of life. I would much rather wait a little longer, have a smaller breasted bird, and one that is able to free range and forage for their food. However, being given these birds, I intended to make the best of things.)

After I raised the birds, I then needed to butcher the birds. Let me admit something here. I really have a hard time butchering anything that I raise, even if it's a genetically modified freak of a chicken. It also does not help that I was permanently scarred as a young teenager by working in one of those commercial chicken houses! It took me years to be able to eat chicken after that! Being not only an opportunist but also resourcful, I strategically planned a visit from my brother to coincide with chicken butchering day. Never mind that it was now mid winter and we were having extremely bitter temperatures. I somehow convinced my brother that he needed to help Mike butcher the birds. My sister-in-law and I stayed inside where it was warm and cleaned and cut up the birds and put them in the freezer while the guys did the dirty work outside!

So, there you have the first step...........getting your chicken.

The next thing you need is flour. Having some home milled flour available that had been given to me by a friend, I did not have to work myself to have fresh milled flour. It really does appear that I am an opportunist, does it not? (If you have not read my other post, I am looking for a mill of my own so that I can start grinding my own flour!)

Another ingredient that is necessary for making great chicken and dumplings is buttermilk. To have the best buttermilk possible you must first own your very own Jersey cow. You must go out twice a day and milk this cow, strain the milk, chill it, allow the cream to rise, skim the cream off the milk, place cream in a butter churn, allow the cream to sit out for at least 24 hours and develop the culture needed to make good tasting butter. (Or, if you are not able to trap the naturally occuring, good tasting culture from the air, you can start the process by adding a bit of store bought live culture buttermilk or some fresh, homemade buttermiilk from your last churning!) Once your cream has set out and cultured, you then churn the cream until the butter breaks, rinse the butter, and salt the butter. The milk that is poured off the butter at this time is your cultured buttermilk and that can be used in cooking your dumplings. (I told you this was easy!)

You will also need salt, soda and lard or butter.

Now that you have gathered all your ingredients, here is the recipe for the dumplings. This recipe is suppose to be at least 100 years old.

Chicken and Dumplings:

Cook chicken (fattest hens are best). Freeze part if you dont' want to use it all. Remove chicken from broth, and add a little milk, salt and papper to taste. Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp soda. Cut in 2 tsp lard or butter. Add one cup of buttermilk and mix until dough is stiff. Roll out and cut into pieces and drop into boiling broth. (Or, if you prefer, you can drop by spoonful into boiling broth.) Let dumplings cook about five minutes until done.

So simple, so good!

Bread and Butter

Recently I have become very excited about grinding my own wheat to make my bread. A friend offered to grind some different types of wheat for me so that I could try them before I committed to buying my own mill. Let's just say that I was not disappointed at all! The taste, texture, and quality of the bread was unbelievable. I am now on a mission to find the perfect grain mill for our family. Even my husband who is not crazy about whole wheat bread was delighted with the bread made from the freshly ground wheat. (I caught him in the kitchen late at night smearing generous portions of butter on "chunks" of homemade bread!)

We just happened to be having a little get-together the week that I was given the freshly ground flour. This gave me the opportunity to experiment and I used two different types of wheat (hard red wheat and soft red wheat) to make some "baby" loaves of bread for our guests. Because I wanted something a little more fancy to go along with the bread than just plain butter, I made a fruit butter. I did this by allowing the butter to soften and then whipping in some homemade sour cherry jam. I then reshaped the butter and refrigerated it long enough to give it form but still allow it to be soft for spreading. The combination was both appealing and appetizing.


The Missing Twin

My friends Joelle and Cory were visiting us from West Virginia today. It was not just a random visit. They brought along Sugar, a heifer they bought from us last year who needs to get bred. They have been trying to artificially inseminate Sugar, but it seems there must be something wrong with the semen they were using. Since I currently do not have a Jersey bull that is old enough to service, we made a date to put Sugar in with the Angus bulls at the other farm.

After getting Sugar settled in and visiting for a few minutes, Mike asked Joelle and Cory if they would like to go see the twins. They said, "Of Course" and Mike led the way to the corral where he had put Momma cow with the twin bull calves, Pete and (Re)Pete. Mike has had to keep Momma cow penned up in a smaller area because when she is out in the pasture, she runs off and leaves one of the calves. As long as she is in a smaller area, she allows them both to nurse.

