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Friday, April 30, 2010

Handle with Care

I found the following article and thought it was good enough to re-post it here. I am pleased to say that our Jerseys are treated so well that they consider themselves part of the family!

Handle With Care

FRAGILE – HANDLE WITH CARE
Jim Salfer, Regional Extension Educator-Dairy

November 12, 2005

“The rule to be observed in this stable at all times, toward the cattle, young and old, is that of patience and kindness. A man’s usefulness in a herd ceases at once when he loses his temper and bestows rough usage. Men must be patient. Cattle are not reasoning beings. Remember that this is the Home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a Mother should be treated. The giving of milk is a function of Motherhood; rough treatment lessens the flow. That injures me as well as the cow. Always keep these ideas in mind in dealing with my cattle.”

W.D. Hoard wrote this quote over 100 years ago. But the way we manage cows today is much different that 100 years ago – now we have cows in confinement, fed TMR rations, milked in parlors, taken care of by employees, and managed by computer records. Is this just an old fashioned statement that has no relevance to today’s modern dairy farms?

One hundred years ago we called dairy farming “dairy husbandry.” Getting milk out of cows was considered more of an art than a science. In this era of computer programs and large herds, we often forget that the cow is basically the same. Granted, she produces much more milk, but she is still a living, breathing animal that needs certain amenities to perform at peak performance.

Consumers are also demanding that livestock producers treat their animals in a humane manner. McDonald's, Applebee's and others are beginning to ask their suppliers to document that the animal products they are selling are coming from animals produced in a humane manner.

The Farm Animal Welfare Committee recently recommended that all livestock have the following freedoms:

Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
Freedom from discomfort by providing a suitable environment, including shelter and a comfortable lying area
Freedom from pain, injury and disease
Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
Freedom from fear and distress
Is the only reason we should treat animals well because consumers are demanding it? NO. There is actually a growing body of scientific evidence that treating animals gently actually can improve performance.

Canadian and Danish researchers conducted studies where cows were either roughly or gently handled and then cow responses were monitored. Not surprisingly, cows handled roughly were more scared of humans, and defecated and urinated more often. Handlers wore different color overalls. The cows were able to distinguish the color difference when they were in other locations. For example, if someone wearing a red coverall handled cows roughly out in the freestall barn, the cows will be anxious around someone in the parlor with the same color coverall. This could have far reaching consequences if you issue uniforms and then have even one or two employees that handle cattle in a rough manner. As a result, the cows may perceive all persons with the same coverall color as potentially rough handlers. The same researchers conducted another trial looking at cow handling and the effect on milk production. Their conclusion was that the presence of the aversive handler during milking increased residual milk by 70% and reduced milk yield about 10%.

There have been two on-farm trials (one using 31 farms and another 66 farms) where cattle fear was evaluated based on the willingness of cows to approach the researchers. In both instances, researchers concluded that herds where cows showed more fear of humans tended to have lower production. One of the trials measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It was increased in herds where herdspersons negatively interacted with cows. Stress hormones can lead to immunosuppression that may affect the health of animals.

The bottom line is that all people should handle cows with care – at all times. One way to help you and your employees become less frustrated is to have good working facilities. Not many dairy producers I know are good with a horse and lasso. When cattle must be sorted, use methods that minimize stress. Chutes, headlocks and a few gates in strategic locations can work wonders in cattle handling. It has been shown that using electric prods and shouting affect cattle more negatively than gently tail twisting or slapping on the rump.

If you have family labor or employees, emphasize the importance of gentle cattle handling. Set a good example yourself. Make gentle cow handling a part of all new employee orientation.

Remember the quote in the beginning of this article by W.D. Hoard. If you handle all your cattle gently they will reward you greatly with increased profit and decreased frustration.

Monday, April 26, 2010

More Weekend Photos





Weekend Photos





Enchiladas


This weekend I made Enchiladas using mostly homemade ingredients. I was surprised that Mike liked them so well because he does not usually like spicy or tomato based foods.

Enchiladas

4 chicken breast halves cooked until done and shredded
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pint sour cream
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Queso blanco cheese
tortillas
salsa
3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Add the onion, parsley, oregano, salt, garlic, and ground black pepper to tomato sauce and cook until flavors are enhanced and sauce is thick. Add sour cream and shredded chicken.
3. Place generous portions of Quesa Blanco on tortilla shells and then ladle chicken/sauce mixture over cheese. Roll tortillas.
4. Arrange in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover with Salsa and Mozzarella Cheese (or cheese of your choice). Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving. I like to eat with additional sour cream.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Volunteer Lettuce


Nothing better than those volunteer plants that spring up from seeds sown naturally in previous years. Our first harvest of 2010 is "volunteer" lettuce.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Princess & Davie~Impatiently Waiting





Princess and Davie are sizing each other up across the fence. Princess is in heat today and is old enough to breed but I am holding off for a Spring 2011 calf rather than to have one born in January or February. I measured Davie at 34 inches at 12 months old, and Princess around 37-38 inches (have not been able to get an accurate measurement on her yet)at 18 months old.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole


Not often that I use a lot of "prepared" foods but this is an easy casserole to make in a hurry. Tonight I actually already had some chicken breast that had been cooked and frozen. I was able to throw the casserole together in about five minutes time. On days like today, when I am not around much, it's nice to have a quick meal! The kids (who are all "grown kids") love this casserole.

