Category Archives for "Livestock Musings"

New Lambs

Always the sweetest time of the year, baby lambs are by far the cutest animals on the farm (okay, i say that about all the animals when they are first born)!

Sweatervest was first to lamb, followed by Sassy.  They both produced twins ~ Yin, Yang, and yet to be named!

It’s a Y year, so we are having fun remembering and creating names that begin with Y.

 

Eggs

Today when i went out to the chicken coop to collect eggs, i found this beautiful little nugget.  The very first egg a chicken has laid.  It’s like a gift.  A very precious, tiny gift.  Like when you are walking along the path and find a robin’s egg, shell cracked, and look above you to see if you can spot the nest way up above you.

Check out these facts about chickens and eggs:

 

  • A female chick is born with thousands of tiny ova, which are undeveloped yolks. Once she reaches maturity, an ovum will be released into a canal called the oviduct and begin its journey of development.
  • At any given time a productive hen will have eggs of several stages within her reproductive system. The eggs most recently discharged from the ovary are just tiny yolks, and the eggs farther down the oviduct are progressively larger and more developed.
  • From the time an ovum leaves the ovary, it takes approximately 25 hours for the egg to reach the vent for laying. During that time period, the yolk will grow larger while being surrounded by albumen (egg white), wrapped in a membrane, and encased in a shell. Pigment is deposited on the shell as the last step of the egg production process.
  • If sperm is present, the yolk will be fertilized before the albumen is deposited.
  • As a chick embryo develops in a fertilized egg, the yolk provides nourishment and the albumen cushions the embryo.
  • Although a hen has only one exterior opening (the cloaca or vent) for egg laying and elimination, eggs are not contaminated during the laying process. Two separate channels, the oviduct and the large intestine, open into the cloaca. As the egg nears the end of the oviduct, the intestinal opening is temporarily blocked off. The egg passes through the cloaca without contact with waste matter.
  • The typical interval between eggs laid is about 25 hours, so a hen that lays an egg every day will lay a bit later each day.
  • Hens don’t usually lay eggs in the dark, so once a hen’s laying cycle reaches dusk time, she will usually not lay till the following morning.

No doubt they make so much noise when they are laying eggs!  I’m so thankful for the fresh eggs that we are provided with from our chickens.  A great animal to start with if you are interested in getting into livestock!

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Why Hello Jack Frost!

I have to admit that i love the brisk, sunny, crystal clear days that surprise us at this time of the year. With it, comes all the nasty stuff, burst pipes, frozen water, cold house, slippery barn courtyard. However, when you go out into the fields, and get to see the beauty of a frosty landscape, it all feels worth it. The weather gives our animals a reprieve from the day to day, kept up off the fields, and in the barn. They are once again, released out onto the fields. At times, they are hugely outnumbered by the Canadian Geese that seem to think we grow grass just for. Or perhaps they will meet up with some of the beavers that have taken up residence on the corner of the 1st field. Linnaea Farm has over 30 acres of pasture, that our animals graze throughout the late spring, summer, and fall months. Once the rains fall, our fields become saturated in certain areas, and we keep our animals off of them, as hard as it is. With this cold weather, our fields are nice and solid and okay for the animals to walk through onto areas that they can still graze on.
But for today, the sun is shining, the ground is frozen, and the animals are all out in the fields, in a sunny patch, stretching their legs, and the Stewards? You’ll find us in the barn first thing in the morning, and once again around dark tending to the animals (how much manure do we shovel in a day?), in the Education Center weaving willow, at my desk, updating the website and tending to emails, and in the shop, working on the back breaks of the farm truck. The pace of the farm has slowed, thankfully, although the list is still long, the hours of the day no longer support working until beyond exhaustion. It’s time to dive into the stores of food we worked so hard all season to produce and preserve, get the seeds all cleaned up and ready for next season, and dream of what comes next. At the end of the day, it all feels worth it, and although we have many, many days until the season starts up again, the seeds are being nurtured and prepared for planting. The joy of farming is there is always next year.

As things wind down, new beings are born

The days are getting shorter, you can feel the change the most in the mornings and the early evenings.  The quality of light is different, the smell of the earth is different, the sunsets are beautiful, and the early morning mists are back.  The garden is being put to bed, the larder is stocked, the seeds are drying, the crops harvested, cover crops planted.  The cows are still grazing on grass that makes me want to kick my shoes off and run barefoot through.  Intense green and so lush.  Through all of our madness of the season, the cows graze.  Sometimes they break out, sometimes they wander down the road, sometimes they go where we don’t want them to, but they are creatures of habit.  They go where the grass is good, usually where i want them to but if I’m too busy, or a tree has fallen on the line, they do the choosing.  And once they do the choosing, the easiest way to bring them back is to await their need for water.  Creatures of habit.  Eat grass, ruminate.  Eat grass, ruminate.  Drink water.  Groom each other.  Stand head to tail to help keep the flies off of each other.  Lick the salt lick for 20 minutes (Jazzy), test the fence line (William).  It’s amazing to spend time with these massive animals and really sense the role that they each play in their herd.  And how grateful i am that we are able to raise them with the respect and reverence that they deserve.