When we got to the corral, there lay Pete in the sun but we did not see (Re)Pete. We all began looking for him, but there were only so many places that he could be and he was not in any of those places. We finally decided that either (a) he had slipped under the fence and gone out in the field or (b) someone had stopped and put him in their car and stolen him!

While Mike went to look for the calf, Joelle, Cory and I went on down to the farm house and visited with Mike's mother who gave us a tour of the house. The original part of the house was built in the 1700's. After our tour we headed back outside and I could tell even from a distance by the shrug of the shoulders and bewildered looks from Mike, that he had not found the calf.

As I walked with Joelle and Cory to their car we were discussing how the calf would have stayed close if he had slipped under the fence and how we would like to believe that folks were too honest to actually stop and steal a little baby calf, but evidence seemed to be pointing in that direction. About that time, we passed by the driveway between the back of the shop and the old milking parlor and Joelle exclaimed, "There he is!"

Sure enough, there he stood up against the side of the milking parlor. When we finally got Mike's attention, he came and got the little guy and put him back in the corral with his momma and twin.

I told Joelle it was just luck that she was there and saw him and that it must have been the "power of twins" that caused her to see him when she did. (Joelle is a twin as well.)

Pete and (Re) Pete were happy to be reunited and celebrated by drinking some of momma cow's milk!



We named Emmy's calf "Ezekiel" and I am calling him Zeke. He is such a quiet baby although that is bound to change as he gets a little older! He doesn't even slurp in meals like most of the calves do. He's just kind of laid back, slow and steady. Like I said, I am sure that will change! He is a bull calf after all!


Know Your Farmer Know Your Food

While the blog started out several years ago as a way for me to write about life on the farm, I did not see using the internet as a specific way to promote the farm. Last year around this time, the USDA began a program called Know Your Farmer Know Your Food. From their web site:

This is a USDA-wide effort to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. It is also the start of a national conversation about the importance of understanding where your food comes from and how it gets to your plate. Today, there is too much distance between the average American and their farmer and we are marshalling resources from across USDA to help create the link between local production and local consumption. (Read more here.)

In the past six months or so, I have begun to realize just how important it is for folks to have the opportunity to get to know farmers on a "personal" level and how important it is for farmers to be transparent and reach out to the public. Mike and I do this by having a personal connection with all of our produce customers in the summer. However, the internet offers us a way to reach an even wider segment of people with more detail than we can in a brief encounter over the sale of produce.

With this thought in mind, I launched my Face Book Farm page several months ago, where I can leave brief, informative posts throughout the day. They might include the birth of a new calf, fences that need repaired, agricultural type articles in the news, or a variety of other topics all farm related. I always seek to make the Face Book page interactive, informative and hopefully fun for the readers. I hope by participating, folks get to "Know Their Farmer" a little better. Although all the readers of my blog or Face Book page are not local, I believe that by being exposed to the day to day life of a "farmer" folks at least begin to think about agriculture in a way they maybe never have before.

(For more information on using social networks to promote your farm or agricultural industry, I found a good article here.)

What are you doing today?

"What are you doing today" or "What did you do today?"

I get asked those two questions quite often and knowing that it's really just a conversation starter, I usually reply by saying, "Not much" or "Oh, just all the usual things."

So, what exactly is "not much" or "all the usual things"?

Well, every morning and every evening, seven days a week, the cows have to be milked and the animals have to be fed. When you have dairy cows, you can't ever sleep in because they need to be milked on a schedule. This also means if we do anything away from the farm, we have to leave after the morning milking and arrive home before the evening milking. Milking takes us anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes per milking. There are always variables like how many cows are in milk at any given time, how bad the stables happen to be and how much manure we need to shovel, whether we run into any complications that need our immediate attention, and how cooperative the cows are being. Currently we are milking five cows with one of them being a new heifer that is learning the ropes. We do not have a fancy milking parlor where we can milk multiple cows at the same time, so we milk them one at a time. When the bucket gets full, we stop and pour the milk into milk totes. In addition to the cows being milked and fed, we have to feed the calves, goats and chickens. When I do the milking/feeding by myself, it takes me approximately 1.5 hours per milking. When Mike helps me, it takes about 45-60 minutes. So, at a minimum, I am spending at least two hours a day in the barnyard. (Working with the animals is my favorite time of the whole day)

After each milking, I then need to strain the milk and pour it into the glass jars. After this task is finished, the milker needs to be washed and sterilized. This process usually takes me a total of about 20-30 minutes per milking.