Take a cup or two of cooked chicken and mix with one can of cream of mushroom soup. Mix in about 1/2 cup of Mayonnaise and 1/2 can of milk. Salt and pepper to taste. Prepare a box of Stove Top Stuffing and spread on top. Bake in the oven (350 degrees) until chicken mixture is bubbling up around the edges.

Easy and delicious!

(Note: This recipe can easily be doubled or trippled and makes an easy, crowd pleaser to take to get-togethers. Can also be made in the slow cooker.)

Sugar Update

Unfortunately, we have had a set back with Sugar. I am hoping it is a temporary set back, but it just doesn't look good. Having been AI'd a couple of times and then being put in with the Angus bulls through a cycle in which we did not see her come in to heat, we thought possibly Sugar was bred. Sugar was in standing heat last night, and she is most definitely not bred.

This leads me to believe that she possibly won't breed OR that she is breeding but slipping the calf early in the gestation. Either one is not good. We loaded her on to the trailer and took her back down to the other farm to hang out with her two Angus boy friends for a while. I intend to leave her down there throughout the summer and maybe even into early fall. This will give her every opportunity to get bred. If we find that she does conceive and carry a calf, then I will have time before she calves to bring her back to the house and work with her some more to get her ready for the milking routine.

So, fingers (and hooves) crossed that those Angus boys can get the job done so that she can be a milk cow instead of beef.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Tub


My husband, bless his heart, loves me very much. (You know we southerners can say anything we want as long as we preface it with "Bless your heart"! ;-)

Currently we have 26 black sex link chicks in our bathtub. What does that have to do with my husband loving me? Well, the truth is, even though my husband is a third generation farmer, he really does not care to have critters in the house. I remember the first time I brought birds in the house he was not very happy about it. Now, he just kind of looks the other way and knows I'm gonna do it. When they start stinking too terribly bad, he will start complaining, and I will take them out to their chicken house. I just hate to take them out until I know that they have a good start in doors where it is warm and free from drafts!

The tub is a real luxury but the truth is we hardly ever use it. It takes so much hot water to fill it up and I find when I do get in it, that I promptly fall asleep. I have raised a litter of orphaned pups in that tub and raised more peeps than I care to remember. So far, I have not had a baby calf or goat kid in the tub, but I'm sure sooner or later it will happen. Not the use my husband intended for that big tub when he installed it, I'm sure, but I must say it's the perfect place to give baby birds and animals a good start in life!

Note: Black sex links are a cross between a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire rooster and a Barred Rock hen. The Black Rock, is another name for a black sex-link.
Sex-links are cross-bred chickens whose color at hatching is differentiated by sex, thus making chick sexing an easier process. (Wikepedia)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Zucchini Bread


Zucchini Bread

3 eggs well beaten
1 cup melted butter (recipe calls for oil)
1 cup honey (recipe calls for 2 cups sugar)
2 cups grated zucchini
Vanilla to taste
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mix first five ingredients. Sift the remaining ingredients. Mix all ingredients together. (I just dump everything in my Kitchen Aid Mixer and mix.) Bake in two greased bread pans for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Bread





Sweet and Simple Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups hot water
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey
3 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 egg
5 cups freshly milled flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp gluten

Combine water, butter and honey. Add 3 cups of lfour, yeast, salt and gluten. Mix thoroughly. Add the remaining flour and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Let rise until double. Shape into loaves or rolls. Place in greased pans and let rise again. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

I Did It


I did it. Every since a friend gave me some freshly ground flour that I made into delicious bread, I have been on a mission to find the best grain mill for our family. I finally bought a Nutrimill and today I am busy grinding and baking!

This link explains why fresh, ground, whole wheat flour is so much better than anything you can buy in the store:

Did you know that whole wheat flour looses as much as 45% of its nutrients within 24 hours of being milled, and then becomes toxic and rancid within just a few days at room temperature?



Whole wheat is an excellent source of vitamin E, which protects against heart disease, cancer and even helps to keep skin looking youthful. Each grain of wheat is protected by a layer of bran on the outside, and as long as it is kept dry and the bran is unbroken, wheat berries keep indefinitely without any loss of nutrients.



However, as soon as wheat berries are cracked open, as in milling, their rich supply of vitamin E oil begins to oxidize, causing it to become rancid and highly carcinogenic. When oils become rancid, they lose their nutritional benefits and instead become toxic to the body. Any antioxidants, like vitamin E, are then used to neutralize the free radicals created by the rancid oils.



If you are eating whole grain flour because of its health benefits, it is important to consider the freshness of the flour as well. Within 24 hours of being milled, whole wheat flour looses as much as 45% of its nutrients to oxidation. And in only 3 days, up to 90% of the nutrients are lost!



In about the same amount of time it takes for milk to become sour at room temperature, the natural oils in whole wheat flour become rancid. Just think of what happens to natural flour that sits on a shelf at your grocery store for months before you buy it!



The very best way to get the maximum nutrition from whole wheat flour is to buy whole grain wheat and grind it at home just before you bake with it. Any unused flour should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.



