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Diary of Melody Fruth, Week 2 - July 4-10, 2011

Published Jul. 11, 2011 | Discuss this article on Facebook

Monday, July 4, 2011

Got up to gray skies and a few sprinkles today.  We sure could use a rain!  Oscar and I did the morning feeding.  The new calves are doing really well.  Many of them are drinking water from a bucket already which will make it easy to move them from bottles to buckets later in the week. Jeremy got ready to double-crop soybeans.  This means that two crops will be harvested from the same land in one growing season.  The wheat was planted last fall and grew to maturity this spring.  As soon as it is harvested, the straw is baled up and put in the barn.  Then soybeans are planted in the same field.  The guys no-till the beans.  That means they plant them without plowing or disking up the field using a special no-till planter that puts them in the ground.  It will be a short growing season so the yield will not be nearly as good as our beans that were planted early in the season.  It has to be good weather conditions from here on into fall or they will not produce much of anything.  Farmers are the biggest gamblers I know.  They buy the seed and fertilizer for crops and spend their long hot days in hard labor getting them into the ground with the hope that there will be a payoff at the end of the season.  You win a few and lose a few!  Just like a gambler sitting at a roulette table.  You never know how things are going to fall.The field of beans Jeremy planted this morning is a little more treacherous than some.  In places the tile under the ground that drains the rain away has been crushed down.  If not repaired (and it has not been in years) the water pools and keeps rushing down around the tile eroding a larger and larger hole.  It eventually creates a hole big enough to topple an unsuspecting tractor.  Last fall our grain cart (a two-wheeled wagon used in the field to cart grain from the center of the field to the road so the semi-truck does not become stuck in the field) became victim to a tile blowout and upset with corn on it. We hope to get that field fixed, but we recently bought the property and all these things take time (and money).  So for now he will just have to be careful.Oscar combined more wheat today and the guys came behind him and baled three loads of straw and put it in the barn.  We have about 1000 bales now, which should be what we need.  If we have extra, we can sell some.I went to the barns around noon and made sure all the animals had plenty of fresh water.  That took about an hour because many of them had empty pails.  I was a little late getting to my sister’s house for a picnic, but she was a little late serving so it all worked out.I left Oscar to do the evening feeding alone so I could take flowers to the cemetery.  Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday so I wanted to leave something for her and for my dad who was a WWII veteran. I always leave flowers on Independence Day for him.While in Hamilton I noticed that they had had a rain shower and puddles were standing in the streets.  It missed us.  Rats!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We do almost all the veterinary work around here.  We usually vaccinate for respiratory infections after the new calves get settled in.  And today was the day! So after the morning feeding we got started. We use a vaccine called TSV-2 that is administered nasally with a plastic “needle” that fits on the end of our pistol-grip syringe.  After they are six weeks old they will need another dose.  It is much harder then because they are so much bigger.  At this stage we distract them by allowing them to suck our fingers then we quickly stick it in their nostrils!  It doesn’t hurt them at all, but I bet it tickles! Jeremy started a new class at Miami today.  This one doesn’t start until 10:00 a.m. so he can get a couple of hours work in before he goes.  Today he was bush hogging at his place.  He also discovered that there is a leak in the fuel tank of the 8440 John Deere tractor.   So while he was at class Chris and Oscar had to pump out 100 gallons of fuel by hand so we can fix the tank.Oscar and Chris baled up the remaining load of straw that was in the field and Oscar resumed planting beans there.  As soon as the wheat and straw are off the field we try to get them planted to give them as many days of growing season as we can.Be advised, if you stop by to visit at feeding time, you just might end up holding a bottle or scooping feed into feed pans. Some friends stopped in today and the kids love to help. We finished evening feeding early so we could attend the annual fireworks display at Hueston Woods.  Beautiful! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Before Jeremy left for Miami he sprayed some of our first crop soybeans for weeds.  The seed we used is “Round-up Ready,” which means it has been engineered to be impervious to the Round-up herbicide.  The spray kills everything that has emerged except the beans.Today is a sad day.  Lil’ Bit died.  He has a unique story. A couple of weeks ago we got one load of calves that included a really small calf.  I even asked the dairyman owner if he had been a twin, but it appeared he was just a really small calf.  The next week when we went back for a load of calves, the dairyman informed us that I had been right.  The little guy was a twin after all.  He gave us the other twin even smaller and very fragile. I called him Lil’ Bit because he was just a bit of a calf.  He was smaller than our neighbor’s German shepherd puppy. It seems Lil’ Bit was the first-born twin and the mother had him out in the woods.  When she came in and dropped a calf the farmer thought nothing of it.  The baby was found three days later.  He had had nothing to eat and no one to mother him.  We took him and thought he was coming along.  We filled him with electrolytes and fed him often and gave special care.  But he had not had any colostrum from the mother and had just too many strikes against him.  His twin brother is doing fine and as a matter of fact has quite an attitude butting his bucket and anything else that comes near him.  If Lil’ Bit had some of that spirit, the outcome might have been different. Oscar met Chris and another young man, Allen, who sometimes works for us, early this morning and put the last of the “square-baled” straw in the barn at a farm we rent down the road from us.  The rest of the straw will be “round baled.”  This type of baler creates the large bales that weigh nearly 500 pounds. It is much less labor intensive to bale straw this way.  One man can drive the baler and the bales can stay in the field until he gets back to move them around with a loader equipped with a bale fork (think of a really large spear sticking out in front).  To square-bale using our equipment it takes one man to drive the baler and at least one more (two is better) on the wagon to stack the bales. The round bales will be used for bedding big open areas like the barns and in our corral so the calves have a dry place to lie.  These bales are broken down using a tractor and spread over the area. The square bales will be used in the calf pens and huts where we break them down by hand and scatter the straw for each individual animal. Evening feeding was a little more trying today.  We trained the youngest calves to drink from a bucket instead of a baby bottle.  In summer this is usually an easier process because we keep buckets of fresh water in front of them all the time and they learn to drink that so it is an easy transition.  In winter it is much more difficult because they are not instinctively going for the water.  Today was not too bad.  All but two of them caught on right away.  We will try with them again tomorrow. After evening feeding I spread the fly predators around the barns and calf huts.  We are trying something new this year to control flies.  Each week a package of fly predators is drop shipped to us.  We distribute them to areas where flies breed and these little wasps feed on the developing fly.  These wasps occur in nature but cannot keep up with fly populations around cattle and horses.  We increase their occurrence to decrease the number of flies.  We dislike using poisons around the calves and they have not proven to do a good job in the past.  This year we have seen a noticeable difference.  It is a more natural way to control the pests. It was discovered that thorns punctured the front tires of the bush-hog tractor so they must be removed and repaired.  Sigh.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