Monday through Thursday between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm are my "pick up days" for my share members. During this time, I greet folks who are coming to pick up their milk, take their empty jars and exchange them for jars of raw, creamline, Jersey milk. I then take all of those clean jars and wash and sterilize them to get them ready to be used again.

While waiting on share members to arrive, I spend the time that I have available mid day to use up some of the excess milk that we have. On any give day you might find me making butter, sour cream, or various types of cheese. Depending on what type of cheese I am making, the process can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 4 hours. (Just to give you an idea of how much milk goes through my kitchen, we are averaging about 12 gallons a day right now. 12 gallons of milk x 7 days a week equals 84 gallons of milk that has to be processed, sent out to share members or made in to cheese. I also use some of it to clabber and feed to my hens.)

When I get an abundance of cheese or butter I also spend this time vacuum sealing them so that they can be frozen for long term storage.

This is also the time of day when I clean house, do laundry and bake bread and desserts from scratch. Most days I prep my evening meal knowing if I don't, that it will be eight o'clock before I have everything finished and we are able to eat. (In the summer we often do not eat until nine or ten o'clock.) Most folks do not realize, unless they also prepare their meals using something other than processed "food", just how time consuming it can be to prepare food from scratch.

Mid day is also my "down time" when I try to update my blog and post on the Face Book page that I created to promote the farm through a social networking site. While I very much enjoy writing it does take time and effort to come up with (hopefully) interesting and relevant posts.

This is my "basic" schedule in the winter months with Friday and Saturday being my days to run errands and catch up on things outside the house. Sunday, in addition to the daily chores, we also attend church and try to find the time to go out to eat and go for a ride, visit an antique store, or do something fun for a few hours before heading back home to milk.

That is my basic winter schedule. Spring, Summer and Fall bring in addition to the above schedule planting the garden and opening the produce stand at least four days a week. During the summer anytime I am not outside working in the garden, I am in the kitchen canning and freezing fruit and produce.

So there you have it................what I am actually doing when I say I am doing "nothing"!


Spring is a busy time for farmers. This morning was no exception!

When Mike arrived at the other farm there was a set of twin bull calves that had been born sometime during the night. Typical behavior for a beef cow, the momma seems to be accepting one calf and rejecting the other. Because we wanted to make sure that both calves had received colostrum, I took some of Emmy's colostrum that I had saved and we bottle fed the twins. We are going to watch today to see if the momma accepts both calves and if she does not, then I will have to bottle feed at least one of them. I have named them Pete and (Re)Pete.


Blessed Morning

It was one of THOSE mornings. No, not the kind of morning where you wish it would end, but the other kind.

It was one of those morning where for a moment in time the world just kind of stops and there is peace. It may be short lived, but the glow from that moment lingers on and encourages us that life really does have it's precious moments.

That moment came for me this morning as I watched the new baby calf trying out his "new bounce", and then mimicking his momma by taking a little piece of hay in his mouth and nibbling on it. He then turned a round a few times and found himself a nice comfy spot in the sun to take a nap.

After a long, hard winter that came to a head when I lost the last calf that was born, the feeling of spring in the air and the beauty of the new baby were enough to bring tears of joy and relief to my eyes.

We made it through yet another milestone in this life that is often difficult.

With thankfulness, we count our blessings.


Silly Heifer

Liza Jane is a percentage miniature heifer that will be a year old March 31st. In this photo, she is using her tongue to catch the rain as it drips off the roof of the shelter. She played this game for quite a while. I was glad I had my camera in my overall's pocket to get a photo! You can see we have quite a muddy mess to content with in the barnyard, but Liza doesn't seem to mind as long as she has rain drops to catch with her tongue!