Freshly milled whole grain flour is sweet and nutty, and very mild flavored.

I’ve been making bread for our family for over 13 years, but it was only last year that we bought a grain mill and switched from store bought flour to milling our own flour at home.



The desire to feed our family the most nutrient dense diet possible was a big factor in our decision to invest in a wheat grinder, but what none of us realized is that the flavor of home ground wheat can hardly be compared to the sharp taste of wheat flour that has been sitting out on a shelf somewhere. It’s almost like using an entirely different product!



When we first started grinding our own grain, we immediately noticed a major difference in fresh vs. store bought flour. Our bread, pancakes and noodles were much tastier, and definitely more tender. We would never go back to using the store bought stuff!



A variety of grains for a variety of uses



After we bought our grain mill, we began to experiment with different grains for different kinds of recipes. The only kind of whole wheat flour available at most grocery stores is made from hard red wheat, but there are many other varieties. We use hard red wheat, hard white wheat, and spelt for perfect 100% whole wheat bread, and soft white wheat for light, fluffy pancakes, muffins, scones and flaky biscuits and pie crusts.



Wheat for storage



Another reason we like to grind our own flour is that we can keep pails of whole grains on hand for use throughout the year, and we don’t need to run to the grocery store for more flour every week. This has the added benefit of security in knowing we are well provided for in case of any kind of natural or economic disaster. In an emergency, wheat can be made into bread or pancakes, or it can be sprouted to add the benefit of green vegetables to a survival diet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm a Gambler


I have never bought a lottery ticked in my life and would not typically call myself a gambler. The truth is, if you farm, you are somewhat of a gambler. A farmer can be educated about the best farming methods, about the animals they raise, and put in a lot of hard work only to have a natural disaster destroy the crops or an unexpected illness take the life of animals. We do everything in our power to "stack the odds" in our favor but when it comes down to the game, it's pretty much a matter of luck in the end.

This time, I decided to gamble and put my money on a gal named Sugar. Sugar is a 3/4 Jersey and 1/4 Dutch Belted heifer that started her life on my friend's little homestead and made her way to me when she was two months old. Since my breeding plan for my Jerseys is to some day have all registered Miniature Jerseys in my herd, I did not buy Sugar with the intentions of keeping her. When she was around eight months old I sold her along with another heifer to a nice family in West Virginia. It turns out that Sugar had a few things come up that were not in her favor. For one thing, she is quite shy. She is not mean or aggressive but timid and does not seek human contact. In addition, her owners tried several times to have her artificially inseminated and it appeared that she was not getting bred. The final straw came when it was believed that she was nursing on Scarlette her herd mate.

Now in most situations, especially with the fear that she might be an adult cow that would nurse on other adult cows, she would have immediately been shipped to the butcher and become beef. When Sugar's owners decided to try to sell her, I could not get her out of my mind. My gut just kept telling me that this girl needed to be given a chance. I waited a while thinking maybe someone else would buy her, but when there were no immediate takers, I could not get past the feeling that I just had to give her a chance.

Granted, it's a big gamble and a winner has not yet been declared. This gamble could go either way at this point. However, I am greatly encouraged by the way things are progressing.

First, Sugar had been put in with our two Angus bulls so that they could have a shot at breeding her. The day came for her to cycle and she did not. That tells me that either she was actually bred the last AI attempt or she is not going to breed. She has been thoroughly checked by a Veterinarian in West Virginia and was declared reproductively sound. I actually had her checked before I sold her by my vet here and he also declared her to be reproductively sound. So, I am waging my bets that she is already bred.

The next thing we did was to bring Sugar to the house and put her in with the lactating dairy cows. I wanted to know right away if she was indeed a bovine that was going to be trying to nurse on the cows. I watched her diligently for several days and never did I see any attempt by her to nurse any of the cows. I have watched a number of times as she stood close to Emmy while she nursed her calf Ezekiel. This gave Sugar every opportunity to reach down and try to nurse as well. However, she has never made an attempt while I was watching. Because I obviously can't watch them all the time, I have been faithful to make sure that all of the cows are still giving their normal amount of milk. If any of the cows came up seriously lacking in milk production for a day, then I would suspect that Sugar might be stealing milk. However, the milk production has been has been better than ever. I'm still holding my breath but I gambling that this girl is not going to be a problem.

Finally, we have the timidity to deal with. We are working on that. At first, Sugar would not let us even get close enough to catch her. We knew that her former owners had the same problem with her, but we also knew that once caught, she actually leads well thanks to all the great work they did with her. Not having a stanchion at her former home, made it even more difficult to work with her. We were able to lure her into the stanchion for the first time with food and with Mike and I both guiding and encouraging her. She did great. As soon as she was in the headgate she settled right in and let us rub her, brush her and even touch her udder. She never lifted a foot and seemed to rather enjoy our touch.

We then hit about a 36 hour snag where she would not come into the stanchion. We had to finally resort to going into the field with a bucket of feed, lure her to the feed and then walk her into the stanchion. This was not a horrible experience for Sugar or for us, but lets just say she was still hesitant about coming in.

