It has been a while so how about a homestead update and health update. I republished a couple of podcasts. I hope you got a chance to listen for the first time or relisten if you were interested in the topic of cheese.
It’s going to be close, but I think I can get this podcast published today. Let’s hope all goes well and I am able to accomplish it. If it doesn’t, I am likely to abandon the effort for another week. My life is topsy-turvy and I only have so much time each day to take care of any given task. When things don’t go well, they get pushed to the next day. It’s my method of reducing stress. Let’s pause a moment.
I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. Thank you for hanging in there with me. I appreciate you all so much. Let’s have a homestead update and then a little info on the status of our health here at Peaceful Heart Farm
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
The cows are coming up first.
Last night at about 9:15 we got a call from the neighbors across the street. Two of our cows were in their yard. Who could they be? There were two groups of cows with two animals. I knew it was most likely the two that were scheduled for freezer camp this morning. Sure enough, those two guys were out there wreaking havoc in the neighbor’s yard and trying to get into the pasture with their cows.
It was a little harrowing to be trying to work with two very large boys in the dark. However, all of our cows are fairly docile. They were upset and confused of course. I believe that I’ve mentioned before that a cow does not like anything out of the ordinary. They want things to be the same all the time. Routine, routine, routine. So needless to say, everything about this situation was out of the ordinary.
Perrin is Secured
Nearby, just 20 or 30 feet down the driveway, was a gate to a paddock. Scott opened that gate and Perrin almost immediately went inside. Rocketman was a different story. He went back and forth in front of that gate at least three or four times, never venturing inside. Finally, he started down the driveway and Scott herded him that way and away from the neighbor’s cows. I followed with the car. Of course, once we got him down the driveway the next challenge was finding a way to get him into a pasture.
Scott chased him up and down one fence a couple of times. I opened up a couple of gates. One was a gate back to where he escaped. The other was into the field with our nursery girls. It was a little risky letting him in there, but we needed some way to get him into some fence somewhere. Once he was back inside our perimeter fence, there were many options as to how to move forward.
Rocketman is Secured
Rocketman eagerly went through the very wide-open gate into the pasture with the girls. The girls themselves were way out in the field. We needed to get him contained before he joined with them. That would be a disaster if we had to single him out from that crowd in the dark. Scott quickly contained the girls in paddock number one. Perrin was in paddock number two. And Rocketman was in the travel lane that joins with all paddocks.
The goal was to isolate both boys in the small holding area just inside the gate I opened for Rocketman. He had already walked most of the way down the travel lane toward the other paddocks. Scott met him coming the other way while herding Perrin down the travel lane toward the holding area. I was over in paddock number four which runs directly alongside the travel lane. I wanted to be close but not in the travel lane. That would have just confused everything and possibly herded them back out into the field in an attempt to get away from me.
Chasing Cows Around Paddock Four
Now for the next debacle. There are two gates at the bottom of a hollow. One opens into paddock four where I am and one opens or closes the travel lane where Scott and the boys are walking. I’m a little way up the hill in paddock four, just monitoring how they are moving. Everything looks Ok. Scott is coming down the travel lane headed toward the holding area. I just happened to mention that the gate into paddock four is open and they might come in there instead of continuing up the hill into the holding area. And you know what? That is exactly what they did. Now we are reduced to chasing them around paddock four, still trying to get them to go back through the gate and up to the small holding area.
All Ends Well
At some point I went down and closed the gate to the travel lane. No sense in letting them run back up that way. Now all we needed to do is get them to go through the other open gate out of paddock four and into the holding area. Somewhere along the way in this process, I noticed that part of the problem we were having is that they would go wherever the light was shining. Our headlamps and flashlights were actually confusing them. As Scott brought them back down the hill for the third or fourth time, I had just finished latching that travel lane gate. I shined my flashlight in the exact place I wanted them to go. It worked. Right through the gate they went. The travel lane gate was closed and now the gate into paddock four could be closed.
Whew what a trip. It lasted about 45 minutes. Shortly after 10 o’clock we were back inside and grateful for it.