Emmy had a Bull Calf 3/13/2010

Yesterday was a busy day for us! We had three beef calves and one dairy calf born and they were all bulls! We were happy about the beefers being bulls but were very disappointed that we ended up with another bull calf from the Jerseys. I tried to do a quick tally in my head and all total I think that makes 18 bulls and five heifers from our Jerseys and JerseyX calves in the last four years. Not good odds. And all those calves came from a total of four different bulls. This was our first "AI" calf born on the farm. So, since we are getting all the bulls, that means someone out there will be getting heifers!

Besides all the calves being born, Mike and I were hosting the first course of a progressive dinner and I had been busy in the kitchen all day preparing for that. I had noticed that Emmy was looking close yesterday morning but did not think she would go for a few more days. Also, there had been some confusion on when she was due. Originally we thought she was due the 10th and then determined she was due the 25th. So, I really was not expecting a calf for a few more days anyway. Her udder was tight but her teats were not filled in yesterday morning. Her ligaments were loose but not anywhere near as loose as they normally get before calving. There was no mucus discharge other than just a dribble that I saw about five days ago. She was acting normal and hanging out with the rest of the cows/heifers so I just didn't give it much thought until we saw the calf on the ground! We saw her and the calf just getting to his feet about the time our company arrived. All the cows and heifers had gathered around to welcome the new little one. Apple was trying to claim the calf as her own. Emmy was trying to find a spot to take him where she could be alone. The scene was a traffic stopper as folks were headed into the house to get their appetizers. Poor Mike had just vaccinated and banded three beef calves and taken a shower and had to go back out in the horrible mud left from all the rain we got in the past few days. He put Emmy and the calf in a private shelter and came back in the house to wash off and help me with the company. I don't know how good of a host I was because I was frantic to get outside and check on things. The folks only stayed about 45 minutes because they had to go to the next house for the next course of their meal but we were later than usual getting outside to milk.

Baby would not get a hold of a teat. Emmy's teats are smaller than my other Jersey's teats and the little guy just could not latch on and keep it in his mouth. At first he was not even interested. So, Mike milked out a little colostrum and we gave it to him in a bottle. He took to the bottle really fast and seemed hungry. Mike milked out a little more and gave him after which he began to try to nurse on his own from Emmy but still was having a hard time keeping the teats in his mouth. She does have some edema, so I am hoping as the swelling goes down, it will be easier for him and for us. Emmy is a heifer and did great with the birth and stood for us and the baby at first with Mike on one side milking her a bit to get the colostrum and me on the other side with the calf trying to get him to nurse. We did not have her tied and I did not have a halter on her. She grew tired of us messing with her and went out of the shelter in a huff. When we tried to get her back in, even enticing her with grain, she would not go. She would not let me get near her to put her halter on her and would not go back in the shed. She got pretty agitated at one point but we finally got her back inside and she stood just fine for us after that. I think her hormones were just in a rage and with everything being new, she just got agitated because after that she was fine. She lifted her foot a couple of times but never tried to kick us or the baby. It was a horrible mess outside with the mud and I was covered in mud and manure by the time we got back inside. I then had to clean up from our dinner party at which point I dropped an empty bowl into a larger bowl filled with salsa. That sent salsa splattering about five feet away where it coated the wall and the floor.

Emmy was a champ this morning. We had only had her in the stanchion once and had never got around to turning the milker on while she was in there. So this was the first time she actually had even heard the sound of the milker. She stood great and only raised her leg a couple of times at first but never really tried to kick.

She stands for the calf and I think he's nursing now. We tried to get him to take the bottle but he didn't want it. Since he drank from the bottle last night with gusto and is hopping around all over the place this morning, I assume he is nursing all right.

Apple is insanely jealous. She stands at the fence and bawls and bawls. If the calf goes over to the fence she tries to lick him through the gate. We may have trouble with her trying to steal him from Emmy. I thought at first she was upset because she was separated from Emmy but it's obvious now that she wants Emmy's calf.


Cheese Spread

A while back I began experimenting with cheese spreads. At first, I used ricotta cheese but the spreads just did not have the exact flavor I wanted. I then began to make spreads using my non-rennet, naturally clabbered, raw milk cottage cheese. (Additional information here.) The cottage cheese gave the spreads the flavor that I was looking for but still did not have the texture I wanted. I then began running the cottage cheese curds through the food processor with enough mayo to make the spreads the right consistency for spreading on crackers.