I am happy to say that in the last two days she has made tremendous strides in the right direction. One time she actually walked in voluntarily when I simply looked at her, showed her the feed and then walked away and ignored her. The last two days, she has allowed us to approach her, put a hand on her halter and walk her to the stanchion without a lead rope and without any struggle. Once in the stanchion, she is always the perfect lady and ...............well, as sweet as Sugar.

Yesterday was really a great day. I released her from the stanchion and she turned around and walked out. Then she came back. She sniffed around the milking shed for a few minutes and then she walked up to me and sniffed me. I stood very still. She walked out again and I watched her. She then turned around, sniffed the shed again and then came back to me. After sniffing me again she proceeded to walk away. At this point, she turned around and looked at me and I thought she was going to come back for the third time, but instead she walked slowly away as if she were processing everything she had just experienced.

I am greatly encouraged and really hoping that everything works out for Sugar. I do not know yet if she is bred and hesitate to do biotracking on her because she has a great fear of needles. I am thinking I will just keep her in with our little Jersey bull and wait to see if she cycles. If she does not, the next time I have the vet out, I will have him palpate her. I'm not in any hurry. I've placed my bets on Sugar. Let's hope the gamble pays off!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Little Davie & Edy

Edy and Little Dave are romancing in a pasture all by themselves. Edy is in standing heat today. I am not sure if Little Davie is going to be "bull" enough yet to get the job done as he is just a year old and only 34 inches tall. He is certainly giving it his best effort. I will be watching to see if Edy comes back in heat in 21 days.

I would rather not have a January calf, however, I need someone to freshen in the winter so that I have milk available all year around for my share members. Edy is the right cow to freshen in the winter as she never has a problem keeping up her body condition. She is also a great little milker. At only 42 inches tall, she gives me as much much as my standard cows on a fraction of the feed. She is averaging about four gallons a day right now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Color of Milk


It seems that some folks are turned off by the rich, creamy color of the milk from grass fed cows. It's no secret that a lot of folks have a real aversion to drinking unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk. As a result, the only milk these folks are familiar with is a very "white" looking milk that they pick up in the grocery store.

So what makes some milk have that rich, cream color and the butter made from the cream a bright yellow? The answer is green grass.

Green grass contains beta carotene. Beta Carotene gives vegetables such as carrots, spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes their vibrant colors.

From the Mayo Clinic:

The name "carotene" was first coined in the early 19th Century by the scientist Wachenroder after he crystallized this compound from carrot roots. Beta-carotene is a member of the carotenoids, which are highly pigmented (red, orange, yellow), fat-soluble compounds naturally present in many fruits, grains, oils, and vegetables (green plants, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, apricots, and green peppers). Alpha, beta, and gamma carotene are considered provitamins because they can be converted to active vitamin A.

The carotenes possess antioxidant properties. Vitamin A serves several biological functions including involvement in the synthesis of certain glycoproteins. Vitamin A deficiency leads to abnormal bone development, disorders of the reproductive system, xerophthalmia (a drying condition of the cornea of the eye), and ultimately death.

Commercially available beta-carotene is produced synthetically or from palm oil, algae, or fungi. Beta-carotene is converted to retinol, which is essential for vision and is subsequently converted to retinoic acid, which is used for processes involving growth and cell differentiation.



While beta carotene is a very important aspect of a healthy diet, beta carotene supplements are thought to possibly cause cancer. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to make sure to eat foods rich in beta carotene rather than take supplements.

Compared to industrial milk, milk from grass-fed cows contain more omega-3 fats, more vitamin A, and more beta-carotene and other antioxidants. When I look at the cream colored milk from my Jersey cows or the dark yellow color of the butter made from their cream, I know I am consuming food that is good for me.

Note: The commercial butter makers actually add food color to the butter to make it look yellow. I do not add color to any butter that I make. My butter is not as yellow in the winter when the Jerseys are on hay rather than grass. However, the green alfalfa hay helps to keep the butter from being completely white. Nothing compares to butter made in the spring when the grass is green and lush!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Week of Changes


There have been a number of changes on the farm in the past week. PJ went to Michigan with his new family. I hear he made the trip very well and is doing great in his new herd. Nellson, went from a bull to a steer. He then went to his new home in West Virginia. I hear he is doing fine as well. Getting him loaded was pretty stressful for me. With all the bovines I have dealt with, I have never had one lay down and act like he was dying, but that is exactly what Nellson did when we loaded him onto the trailer. Tomorrow, Maya will be going to a new home. She is actually going to another small herd where she will be part of a cow share program. In addition, Sugar who was part of our herd from the time she was around two months old until she was around eight months old (if I remember correctly) will be coming back to the farm. It is my intention to work with her some and see if she is going to make good family cow material. If she does, then she will be put on the market when she is confirmed bred. If I feel she is not family cow quality, then I may keep her in my herd and milk her myself.With all the changes, Little Davie (now a year old) was left without any herd mates in the back pasture. He has now graduated to the front pasture with the cows. He is a year old this month and does not quite come up to my waste. He looks so funny out in the pasture with the standard size Jersey cows. Zeke and Davie have become really good buddies now that they are together in the same pasture.

Besides all the bovine happenings, we have finally been able to get all of our potatoes in the ground. Normally, we have them in the ground by St. Patrick's day, but were not able to do so with the ground being so wet this year. We finished them up to day.