After the morning feeding, we moved a group of cattle from the calf barn to the corral.  Previously we had 12 calves in there, now we have 24.  We strive to get groups together that are about the same size and number between 40 and 50.  When the large group gets to be about 400 pounds each, it is time for us to sell them.  This goal requires constant sorting and regrouping and moving calves around. I went to lunch at PJ’s in West Elkton today.  Many of the farmers from around here eat lunch at this little restaurant.  PJ’s staff doesn’t mind if we come in our dirty work clothes and talk across from table to table about the rain (or lack of it); the price of seed (or fertilizer or equipment); or the futures on corn, soybeans, beef, or hogs.  Then sometimes we just pick on each other and laugh at ourselves about some dumb thing that has happened in the course of the day’s work.  It is a good break in the middle of the day when we can fit it in. After lunch I made sure that everything had fresh water again.  The guys were planting the last of the double-crop beans.  I took some time out to do some housework and catch up on some record keeping. This evening we went to the junior fair sale buyers dinner at the fairgrounds.  This is held every year prior to the fair to get all the buyers that have participated before registered and ready to bid at the junior livestock sale.  It was held picnic buffet–style outside and was pretty hot, but the food was good. Afterwards we stopped by the funeral home for a few minutes to honor Anna Scheibert then came home to do the evening feeding.  We didn’t get started until after 9:00 when we are usually finishing up, but we had planned that way and fed just a little later this morning.  We like to feed the little ones as close to 12 hours apart as we can.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Got up to a slow easy rain.  Hurray!  First thing on the agenda this morning is to meet the buyer and load up 45 calves that we are selling today.  They weighed a bit over 400 pounds so they were ready to go.  This group, loaded onto two livestock trailers went to Harrodsburg, Kentucky.  I wonder how quickly they will pick up southern accents?  Moo, ya’ll! After that, it was back home and morning feeding.  Oscar and Chris worked cleaning out the barn and getting it ready for the new calves that will come in tonight.I went to the bank and to Kroger’s.   When I returned, Oscar was ready to go to Indiana to pick up the calves born this week.  We usually go every Friday to the dairies around Richmond.  The dairy cows must have a calf every year so they can continue giving milk (who knew?)  The dairymen keep all the heifer (girl) calves to replenish or grow their herd.  The bull (boy) calves are not worth anything much to the dairyman (no surprise there).  Most farmers use A.I. (artificial insemination) to impregnate their cows.  Even if they did it the old fashioned way, they would probably only need one bull.  Some of the farmers raise their bull calves for meat, but most of them sell them to farmers like us.  This week we only picked up eight calves.  Of the 14 we got last week all are doing well except one.  He is still on a bottle when the others are on buckets and he does not eat well at all.  Since it was late when Oscar got home, the calves stayed on the trailer for the night.  They were all settled in and comfortable so it was better than getting them all stirred up again. We got almost an inch of rain today.  Great for the corn and soybeans that are at a critical stage right now.  So all in all a good day.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