I count the days from the first day that Towey the bull came to visit our ladies.  And diligently keep track of when the ladies are in heat, and they are no longer showing signs of heat.  I count the days and come up with an approximate day.  Could be anywhere from this day to that day.  And i watch.  I wait.  I revel in the change of their bodies, how wide they look when you approach them head on.  How their walks change, how they start to ‘bag up’.  I wait.  I watch.

And then you here the sound.  The sound that only a mother makes.  The soft, deep moo that you here no other time.  Or the deep bellow and intense staring into a particular patch of trees, where the calf lies hidden, safe, and sleeping.

She’s arrived.  Quill’s 5th calf.  Quill, daughter to Kalua, daughter of Sunday.  Quill, part Hereford, part Brown Swiss, 100% Linnaea.

It’s an ‘X’ year.

Welcome Xena.  We’ve been awaiting your arrival.  And we are so glad that you’re here.  You are beautiful!

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What it takes

Today i found myself in the barn. I spend alot of time in the barn. I’m not alone in that. There are many of us that spend time in the barn. We love it. The cows, at this time of the year, not so much! We’ve even come up with a new exercise program, it’s called poo-lates. Like pilates, but different. And we spend hours a week doing it. Engage your core, adjust the pitch fork, lift, toss into manure spreader, repeat. Do this until the barn yard is clean. I don’t know if it makes a difference to the cows. In fact, they seem to like to get in the way, between you and the manure spreader. We like the deep bedding in our barn. In the summer, the entire lot is cleaned out, and placed under tarps to compost. We gather as much sawdust as we can, which will last us all winter. Then as we move through the winter months, when our fields are to wet to let the cows graze, we pick up all the fresh plops, and lay fresh bedding down for the cows. It keeps the barn clean, and the animals warm and dry. By this time of the year, the animals can smell the grass growing, and want out of the barn yard. We want them out to. Life gets easier when the animals are out grazing in the pastures. However, if we let them out to early, they will damage the tender, new shoots of grass – which in the long run just isn’t worth it. So we wait. And we shovel. And we tell the cows it won’t be much longer. And we scratch them, as they lose their winter coats, and we laugh when the calves run circles around the cows. It’s only a matter of time. One thing it does make easier, is bringing Jazzy into the milking stanchion. She wants the alfalfa that we give her for standing nice. And we love the thick, creamy milk that she gives us in exchange. As you can tell from Melina’s face, we love the end result ~ cheese!
All in all it’s a good exchange. Jazzy gets milked once a day, usually she gives us around a gallon and a half. And it takes 3 gallons to make about 2 pounds of cheese. It’s not an easy job keeping cows. However, on Linnaea Farm, our live stock systems are run as a collective. We all pitch in. It takes a lot of land, lots of hay, strong backs and hand muscles, but at the end of the day, we think it’s worth it. In fact i can’t imagine my life without cows in it. And i like to think that they would miss having us around.

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There are moments when the beauty of this land takes my breath away…..

Cows under a crescent moon

As the seasons are changing gears, I’m again finding those moments when my everyday surroundings shock me by their beauty. Bringing the cows up to barn, walking through the fields in the rain, the owls in the darkness….it’s all worth it. All the hard work is worth it. Our pantry is overflowing with the years bounty, the wood shed is full of wood, the chickens bedding is clean and dry, the garden beds are deeply mulched, the barn is full of dry sawdust, the farm is ready to settle into the fall/winter rythym. In this season of giving thanks, I am so thankful for all the lessons that this land offers, and for such a beautiful place to call home.

All good things do indeed come to an end….

Sunday came to Linnaea Farm in 1989 from Henry at BlueJay Lake Farm. She was the kindest cow, mother to all, sharing her milk with us, teaching us the fine art of cow herding. Sunday was the ultimate boss cow, and no cows would move unless she did. And if she didn’t want to move, none could move her. Sunday lived for 25 years! We will miss her greatly.

Night time in the henhouse

I love watching the chickens getting settled for the evening.  This photo was taken looking in the window before i closed it, they look a little taken back by my intrusion!  The chickens are laying an egg once a day now, however, due to the hot weather, a few of them have decided to go broody – which means collecting eggs is an interesting endeavour in the evenings!  IMG_1508spring eggs

Feeding Time!

For those of us on the farm who do animals chores, this is the sound that greets us upon arriving in the barn.  A delightful song!  We’re waiting for the ground to dry out before we move our pigs out to the great outdoors!

Pig Feeding (.mov)