(Picture of Davie with some of the "big" girls.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!!!!




May the promise of the resurrection bring you peace and joy today and always.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Birth of a Calf in Photos






It has been my desire for a while to get a series of good photos of the birth of a calf. When my friend Trina posted the following pictures of her cow giving birth, I asked her if I could share the pictures on my blog. Trina and Blossom were very gracious to allow me to do so!

Planting Potatoes in Photos





Grass Tetany

It's the time of year when bovine owners need to be aware of grass tetany and how to prevent it. Here is a helpful article on the subject:


Grass tetany is a serious, often fatal metabolic disorder characterized by low levels of magnesium in the blood serum of cattle. It is also called grass staggers and wheat pasture poisoning. It primarily affects older cows nursing calves less than two months old, but it may also occur in young or dry cows and growing calves. It happens most frequently when cattle are grazing succulent, immature grass and often affects the best cows in the herd.

High nitrogen fertilization reduces magnesium availability, especially on soils high in potassium or aluminum. Grass tetany occurs most frequently in the spring, often following a cool period (temperatures between 45 and 60°F) when grass is growing rapidly, but also is seen in the fall with new growth of cool season grass or wheat pastures.

Typical signs of grass tetany begin with an uncoordinated gait and terminate with convulsions, coma, and death. Animals on pasture are often found dead without illness having been observed. Evidence of thrashing will usually be apparent around the cow if grass tetany is the cause of death.

The prevention of grass tetany depends largely on avoiding conditions that cause it. Graze less susceptible animals on high risk pastures. Steers, heifers, dry cows, and cows with calves over 4 months old are less likely to develop tetany. The use of dolomite or high Mg limestone on pastures and including legumes in pasture mixes will decrease the incidence of tetany in grazing cattle. In areas where tetany frequently occurs, feed cows supplemental magnesium. Supplementation increases blood magnesium levels and alleviates much of the grass tetany problem. Adequate amounts of magnesium must be consumed on a daily basis.




Friday, April 2, 2010

Sourdough English Muffins


I have begun playing with sourdough and was really excited to come across the following recipe for Sourdough English Muffins. I made them tonight and they turned out great!

Click here for the recipe.

What is a Freemartin?

When a twins are born and the calves are a bull and a heifer, the heifer in most cases is left infertile. They are known as a freemartin.

What is a "Freemartin"?
Freemartinism is recognized as one of the most severe forms of sexual abnormality among cattle. This condition causes infertility in the female cattle born twin to a male. When a heifer twin shares the uterus with a bull fetus, they also share the placental membranes connecting the fetuses with the dam.

A joining of the placental membranes occurs at about the fortieth day of pregnancy, and thereafter, the fluids of the two fetuses are mixed. This causes exchange of blood and antigens carrying characteristics that are unique to each heifers and bulls. When these antigens mix, they affect each other in a way that causes each to develop with some characteristics of the other sex.

Although the male twin in this case is only affected by reduced fertility, in over ninety percent of the cases, the female twin is completely infertile. Because of a transfer of hormones or a transfer of cells, the heifer's reproductive tract is severely underdeveloped and sometimes even contains some elements of a bull's reproductive tract. A freemartin is genetically female, but has many characteristics of a male. The ovaries of the freemartin do not develop correctly, and they remain very small. Also, the ovaries of a freemartin do not produce the hormones necessary to induce the behavioral signs of heat. The external vulvar region can range from a very normal looking female to a female that appears to be male. Usually, the vulva is normal except that in some animals an enlarged clitoris and large tufts of vulvar hair exist. Freemartinism cannot be prevented; however, it can be diagnosed in a number of ways ranging from simple examination of the placental membranes to chromosomal evaluation. The cattleman can predict the reproductive value of this heifer calf at birth and save the feed and development costs if he is aware of the high probability of freemartinism. In some cases, there are no symptoms of freemartinism because the male twin may have been aborted at an earlier stage of gestation.

Estimates of the percentage of natural beef cattle births that produce twins vary. One estimate (Gilmore) puts the percentage at about .5% or 1 in every 200 births. Approximately one-half of the sets of twins should contain both a bull and a heifer calf

Link to this article with a very cool picture.

Calving

Three stages of Paturition:



Stage 1
The first stage of parturition is dilation of the cervix. The normal cervix is tightly closed right up until the cervical plug is completely dissolved. In stage 1 cervical dilation begins some 4 to 24 hours before the completion of parturition. During this time the “progesterone block” is no longer present and the uterine muscles are becoming more sensitive to all factors that increase the rate and strength of contractions. At the beginning, the contractile forces primarily influence the relaxation of the cervix but uterine muscular activity is still rather quiet. Stage 1 is likely to go completely unnoticed, but there may be some behavioral differences such as isolation or discomfort. At the end of stage one, there may be come behavioral changes such as elevation of the tail, switching of the tail and increased mucous discharge.
Stage 2
The second stage of parturition is defined as the delivery of the newborn. It begins with the entrance of the membranes and fetus into the pelvic canal and ends with the completed birth of the calf. So the second stage is the one in which we really are interested. This is where all the action is. Clinically, and from a practical aspect we would define it as the appearance of membranes or water bag at the vulva. The traditional texts, fact sheets, magazines, and other publications that we read state that stage 2 in cattle lasts from 2 to 4 hours. Data from Oklahoma State University and the USDA experiment station at Miles City, Montana, would indicate that stage two is much shorter being approximately 60 to 90 minutes for heifers and 30 to 60 minutes for cows. In these studies, assistance was given if stage two progressed more than two hours after the appearance of water bag at the vulva. The interesting thing about the data was that heifers calving unassisted did so in an hour after the initiation of stage two and cows did so within 30 minutes of the initiation of stage two. Those that took longer needed assistance. These and other data would indicate that normal stage two of parturition would be redefined as approximately 60 to 90 minutes for heifers and 30 to 60 minutes for cows. In heifers, not only is the pelvic opening smaller, but also the soft tissue has never been expanded. Older cows have had deliveries before and birth should go quite rapidly unless there is some abnormality such as a very large calf, backwards calf, leg back or twins.