The girls continued to happily exist up in paddock number one until the next morning. After loading the boys into the trailer, he opened the paddock gate allowing the girls access to the pond for water and cooling baths.
Last week we had our vet and AI tech out checking to see who is and is not pregnant. There was good news and bad news. Three are pregnant and three are not. We are going to roll with that for the spring.
The vet gave us health information on the entire herd. Buttercup did not conceive. This is two years in a row. The vet talked to us about her weight. Too much fat is not a good thing, especially in an aging cow. I won’t go into the details, but her opinion was that, not only had she not conceived, but it was going to be harder and harder for her to conceive as she ages more. She will need to be replaced.
Cloud was pregnant but miscarried. The vet was not too concerned about this. A late term spontaneous abortion would be a different story. But aborting early in the process is not so uncommon. We decided against trying to start over with any of our girls. Cloud is also marked to be replaced. Not because of her miscarriage, but because she kicks so much that we cannot milk her. Due to her strong angus genetics, she is also not really ideal as a milk cow. She simply does not produce as much milk as the others. Not by a long shot.
Claire appears to be pregnant but the vet could not 100% confirm it. She did mark her as pregnant but noted that she could not move the uterus to a position where she could know for sure. However, the fact that she could not move it was a good indication that Claire is pregnant. We shall see. Claire is also marked for replacement as she is getting on in years and is prone to mastitis. Her udder is in bad shape. She produces enough milk for her calf and not much more.
Now on to one we will keep for a little while, though we may offer her up to anyone looking for a family cow. Luna is pregnant. She is a heifer which means this will be her first calf. We do not expect her to produce lots and lots and lots of milk. Her mom is Cloud and Luna exhibits a lot of the angus coloring traits. We don’t really know how much milk she will produce, but it is likely that it will be substandard for what we are looking for in a milk cow. However, it may be perfect for someone looking for a little milk for their family and a good beef calf every year. We shall see. At this point, her fate is still up in the air.
Just a brief note on Violet. She did not make it into the rotation for artificial insemination. And we did not expose her to the bull. She is not pregnant and will remain open for the coming spring birthing season. In June next year, she will make it back into the breeding rotation. Violet has really good Normande breeding genetics. She has the BB kappa casein genetic trait that we want for cheesemaking. I asked about her weight and the vet said that even though her belly is really big and round, she is not overweight near her ovaries and therefore does not have Buttercup’s issue with weight. She’s a keeper for now.
The Jerseys, Butter and Rosie
Now on to the Jersey girls. Butter is a champ. She is pregnant and looking good. No issues there. Rosie, on the other hand, is not pregnant. The vet had already warned me that this was the most likely issue with a heifer having a calf when she was so very young. Getting pregnant again might take a little time.
Scott and I were just discussing this morning that we might want to have one cow that gives birth in the fall so we have some milk year-round. Right now, we dry them up in November and have no fresh milk products until March or April the following year. Rosie might be an ideal candidate for a fall delivery. We shall see. There are still a couple of months ahead of us before we would need to make that decision.
Any cow that gave birth in the fall would be completely out of the rotation for making cheese. Do we really want to give up that milk? It’s still under consideration. It would be nice to have a very small amount of milk to make cream cheese and yogurt throughout the winter. And perhaps a bit of camembert, reblochon or other cheese that we might make in smaller quantities for personal use.
If we decide to do that, we would do what is known as calf sharing. That means the calf stays with mom. Anytime we want to have milk, we simply separate them overnight and milk in the morning. For any of you thinking about having your own milk cow, this offers tremendous freedom. Normally, cows get milked twice a day. But if you are calf sharing, the calf takes care of the milk during the day. Overnight mom makes lots of milk and we get to keep that part. The calf rejoins mom and gets all of the luscious milk throughout the day. As I mentioned earlier, even Luna would produce enough milk to make this work. And if the day comes when you don’t want to milk at all on any given day, just leave calf and mom together for the entire day and night. It’s a win-win situation. The calf really appreciates the extra juice and the homesteader gets a break from milking every single day, seven days a week.