My favorite is probably the jalapeno flavor. I simply take three or four jalapenos and process them until they are in tiny pieces. I then mix in my cheese curds, mayo, salt and pepper and process until the mixture looks easy to spread.

Another flavor I enjoy is the chives and garlic. I simply use fresh or dried chives to taste, garlic, salt and pepper to season.

The possibilities are endless............smokey flavors, seasoning salts, herbs and spices. For something different try a sweet dip to spread on fruit made with honey and cheese curds.

Experimenting with different flavors is the fun part of the whole process!


Childhood memories...............

"I'm sorry", I wrote "even though I really like you a lot and could otherwise see us having a long term relationship, I know that life will take you in one direction and me in another. You see, you live in the city and enjoy the city life. Me, I love the country and the rural life and that will never change. I plan to have a farm and livestock someday and our lives are just not going to be compatible."

Ok, that is not exactly what I wrote but an immature version of that letter was given to my "boyfriend" when I was around nine or ten years old. I can look back and laugh at my seriousness at such a young age and marvel at my ability to know exactly what I wanted even for one so young. Oh, if I had only stayed true to my heart and kept the wisdom of childhood rather than make some of the mistakes that I have made along the way!

Thank God for second chances and for the gift of being able to farm and have such a wonderful, supportive, loving farmer husband!

And the "boyfriend" from so many years ago...................he is happily married with two beautiful children. He has more education than I can even begin to comprehend and a fine job that suits him well. We remain friends. Life is good.


Conversions and Equivalents

3 tsp = 1 Tbs.
4 Tbs = 1/4 cup
5 Tbs + 1 tsp = 1/3 cup
2 cups = 1 pint
2 pints (4 cups) = 1 quart
4 quarts (16 cups) = 1 gallon

1 pkg. active dry yeast = 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast = 2 tsp instant yeast

Treva's BBQ Sauce

I got this BBQ sauce recipe from my mother-in-law:

24 oz bottle of ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp worcesteshire sauce
1 cup water

Mix all together. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Hint of Spring

Nothing like the hint of spring after a long hard winter and boy has this been a long hard winter! Although it's too early and the ground is too muddy to actually do any "real" gardening, I did work on our cold frame yesterday.

I had put a layer of manure and dirt in the hot box last fall and I added some additional dirt on top yesterday. I also used some of the old windows we took out of the house last summer to cover the box. I'm going to give the soil a few days to warm up and then plant some lettuce and spinach for salads! Can't wait!


Practicing To Be A Cow

Emmy is a "heifer" meaning she is a young bovine who has never given birth. Emmy is due with her first calf on the 25th of this month. Since everything will be new to her, we wanted to give her a "practice run" of what to expect after she calves. It's much easier to get a heifer use to what is going on before the raging hormones set in after they give birth.

Emmy has only lived at our farm since the end of November and she has never even been in the front pasture. So, while the other cows were being milked, I let Emmy into the front pasture to check things out. Being the funny girl that she is, she would stick her neck way out and run to inspect the new territory. Since I didn't want her to roam to far away, I decided to give her a bite of hay to eat while she was waiting. (Of course, Emmy had no clue what she was waiting on or even that she was waiting.) After the last cow came out of the stanchion and was escorted to the back pasture, it was time for Emmy to practice.

I said, "Emmy, it's time to go into the stanchion." Of course, Emmy did not understand a word I said. Emmy has been taught to lead but I really wanted to teach her to go into the stanchion on her own without being haltered or led.

Mike began to entice her with a bit of grain. She was still hesitant at first. After backing out a few times she finally decided that going into the stanchion was not so bad after all. Once she decided it was safe, she just walked right in. Mike slowly shut the head gate and Emmy stood quietly eating her grain. She never got excited and never tried to escape. We touched her udder and she never even flinched.

We are getting very excited about Emmy being our newest milk cow and can't wait to see her new calf. We will give her some more "practice runs" in the stanchion before she calves and even turn on the milking machine and let it run so that she can hear the noise and know what to expect. We don't want her to be frightened when the time comes to milk her, but if tonight is any indication of how she will be, I don't think we have anything to worry about.