Stage 3
The third stage of parturition is the shedding of the placenta or fetal membranes. In cattle this normally occurs in less than 8-12 hours. The membranes are considered retained if after 12 hours they have not been shed. Years ago it was considered necessary to remove the membranes by manually “unbuttoning” the attachments. Research has shown that manual removal is detrimental to uterine health and future conception rates. Administration of antibiotics usually will guard against infection and the placenta will slough out in 4-7 days. Contact your veterinarian for the proper management of retained placenta.

Storing Colostrum

Information on storing colostrum from Oklahoma State:

Colostrum can be refrigerated for only about 1 week before quality (immunoglobulin or antibody concentration) declines. If you store colostrum, unfrozen be sure that the refrigerator is cold (33-35°F, 1-2°C) to reduce the onset of bacterial growth. If the colostrum begins to show signs of souring, the quality of the colostrum is reduced. The immunglobulin (very large protein) molecules in colostrum that bring passive immunity to the calf will be broken down by the bacteria, reducing the amount of immunity that the colostrum can provide. Thus, it is important that colostrum be stored in the refrigerator for only a week or less.

How long can the frozen colostrum be stored? We often answer this question flippantly by saying, "just as long as you would store frozen fish to eat!" Colostrum may be frozen for up to a year without significant breakdown of the immunoglobulins. However this is one example where improved technology is not in our favor. Frost-free freezers are not the best for long-term colostrum storage. They go through cycles of freezing and thawing that can allow the colostrum to partially thaw. This can greatly shorten colostrum storage life. Freezing colostrum in 1 or 2 quart bottles or 1 quart in 1 or 2 gallon zip-closure storage bags is an excellent method of storing colostrum. Many producers have had great success using the zip-closure bags. Use two bags to minimize the chance of leaking, and lay them flat in the freezer. By laying the bags flat, the rate of thawing can be increased, thereby reducing the delay between time of calving and feeding. The freezer should be cold (-20°C, -5°F) - it's a good idea to check your freezer occasionally.

More Information On Colostrum and Newborns

More information from Oklahoma State on the importance of colostrum in newborns:

Most Passive Immunity Occurs in the First 6 Hours
Resistance to disease is greatly dependent on antibodies or immunoglobulins and can be either active or passive in origin. In active immunity, the body produces antibodies in response to infection or vaccination. Passive immunity gives temporary protection by transfer of certain immune substances from resistant individuals. An example of passive immunity is passing of antibodies from dam to calf via the colostrum (first milk after calving). This transfer only occurs during the first few hours following birth. New research is indicating that successful transfer of passive immunity enhances disease resistance and performance through the feedlot phase.
Timing of colostrum feeding is important because the absorption of immunoglobulin from colostrum decreases linearly from birth. "Intestinal closure" occurs when very large molecules are no longer released into the circulation and this occurs before the specialized absorptive cells are sloughed from the gut epithelium. In calves, closure is virtually complete 24 hours after birth, although efficiency of absorption declines from birth, particularly after 12 hours. Feeding may induce earlier closure, but there is little colostral absorption after 24 hr of age even if the calf is starved. This principle of timing of colostrum feeding holds true whether the colostrum is directly from the first milk of the dam or supplied by hand feeding the baby calf previously obtained colostrum.

Provide high risk baby calves (born to thin first calf heifers or calves that endured a dystocia) at least 2 quarts of fresh or thawed frozen colostrum within the first 6 hours of life and another 2 quarts within another 12 hours. This is especially important for those baby calves too weak to nurse naturally. Thaw frozen colostrum slowly in a microwave oven or warm water so as to not allow it to over heat. Therefore denaturation of the protein does not occur. If at all possible, feed the calf natural colostrum first, before feeding commercial colostrum substitutes.

How Much Colostrum Does My Newborn Calf Need?

Bear with me folks. I have all this information that I have been keeping in other places and would like to get it all on this particular blog for easy reference. Now that I have the search bar at the top of the blog, I can go back and find things easily when I need to. (That is, IF I remember to label posts!)

Making sure a new born calf gets the right amount of colostrum is very important. Without colostrum, the calf does not have the immunities it needs for good health and can mean the difference between life and death.