Well, that was a lot of cow updates. On to the sheep. I won’t be as long-winded here I promise.
Sheep and Mack
Mack is doing a good job of protecting the few sheep that we have left in the flock. We had one ewe that had an abscess on her chest. The vet drained it and gave us instructions on how to care for it. She is nearly healed already. Lambert, the ram had deeper issues. We don’t really know the cause but he had some pretty severe hoof issues. The vet seemed to think it was perhaps related to running around trying to get away from predators that precipitated this issue. His feet were really sore. She tried trimming his hooves but there wasn’t really much there. We treated all of the sheep for hoof scald and hoof rot. This is a problem that we are aware of but have never encountered. It usually happens when their hooves are not in top shape and they are exposed to a lot of water. And it appears, that lots of stress on the hooves can caused problems.
In addition to the hoof problem, Lambert also had an enormous worm load. He had lost lots and lots of weight. He is still actually quite weak. The worms suck the blood out via the stomach. The animal becomes very anemic. It does take some time to heal. Hopefully, Lambert will turn the corner soon and regain his weight and strength. He was pretty far gone and his health is still up in the air.
The remaining two seems to be in relatively good shape. We wormed all of them just to be sure. Lambert’s worm overload was also likely precipitated by the enormous amount of stress they all endured during the predator attacks. Stress can weaken their systems enough to give the worms the window of opportunity they need to begin to multiplying uncontrollably.
It has been a good long time since we had any issues with worms and we may have been a little lax. Going forward we will be keeping a closer eye on these guys. Hopefully, they will all stay relaxed and continue to live peacefully on the homestead.
We are also still looking to add a few more ewes to the flock soon. Rebuilding will take some time and we want to get started on that process. Two more dogs are lined up to help us out as we rebuild from the disastrous spring and summer. More on that later.
Personal Health Update
Before closing today I’ll give a brief health update for both Scott and myself. Scott is doing very well with treatment. He is two and a half weeks into seven weeks of radiation treatment. No chemo, thank the Lord. He drives an hour each way to receive the treatment, Monday through Friday. I will be accompanying him in the coming days.
He is managing the treatment very well. A sore throat makes it more and more difficult to eat. There are lots of treatments to help with that as well. Taking daily naps is a way of life for him. Sometimes for a couple of hours, but yesterday for only a half hour. We are still fairly early on in the treatment so we will see how he progresses.
Treatment Side Effects
At this point in the treatment, the worst side effects start to manifest. I already mentioned the difficulty in getting food down due to the pain in his throat. Add to this that his taste will change. Doctors have let him know that everything will begin to taste horrible. Their experience has shown that the taste issue will continue for a month or two or even more past the time when the treatments are complete. As you can imagine, this adds insult to injury. He already has trouble swallowing. How much worse will it be when he has to force himself to even put anything into his mouth?
Scott is a trooper. He is a stoic individual. I fully expect he will plow through this just like he does any other issue that presents itself to his world. I am here to support him in any way that I can.
My state of health is stable. That is the best way I can describe it. The time prior to the treatment starting was more stressful. I can say that at this point. Who knows what the future will hold? I could be off-the-scale stressed next week. The uncertainty of what the future would hold, one appointment after another in preparation for treatment and my own insecurity about whether I was mentally and emotionally up to the task of caring for Scott was wreaking havoc on my normal schedule and making me a little cray-cray. Now that we are settled into a routine, I am handling it much better. I feel much more relaxed and confident in my ability to respond to Scott’s needs as they arise.
We are blessed to have all of you praying for us. Thank you so much. Please continue to pray for us and we will pray for you.
That’s it for today’s podcast. I know the cow updates were long and perhaps too detailed. I didn’t even get to the quail. Well, too late now. I need to get this podcast published and then on to the evening chores. It’s time to wake Scott up from his nap so he can start on his evening routine. The regularity of routine is a life saver when your life is topsy-turvy.
Again, thank you so much for your prayers.
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Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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