Thinking The Way Animals Do

Thinking the Way Animals Do
By Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Department of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Western Horseman, Nov. 1997, pp.140-145

Temple Grandin is an assistant professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She is the author of the book Thinking in Pictures. Television appearances include 20/20, CBS This Morning, and 48 Hours. Dr. Grandin has autism, and her experiences have helped her to understand animal behavior. She teaches a course in livestock handling at the university and consults on the design of livestock handling facilities.
Unique insights from a person with a singular understanding.


As a person with autism, it is easy for me to understand how animals think because my thinking processes are like an animal's. Autism is a neurological disorder that some people are born with. Scientists who study autism believe that the disorder is cause d by immature development of certain brain circuits, and over development of other brain circuits. Autism is a complex disorder that ranges in severity from a mild form (such as mine), to a very serious handicap where the child never learns to talk. The m ovie Rain Man depicts a man with a fairly severe form of the disorder.

I have no language-based thoughts at all. My thoughts are in pictures, like videotapes in my mind. When I recall something from my memory, I see only pictures. I used to think that everybody thought this way until I started talking to people on how they t hought. I learned that there is a whole continuum of thinking styles, from totally visual thinkers like me, to the totally verbal thinkers. Artists, engineers, and good animal trainers are often highly visual thinkers, and accountants, bankers, and people who trade in the futures market tend to be highly verbal thinkers with few pictures in their minds.

Most people use a combination of both verbal and visual skills. Several years ago I devised a little test to find out what style of thinking people use: Access your memory on church steeples. Most people will see a picture in their mind of a generic "gene ralized" steeple. I only see specific steeples; there is no generalized one. Images of steeples flash through my mind like clicking quickly through a series of slides or pictures on a computer screen. On the other hand, highly verbal thinkers may "see" th e words "church steeple," or will "see" just a simple stick-figure steeple.

A radio station person I talked to once said that she had no pictures at all in her mind. She thought in emotions and words. I have observed that highly verbal people in abstract professions, such as in trading stocks or in sales, often have difficulty un derstanding animals. Since they only think in words, it is difficult for them to imagine that an animal can think. I have found that really good animal trainers will see more detailed steeple pictures. It is clear to me that visual thinking skills are ess ential to horse training, but often the visual thinkers do not have the ability to verbalize and explain to other people what it is they "see."

Associative Thinking
A horse trainer once said to me, "Animals don't think, they just make associations." I responded to that by saying, "If making associations is not thinking, then I would have to conclude that I do not think." People with autism and animals both think by making visual associations. These associations are like snapshots of events and tend to be very specific. For example, a horse might fear bearded me n when it sees one in the barn, but bearded men might be tolerated in the riding arena. In this situation the horse may only fear bearded men in the barn because he may have had a bad past experience in the barn with a bearded man.
Animals also tend to make place-specific associations. This means that if a horse has bad prior experiences in a barn with skylights, he may fear all barns with skylights but will be fine in barns with solid roofs. This is why it is so important that an a nimal's first association with something new is a good first experience.

Years ago a scientist named N. Miller found that if a rat was shocked the first time it entered a new passageway in a maze, it would never enter that passageway again. The same may be true for horses. For example, if a horse falls down in a trailer the fi rst time he loads, he may fear all trailers. However, if he falls down in a two-horse, side-by-side trailer the 25th time he is loaded, he may make a more specific association. Instead of associating all trailers with a painful or frightening experience, he is more likely to fear side-by-side trailers, or fear a certain person associated with the "bad" trailer. He has learned from previous experience that trailers are safe, so he is unlikely to form a generalized trailer fear.

Fear Is the Main Emotion
Fear is the main emotion in autism and it is also the main emotion in prey animals such as horses and cattle. Things that scare horses and cattle also scare children with autism. Any little thing that looks out of place, such as a piece of paper blowing i n the wind, may cause fear. Objects that make sudden movements are the most fear-provoking. In the wild, sudden movement is feared because predators make sudden movements.
Both animals and people with autism are also fearful of high-pitched noises. I still have problems with high-pitched noise. A back-up alarm on a garbage truck will cause my heart to race if it awakens me at night. The rumble of thunder has little effect. Prey species animals, such as cattle and horses, have sensitive ears, and loud noise may hurt their ears. When I was a child the sound of the school bell ringing was like a dentist drill in my ear. A loudspeaker system at a horse show may possibly have a similar effect on horses.

