The electric fence surrounding the pasture has two purposes. The first is to help keep out predators. The second is to help stop the cattle from damaging the fence. There are two electric lines that run along the fence on the outside. One electric line runs along the top of the fence, and the other electric line runs alongside the bottom outside of the fence, 8 to 12 inches off the ground. Even though the electric runs on the outside of the fence, it still helps to prevent the cattle from damaging the fence. If the cattle are pushing against the fence, the fence will electrify and get them off of it.
In order to install the electric fence, a system of insulators is required to keep the line secure and in check. I have tried three different kinds of insulators.
The most recent kind of insulator that I tried is the plastic wraparound insulator pictured above. I found that this kind of insulator works the best. These insulators are the quickest to install, they wrap around the wire and then are fastened with a U-nail. These insulators also do not break easily and will last a very long time. Therefore, out of the three kinds of insulators I have tried, these plastic wraparound insulators work the best for me.
See prior blog post for installation of the Stabiligrid.
It has been a year since I put in Stabiligrid around the cow barn and I can now say that the Stabiligrid has been a big success. The Stabiligrid has worked very well to limit the amount of mud that is in and around the cow barn. The Stabiligrid has also made it easier to remove the decomposed hay and manure. I use the decomposed hay and manure as fertilizer by spreading it around the pasture and around the trees and plants in my orchard. Two winters ago I lost 3 calves to the mud. This past winter not a single calf perished.
I hand shovel around the posts and use that decomposed hay and manure as fertilizer around the trees in the orchard.
The rest of the decomposed hay and manure I put into the manure spreader using the tractor. Later, I will spread it over the pasture with the manure spreader to fertilize the pasture.
The last 2 winters have been very wet and muddy due to less freezing weather and softer ground. The mud surrounding the feeders and in the barn was often up to a foot deep. I lost 3 calves 2 winters ago due to the mud. I was tired of walking through foot deep mud, so I decided to install a system called Stabiligrid. Stabiligrid is made of recycled plastic and offers a great solution for preventing deep mud. I installed the Stabiligrid around the feeders, around the outside of the barn and in the barn. I started by putting in a French drain system running in the lowest areas in a ditch 2 feet deep around the barn. The French drain pipe was placed in the ditch and covered with gravel. Next a 3 inch layer of gravel was placed over all the ground that was to have Stabiligrid. The Stabiligrid was placed on the 3 inches of gravel. The pieces connect together like legos. Finally, on top of the stable grid, another 2 inches of crushed gravel is placed. This top layer of gravel fills the holes in the Stabiligrid and covers it.
The Stabiligrid works great and provides a lasting solution to deep mud by its fantastic drainage capabilities. Stabiligrid is strong enough for a truck or heavy machinery to drive over it.
Stabiligrid has proved to be a great success over the past 12 months. Not only do I not have to walk through foot deep mud anymore, but also I did not loose a single calf this past winter.
This past spring, my son and I installed an Easy Way Cattle Oiler. We installed the oiler at the highest traffic location for our Longhorn Cattle. The oiler is filled with 5 gallons of kerosene mixed with 8 ounces of 10% permethrin. Permethrin is used for 2 years and then the third year the 5 gallons of kerosene is mixed with 1 quart of 57% malathion. The insect repellent is rotated like this every three years to avoid resistance. For 20 head of cattle, one mixture of 5 gallons has lasted the whole summer. There is a marked reduction of flies on my cattle this summer.
We also give are cattle mineral tubs with Altosid during the warm season. An example of a product with Altosid is Purina’s Wind and Rain® Fly Control with Altosid. Horn flies cause cattle stress. A moderate horn fly population (500 per animal) will suck 7 cc of blood per day. Typical weight loss is estimated at 15 to 50 pounds per yearling. Also, a 10- to 15-pound weaning weight advantage results when good horn fly control is used (from www.sweetpro.com/how-to-fly.html). Altosid passes through a cows digestive system and works by preventing horn fly larvae from hatching.
One of the requirements for raising Longhorn Cattle is to make sure they get plenty of minerals. Most ranchers make sure the cattle have access to a mineral tub at all times, replacing it as soon as it is empty. I have 15-20 cattle at all times and they go through one mineral tub per month. So within 2 years you have 24 of the things lying around. I was about to buy another metal feeder when I realized I could make feeders with the used mineral tubs.