Information from Oklahoma State regarding how much colostrum to give at birth:

A practical "rule-of-thumb" is to feed 5 to 6% of the calf's body weight within the first 6 hours and repeat the feeding when the calf is about 12 hours old. For an 80 pound calf, this will equate to approximately 2 quarts of colostrum per feeding.

How Likely Is Your Cow To Have Multiple Births?

It seems if you want to increase your chances of having multiple births in Dairy catttle, then you should choose Brown Swiss! With beef cattle, it seems you are more likely to get twins from Angus than from Herefords.

Incidence of Multiple Births in Beef and Dairy Cattle

Producers and newspaper writers often call to find out the probability of triplets or quads happening in their herd or in herds near them. Very little research is conducted to specifically examine the incidence of multliple births. Most recently, Rutledge et al, (1975) reported on the the frequency of twins in beef and dairy cattle. This paper was in the Journal of Animal Science, Volume 40; page 803.
They found small differences in the likelihood of twins in two different breeds of beef cattle. Herefords were reported to have 0.4% or about 1 out of 250 births to be twins. Angus had a slightly higher incidence of twins at 1.1% or about 1 out of each 100 births. Dairy cattle have been notorious for more twinning. This study indicated that Holsteins and Brown Swiss have 3.4% and 8.9% twins, respectively.

To report the incidence of triplets and quadruplets, a very old paper published in the 1920 Journal of Dairy Science (Volume 3; page 260) by Jones and Rouse was found. They indicated that the incidence of triplets in beef cattle averaged 1 in 105,000 births, but was much more likely to occur in Brown Swiss (1 in 3500 births). Quadruplets are extremely rare in beef cattle, occurring naturally at the rate of 1 in 665,000 deliveries and 1 in 14,000 births in Brown Swiss.


While twins are absolutely adorable, in reality we always get a little nervous if we think our bovines might be having twins. Having twins certainly can complicate things. Not only can it make the birthing more difficult, but it can also present problems when the cow won't accept both calves. Dairy cows seem a little more accepting of feeding two babies. In beef herds, we often have to bottle feed one of the calves. Fortunately, when our Angus twins were born recently, the momma cow did eventually accept both of them and they are doing very well.

Signs of Impending Calving

Great Information from Oklahoma State:

Signs of impending calving in cows or heifers
As the calving season approaches, the cows will show typical signs that will indicate parturition is imminent. Changes that are gradually seen are udder development, or making bag and the relaxation and swelling of the vulva or springing. These indicate the cow is due to calve in the near future. There is much difference between individuals in the development of these signs and certainly age is a factor. The first calf heifer, particularly in the milking breeds, develops udder for a very long time, sometimes for two or three months before parturition. The springing can be highly variable too. Most people notice that Brahman influence cattle seem to spring much more than does a Holstein. Typically, in the immediate 2 weeks preceding calving, springing becomes more evident, the udder is filling, and one of the things that might be seen is the loss of the cervical plug. This is a very thick tenacious, mucous material hanging from the vulva. It may be seen pooling behind the cow when she is lying down. Some people mistakenly think this happens immediately before calving, but in fact this can be seen weeks before parturition and therefore is only another sign that the calving season is here. The immediate signs that usually occur within 24 hours of calving would be relaxation of the pelvic ligaments and strutting of the teats. These can be fairly dependable for the owner that watches his cows several times a day during the calving season. The casual observer or even the veterinarian who is knowledgeable of the signs but sees the herd infrequently cannot accurately predict calving time from these signs. The relaxation of the pelvic ligaments really can not be observed in fat cows, (body condition score 7 or greater). However, relaxations of the ligaments can be seen very clearly in thin or moderate body condition cows and can be a clue of parturition within the next 12 - 24 hours. These changes are signs the producer or herdsman can use to more closely pinpoint calving time. Strutting of the teats is not really very dependable. Some heavy milking cows will have strutting of the teats as much as two or three days before calving and on the other hand, a thin poor milking cow may calve without strutting of the teats. Another thing that might be seen in the immediate 12 hours before calving would be variable behavior such as a cow that does not come up to eat, or a cow that isolates herself into a particular corner of the pasture. However, most of them have few behavioral changes until the parturition process starts.

Source: Calving Management, OSU Extension Circular E-906.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sourdough Pizza Crust

1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour (plus a little more or less to adjust consistency)

Combine ingredients. (You may need to use a little more/a little less flour.) Knead dough and then let set for 30 minutes. Dough does not need to rise. Roll out dough to the desired shape and thickness.

April is National Donate Life Month



When I started keeping a separate blog for my grief journey, I decided to limit my entries here to mostly farm related posts. So, please forgive me as I digress from this format and ask that each person who reads this at least consider becoming an organ doner.

April is National Donate Life Month and this is a good time to consider giving the greatest gift that you could ever give.............. the opportunity to allow someone else a chance at life. Each organ and tissue donor saves or improves the lives of as many as 50 people. Giving the "Gift of Life" may lighten the grief of the donor's own family. Many donor families say that knowing other lives have been saved helps them cope with their tragic loss.

In the last 18 months, our family has lost two of our precious children. Angela, oue 16 year old niece, went to heaven in October after a terrible vehicle accident. Angela had expressed to her family and others the very strong desire that should anything ever happen to her, she wished to be an organ donor. Angela's mother honored her wishes and others now have a quality of life that they may have never known if it were not for Angela's gift.