People with autism have emotions, but they are simpler and more like the emotions of a vigilant prey species animal. Fear is the main emotion in a prey species animal because it motivates the animal to flee from predators. The fear circuits in an animal's brain have been mapped by neuroscientists. When an animal forms a fear memory, it is located in the amygdala, which is in the lower, primitive part of the brain. J.E. LeDoux and M. Davis have discovered that fear memories cannot be erased from the brain. This is why it is so important to prevent the formation of fear memories associated with riding, trailering, etc.

For a horse who has previously been fearful of trailers to overcome his fear, the higher brain centers in the cortex have to send a fear suppression signal to the amygdala. This is called a cortical over-ride, which is a signal that will block the fear me mory but does not delete it. If the animal becomes anxious, the old fear memory may pop back up because the cortex stops sending the fear suppression signal.

Fear-based behaviors are complex. Fear can cause a horse to flee or fight. For example, many times when a horse kicks or bites, it is due to fear instead of aggression. In a fear-provoking situation where a horse is prevented from flight, he learns to fig ht. Dog trainers have learned that punishing a fear-based behavior makes it worse. When a horse rears, kicks, or misbehaves during training, it may make the trainer feel angry. The trainer may mistakenly think that the horse is angry. But the horse is muc h more likely to be scared. Therefore it is important for trainers to be calm. An angry trainer would be scary to the horse. There are some situations where a horse may be truly aggressive towards people, but rearing, kicking, running off, etc., during ha ndling or riding is much more likely to be fear based.

Effects of Genetics
In all animals both genetic factors and experience determine how an individual will behave in a fear-provoking situation. Fearfulness is a stable characteristic of personality and temperament in animals. Animals with high-strung, nervous temperaments are generally more fearful and form stronger fear memories than animals with calm, placid temperaments. For example, research on pigs conducted by Ted Friend and his students at Texas A&M University showed that some pigs will habituate to a forced non-painful procedure and others will become more and more fearful.
Pigs were put in a tank where they had to swim for a short time. This task was initially frightening to all of the pigs and caused their adrenaline level to go up. Adrenaline is secreted in both people and animals when they are scared.

Over a series of swimming trials, some pigs habituated and were no longer scared, but others remained fearful throughout the trials. In the pigs that did not habituate adrenaline stayed elevated, which showed that the pigs were still afraid.

It is likely that horses would respond to different training methods in a similar manner. Horses with calm placid dispositions are more likely to habituate to rough methods of handling and training compared to flighty, excitable animals. The high-strung, spirited horse may be ruined by rough training methods because he becomes so fearful that he fails to learn, or habituate.

On the other hand, an animal with a calm, nonreactive nervous system will probably habituate to a series of nonpainful forced training procedures, whereas a flighty, high- strung nervous animal may never habituate. Horses who are constantly swishing thei r tails when there are no flies present and have their heads up are usually fearful horses. In the wild, horses put their heads up to look for danger.

Effects of Novelty
As a creature of flight, how a horse reacts to novel or unusual situations or new places can be used to access his true temperament. French scientist Robert Dantzer found that sudden novelty shoved into an animal's face can be very stressful. A horse with a high-strung, fearful nature may be calm and well-mannered when ridden at home. However, his true temperament has been masked because he feels relaxed and safe in a familiar environment. When he is suddenly confronted with the' new sights and sounds at a horse show he may blow up.
It is the more high-strung and fearful horses who-have the most difficulty in novel situations. At the show there are many unusual sights and sounds, such as balloons and loud public address systems, that are never seen or heard at home. An animal with a nervous temperament is calm when in a familiar environment -- he has learned it is safe -- but is more likely to panic when suddenly confronted with new things.

The paradoxical thing about novelty is that it can be extremely attractive to an animal when he can voluntarily approach it. A piece of paper lying in the pasture may be approached by a curious horse, but that same piece of paper lying on the riding trail may make the horse shy. People working with horses and other animals need to think more about how the animals' perceive the situations we put them in.


What Makes The Milk Taste So Good?

I have share members that have had other sources of raw milk in the past. A common comment from them has been how good the milk tastes from our cows. Some share members have even told me that the milk they were getting in the past from other places sometimes had a strange or "off" flavor.

So what makes the milk from our cows taste so good?