For background information see prior blog posts. Amaretto gets his bottle twice a day. Each time he is given 2 quarts of Dura Life Essential Milk Replacer. He travels back and forth from Lewes Delaware to Terra Alta West Virginia because I have no one at the farm that can bottle feed him twice daily. On the weekend he learns how to be a cow from the other cows. On week days he is baby and pampered by the local children in the Lewes Delaware area. He is getting quite heavy for me to lift up into the truck. I walk him at night when few people are out so as not to cause problems with the home owners association. I tell those who ask what kind of dog he is: "oh a cross between a great dane and a rottweiler." Some ask what's wrong with his paws, I reply "the vet said that problem will take care of itself." In 3 weeks he will go to the farm to stay; my brother will be there for 6 weeks to continue the bottle feeding. After that he will be weaned from the bottle. He is eating some grass and hay now, a little feed, but not enough to survive. He is definitely much happier at the farm. When he gets there he runs and jumps. Going back to Lewes is always a downer for him.
See prior blog post for background information: calf number 5 abandoned by his mother and now named Amaretto by the kids. I am feeding him 4 times a day calf milk replacer. A very good blog post of using milk replacer can be found at: http://bottlecalf.blogspot.com/2012/05/bottle-feeding-calves-milk-replacer.html. In summary, calves receiving milk replacer always get 1 gallon per day. Some say give 1/2 gallon, 2 times a day, 12 hours apart. Others I have talked to say Longhorns should be given 1 quart, 4 times a day. At around 2 weeks, a starter feed should be added in. Over time the calf continues to consume 1 gallon per day of milk replacer and more and more of the starter feed. I don't think Amaretto has scours but his stool is very loose. Scours is a form of diarrhea that occurs in baby calves. I am not sure of the normal appearance of baby calf manure. He sleeps a lot but don't all babies? I have been putting small amounts of corn feed in his mouth, at least some seems to be getting swallowed. The adventure continues.
Calf number 5 was born this spring on June 3rd. A good year so far but the mother was no where to be found. I did not worry because he appeared to be licked off and the mom's will often leave the calves for awhile and then come back to them. This did not happen. I was fairly certain I knew which cow the calf belonged to. I checked all of the cows and only one had her udder full. All of the other cows with milk in their udders belonged to calves one through four. A friend suggested Vick's Vapor Rub: applying a small amount to the nose of the mother and a small amount to the head of the new calf. The mother definitely showed more interest in him with the Vick's applied, but by the next morning she was butting him with her horns and kicking him away when he tried to milk. I gave him DuMOR Blue Ribbon Calf Colostrum, 2 doses, 8 hours apart his first night. Now he is home with us and we are feeding him every 6 to 8 hours. I had switched bulls on the heard over a period of 2 weeks. Maybe this disruption somehow caused the mother to abandon her calf. We are going to try to train him to lead using a halter. Maybe even try to ride him some day.
Yellowish liquid, especially rich in immune factors, secreted by the mammary gland of female mammals
a few days before and after the birth of their young, it is very important that a newborn calf feed on colostrum during it's first day after birth. Colostrum is rich in antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, and protects the newborn calf from infections during it's first 2 months of life.
The second calf born this spring was not taking milk from his mother. I watched it for several hours and I am pretty sure this was the case. In addition the mother cow's udder was tense. The other cow that had just calved a week before had an udder not near as tense. Whether I was over reacting or not, I don't know even now. I sent a text message to my Longhorn encyclopedia, Bear Davidson the ranch manager of G&G Longhorns, asking what I should do. He informed me I should feed the calf colostrum every 5-6 hours for a day. I'm like where the hell am I going to get cow colostrum? I'm not getting near the mother, she is actually the most skittish cow in my heard. It was Friday late afternoon and I called the nearby Tractor Supply. Sure enough, the old Tractor Supply came through again, they had cow colostrum. I dutifully fed the critter every 6 hours through Friday night into Saturday morning. I started with the bucket feeder pictured below but he was taking the colostrum very slow so I went ahead and used the tube feeder later in the night. If you use a tube feeder, you must make sure it is in the esophagus and not in the trachea (breathing tube). If you put the food down the trachea, the calf will die of pneumonia. See below for more detail on how to place a feeding tube in a calf's esophagus. The next day by lunch, I saw him taking milk from his mother. I don't know if I over reacted, but now I know what colostrum is and how to give it to a calf.