My son, Joshua, who had just turned 18 shortly before he was killed in September of 2008 was also a young person who saw the importance of giving life. As a young man in high school, he enjoyed donating blood. When he got his driver's license in the state of Virginia as a minor, I had to sign in order for him to be an organ donor. While it is unclear whether the harvest team was able to use any of his organs after his death, we do know that the tissue he donated was used to help others.

I would strongly urge you to give consideration to becoming a tissue or organ donor . For more information, please check out this link.

Thank you.

The Heat Is On!



It's hard to believe that my "little" girls are growing up! Princess is now 17 months old, Liza and Tori are both 12 months old, and the baby, Promise, is six months old. Little Dave, the bull is now 12 months old. What all of that means is that this summer I will begin breeding my second generation. This is pretty exciting to me because I will be one step closer to having the herd I have been working towards for three and a half years now. My desire is to someday have an entire herd of miniature cattle but it has been a slow process considering that I have had many more bull calves than heifer calves during this time. We typically strive to breed the Jerseys when they are around 15 - 18 months of age. I have been holding off a bit on Princess not only because she is so small but also because I would rather have her first calf be born in the spring rather than in the winter.

With all these thoughts of breeding the young heifers in the coming months, I decided it was probably best I started keeping a little better track of their heat cycles. Since Tori was in standing heat today, I can anticipate that she will come back in heat in 21 days. By keeping a record of when she cycles, I will know when to put her in with the bull (or if I were going to artificially inseminate, this information would be even more helpful!)

I found a great article online called Heat Detection Strategies for Dairy Cattle. While the article is really written for large dairies, it has a lot of useful information even for the family cow owner. For instance, this section on what signs to look for is very informative for individuals who may not be familiar with understanding the heat cycle of cattle:

More than 90 percent of cows should show heat by 50 days postpartum. Cows should cycle every 21 days by that time.
The most reliable sign a cow is in heat is standing to be mounted by a herd mate. Each stand lasts only 4 to 6 seconds. Cows average about 1½ mounts per hour and are in heat 6-8 hours.
Therefore, cows are only in heat a little more than a third of a day and only spend a total of 3 to 5 minutes actually standing to be mounted. It is easy to under-stand why cows must be observed for heat several times daily.
Also, producers should monitor secondary signs of heat. These include:
* mounting other cows
* clear mucous discharge
* chin resting and rubbing
* swollen red vulva, frequent urination
* muddy flanks and ruffled tailhead
* bawling, restlessness, sniffing behavior
* decreased milk production and off feed
These indicators may signal that a cow is in heat, coming into heat or going out of heat. However, base the decision to inseminate on standing heat, not on secondary signs of heat.


The article goes on to explain when the optimum time for breeding would be within the heat cycle:


Highest conception occurs if animals are bred 4 to 14 hours after onset of heat. With good heat detection, time of breeding should follow the AM-PM rule. An animal in heat in the AM should be inseminated that PM. An animal in heat in the PM should be bred the next AM.
Although the traditional AM-PM rule has proven reliable in most cases, studies in Virginia and Tennessee have shown no difference in conception when breeding cows on a once-a-day schedule in the morning compared to the AM-PM rule. Animals in heat in the AM are bred that morning. Animals in heat in the PM (after 12 noon) are bred the next morning (or AM). Breeding animals once per day would be more efficient for many Georgia producers, especially when artificially breeding heifers. However, producers must continue to monitor heat activity a minimum of twice each day (AM and PM). Producers can consider once-a-day breeding as an option to the AM-PM rule.


Another section of the article I found to be of particular interest was the segment discussing the use of herd mates to help detect heat:

Herdmates play an important role in a heat detection program. Pregnant cows, or those in the early half or luteal phase of their cycle, do not make good heat detectors. Cows in heat, or cows coming into or going out of heat, make excellent detectors. As the number of cows in heat increases, the number of mounts per heat period also increases.

Well, there was certainly a lot of activity out in the field today and there was no doubt that Tori was in standing heat. I will be watching and keeping track of her cycles and probably in July or August be putting her in with the bull.

Isn't this fun? I love it!

(Picture of Pretty Victoria)

April Fools


Usually I am on top of things for April Fool's Day. In the past five years that Mike and I have been married, he has never been able to trick me into believing any of his April Fool's Day jokes. This morning, I was just getting out of bed when he ran into the room an exclaimed, "The cows are all out!". Since we had just turned them out into a new pasture, further away from the house, my instant reaction was to think that the neighbor who wasn't too happy about our building a fence there last year, was going to be really upset! It was pretty funny when Mike told me it was only an April Fool's joke.

You would think after that, I would be on my toes. However, Mike later called to tell me that he had four newborn calves in the beef herd this morning. After I got all excited, he said, "April Fools". There was only one calf born last night.

If that wasn't bad enough, I fell for an article about Michael Pollan promoting Wendy's, The article stated thate he would be doing a commercial for them for a new grass fed beef burger. After I posted the information on my Facebook page, I then realized by following the links that it had been an April Fools joke after I had already made a fool of myself publicly.

Strike three. I'm out!