It's probably a number of things

What the cow eats will affect how the milk tastes. Cows that graze in the summer and eat hay in the winter have the best tasting milk. Many artisan cheese makers know this and only make cheese during the spring and summer months when the cows are on green grass. (*See note below)

One must realize that each cow will give milk that may have a slightly different flavor. Guernsey milk might not taste exactly like Jersey or Holstein milk. There may even be a slight flavor difference between two Jerseys. If ever given the chance to do a taste test, compair milk from several different breeds of cows.

Another very important aspect to having great tasting milk is making sure that the cows are healthy. We test our cows for TB and Brucellosis but beyond that, we are careful to make sure that the milk we share is free from mastitis or any other type of infection that might make the milk undesirable.

Before we milk the cows, we clean their teats and surrounding udder area carefully to make sure that the milk does not become contaminated and that the product is as clean as it can possibly be. We disinfect the teats with a water and iodine solution before milking.

Once the cows are milked, we bring the milk into the house immediately, strain it, and pour it into 1/2 gallon jars. I always make sure that the jars and lids are sterilized before using them. The milk is then placed in the freezer so that the temperature is brought down quickly. Once the milk has been adequately chilled, then it is transferred over to the refrigerator.

All the milk that is given to share members is no more than 24 hours old and most of the time, it is only 12 hours old.

After the milk has been poured into the jars, the milking equipment is thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Getting the milk cleaned out of the milker and inflations as soon as possible keeps it from building up soap stone on the equipment and keeps unwanted flavors from developing in the inflations. We buy and replace new inflations regularly. (The inflation is the part of the milking machine that goes on each teat that the milk passes through into the bucket.) Replacing old inflations also helps to keep the milk tasting great!

We do our best to make sure that the milk we drink and provide to share members is as fresh as possible and tastes delicious. I was thrilled when a share member mentioned to me this past week that they had a 1/2 gallon jar of milk that they finally opened after 23 days. They told me the milk was as good as the milk they drank on day one. Now that's what I like to hear!

(* During the spring when the wild onions and garlic begin to grow, cows will eat them along with the grass and their milk will develop a strong flavor associated with the onions/garlic. There is no way to avoid this other than to keep the cows inside and feed them hay during that time rather than let them graze. Fortunately, this only happens for a short time during early spring.)

Additional note: When I originally wrote this, I failed to also mention how important it is for the share member to keep the milk as cold as possible. I always suggest that share members bring a cooler and pack ice around the milk for the trip home. In addition, make sure that your refrigerator is set on the coldest setting possible. Do not placing warm foods next to the milk in the refrigerator. Also, do not leave milk setting out on the counter for long periods of time. Fluctuating temps with the milk will keep it from staying fresh as long.


Emmy and the Guessing Game

We are going to have to start all over with the guessing game for Emmy's calf as I found out that the due date I had for her was incorrect. So, I now have a due date of March 25th and here are some pictures of her udder that I took today. You can resubmit your guesses if you would like, based on this new information!

I know to some of you who are not "cow folks", posting pictures of cow's udders and backsides looks really strange. However, this is how farmers are able to tell how close a cow is to calving. As she get's closer to calving her udder gets bigger, her teats fill up, her tail head begins to get loose and the pin bones begin to become prominent.

The winner of the guessing game will get their choice of a jar of sour cherry jam or a jar of garden salsa.

Good Luck!


Road Trip To West Virginia

What does any good grandma do when a new baby is born? Why jump in the car and head across state lines to visit of course! That's exactly what I did yesterday!

My dear husband says, "Let me get this straight. You own cows and have calves born here on the farm on a regular basis. Yet, you want to drive five hours round trip to see a cow and a calf?"

I just smiled and he put fuel in the car.

We had a lovely drive from our house in the Shenandoah Valley into West Virginia. We love taking long drives and although there was quite a bit of snow on the ground for part of our journey, the roads were relatively clear. We enjoyed the old houses and buildings along the way. We especially enjoyed looking at the farms.

It was a great time visiting with friends, although we couldn't stay long because we had to get back to milk! It was a thrill to see Scarlette and Sugar, who both once lived here with us, in such a loving environment. The baby, Nestle, was perfect in every way and I was able to love on her to my heart's content. And like a good grandma, I took pictures to share!