Pictured on the right: esophageal feeding probe (a metal or stiff plastic tube that goes down the calf’s throat and partway down the esophagus. The rounded bulb on the end of the probe protects the mouth and throat from being injured and helps to prevent back-flow of fluids up the esophagus. It also helps the tube to bypass the larynx and small opening into the windpipe when you are inserting the tube into the throat. The windpipe is slightly below and alongside the opening into the esophagus. You must not get any fluid into the windpipe; if it gets down into the lungs it will drown the calf. Gently put the tube into the side of his mouth. This is easier than trying to force it into the front. Then aim it straight and slide it over the tongue to the back of the mouth and into the throat. The calf should swallow it as you move it back and forth and apply gentle pressure. Make sure the tube is not forced into the windpipe; the calf must be given a chance to swallow as it is pushed down. Hold your fingers on the outside of the neck (front of the throat), to determine where the tube is going. You can feel or see the bulb end of the tube slip down the throat and into the esophagus.
If you can see or feel the bulb (above the windpipe), you know it’s in the proper place and it’s safe to continue pushing the tube farther down. If you can’t see or feel the tube, or the calf is coughing, or there are puffs of air coming out your end, it’s in his windpipe and you must take it out and start over. Be sure it’s in the esophagus and fully inserted (the bulb down close to the stomach) before you tip up the feeder container or release the fluid into the tube. Hold the calf firmly so he can’t struggle or the tube may come partway out and allow fluid to get into the windpipe.
When I first bought the farm in 2005, I thought cattle would be too difficult to raise, being a 5 hour drive from the farm. I had met with an attorney from Morgantown, WV who raises cattle nearby, and he told me it would be impossible without having an employee on site. Based on his advice, I elected to be a bee keeper. I raised honeybees for about 5 years. I finally gave up after my hives did not survive the winter of 2009-2010. I sold a lot of honey and made a profit from my bees. Nevertheless, I found raising honey bees to be difficult. From the inevitable stings to the arduous process of extracting honey, I found it to be not suited to my personality. The final straw was when a bear got into my empty hives and made a huge mess of my bee yard.
After honey bees, I thought I would try breeding goats for meat production. There are many advantages to raising goats: they are amusing, they don't eat a lot, they are gentle, and the keep the weeds out of the pasture. On the other hand, goats have many disadvantages. If there is something they can get their head stuck into they will: openings in fence, feeders, tree branches, many things you will never think of until it happens. On more than one occasion I have shown at the farm to be faced with a dead or dying goat that got it's head stuck somewhere and it could not move or get out. Another problem is they love to eat all of the bark of of a tree and kill it. I have researched the problem and found that goats will eat the bark off of trees even when they have plenty else to eat. Goats like deer are natural browsers, preferring to eat leaves, twigs, vines, and shrubs. They are very agile and will stand on their hind legs to reach vegetation. Cattle are grazers, preferring to eat short tender grasses and clover.
Though I still have and love the goats, I have found raising cattle to be easier.
My first hay/haylage feeders were built from spare lumber. I do everything I can to minimize my hay costs. This has more do do with the time it takes to haul round bales to the farm than with the price of the bales. I have found with time that the round bale feeders that are most efficient (have the least amount of wasted hay/haylage) are the ones that are like a giant covered dinner plate. This type of round bale feeder prevents the 30% or more hay/haylage loss that one gets with other round bale feeding methods. Even though I am baling my own hay now, I try to minimize loss.
For a small cattle operation like mine, where a round bale will last for a week, it is best to have the round bale feeder covered. If it is not covered and it rains, the hay/haylage in the bottom rots and you loose 20% or more of your hay. For larger operations with more cattle, the bale is eaten so fast that a cover is probably not needed.
Andrew Stickler & Mitchell C. Stickler: the goal of this website is to assist those who are considering raising livestock for the first time.