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.
If you are going to raise cattle, you have to manage them. This at times means holding them still so you can brand them, vaccinate them, or propagate them by means of artificial insemination. I researched several systems to hold cattle still and I decided on the Bry Chute. Longhorn cattle represent a special challenge because of their long horns. The Bry Chute is Longhorn friendly because the horns can stick out of the sides of the chute. The Bry Chute is adjustable so you can manage cows and bulls of different sizes. To see the system in use follow this link to YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhM1saqda6o
Our first calf was born on 9/30/15. The bull father is named Mavericks. I purchased the mother, Terri Jean, pregnant. My neighbor who stops by my place daily called and told me the good news. The calf was born naturally without any assistance to the mother. This is one of the strong points of Longhorn cattle. They bare their off spring without the need for any human intervention 99% of the time. It took me a while to figure out if it was a male or female. Females urinate between their hind legs. Bull calves urinate just behind the midpoint between the front and rear legs (the underside middle between the front legs and rear legs). Yesterday the urine flowed from between the legs, a female! Since this calf has a bull father that is not our farm bull Rockefeller, we can keep it for breeding to Rockefeller.
Nora and I went to the Cherry Blossom Sale in Culpeper Virginia. It was the first Longhorn sale we had been to. We drove from Delaware to the home of Ann G in Warrenton Virginia on Friday April 17th. It took about 3 hours. That night Miss Ann opened up her house and served everyone dinner and drinks. She paid for everything. Nora and I met and talked to other Longhorn cattle breeders/ranchers. We tried to learn as much as we could. Nora started out being mad at me because I did not tell her to wear cowboy boots and her nice shoes got all muddy. Also we were way over dressed as everyone else was wearing a cowboy hat and jeans. Well of course, these were Texas Longhorn people, what was I thinking. The sale the next day was interesting: typical animal auction. Not knowing what to expect, I was not surprised by the selling prices which ranged from $500 to $8000 per Longhorn cow. I got a speeding ticket on the way home which I blamed Nora for because I was too sleepy to be driving and she should have been at the wheel and it was her turn to be unfairly blamed.
I think the best indication that spring has arrived is when new life comes to the farm. Twins for Billy Bob. Mom goat was very thin and eating mostly tree bark, so I brought her back to Delaware and fattened her up for 4 weeks.
I go to the ranch every Thursday night some weeks. At other times I go every other Thursday and rarely I will allow 3 weeks between visits. I usually leave on Saturday night. Of course at various times during the year I will spend the entire week. In order to make sure there is enough food out for the livestock, I have expanded my food serving options.
I feed the livestock haylige continuously throughout the winter. Every two weeks I put out 300 pounds of grain (corn mixed with distillers grain). Longhorns will not over eat grain. When they are full, they layoff until they are hungry again. Some breeds will eat until they are sick. It takes 10 cows about 3 days to finish the 300 pounds of grain. That is 30 pounds of grain per cow per 2 weeks. I do not count the little that the goats eat.
In West Virginia during March, it always seems like winter will never end. It is not uncommon to have snow in early April as well. May will often have frost over night. This tests the endurance of the rancher and the cattle.
It will often snow 2 to 3 feet at the ranch. This means I have to spend several hours plowing before I can even start my work. Not with this John Deere Gator with tracks installed. Now I ignore the snow and ride over it. I can move my grain around with ease. It even has a heated cab. The tracks are all season so I can use it in heavy rain as well. I have not had trouble with the deep snow when using the 115 hp John Deere tractor because it has such large wheels and is 4 wheel drive.
The winter is long and cold in West Virginia. This year we had multiple days below 0 degrees F. I underestimated how many round bales I would need. I had to get a trailer, as I did not have one that would carry more than 2 round bales of hay at a time. I spent February and March hauling in enough round bales to get through the rest of the winter. I underestimated because I was thinking cows eat only a little more than goats. Cows eat a lot more than goats.
I started with round bales of hay but now I am using haylige. Haylige is less dried out then hay when it is baled and it is immediately wrapped in plastic so no oxygen gets to it. Haylige is fermented grass. It smells like a Clemson South Carolina bar on a Sunday morning. When you feed haylige to the Longhorns you do not have to feed grain, or at least you can feed a lot less grain.
I purchased my first bull and also 2 more heifers.
Andrew Stickler & Mitchell C. Stickler: the goal of this website is to assist those who are considering raising livestock for the first time.