First thing today was to get those new calves settled in their pens.  We put the panels back in to set up the pens and put a thick layer of fresh straw down.  Before we unloaded them, we fed each a bottle.  As we feed, we mark each calf with a paint stick so we know everyone got a bottle.  After each was in his pen, they settled down pretty quickly into their new homes.  Oscar went to a local dairy to pick up a couple more bull calves.  They were born this week and will fit right in with the eight we got from Indiana. We have a couple in the corral group that seem to be developing respiratory infections so Oscar gave a couple of shots this morning.  We made a trip to Grove Clinic near Liberty, IN to pick up some medications for respiratory infections.  Oscar raked straw at Jeremy’s farm because the last of it was wet from the rain and needed to dry more before being round-baled.  While he was there he fed the cattle that are on pasture.  Even though they have all the grass they want to eat, we daily feed them a mixture of corn, corn gluten, and a feed supplement that we purchase from local feed suppliers.  We also must haul water to this farm.  For this purpose we use a pick-up truck with a 500-gallon tank.  One tankful will last 2-3 days.  We fill it up at our farm (thank goodness for city water)! Jeremy spent the greater part of his day spraying soybeans and working on equipment.  He serviced the combine and some of the other tillage equipment and put them away until fall harvest time. After evening chores it was too late and we were too tired to go out for our usual Saturday night dance at Germantown.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

After this morning’s feeding Oscar hauled a load of round bales of both straw and hay from Jeremy’s farm to ours.  Part of the morning routine also involves bedding the calf pens with straw. As a city girl, I always thought that straw and hay were synonymous.  Turns out they are completely different! (Who knew? Isn’t a bale a bale?) Apparently not!  We get our straw from the wheat harvest.  Once the grain is extracted, the straw is the golden stem left over and is very absorbent.  We bale it up, and use it through the year to keep the animals clean, dry, and comfortable in their pens.  If we have more than we think we will need, we sell it to other farmers or to landscapers. Hay on the other hand, is greener in color and is a mixture of grasses and alfalfa.  It has nutrients that the calves need in their diet when they reach a certain age. (I have no idea what that exact age is and Oscar is in bed.) The hay bales are denser and much heavier so if someone asks for your help baling, find out if it is straw or hay and answer accordingly!  If it is hay, you will work a lot harder. Oscar fed and watered calves at Jeremy’s then it was time to get ready for the Dayton Dragons game.  Our friends Mike and Rhonda asked us to go along to the 4:00 game against the South Bend Silver Hawks.  The temperature was in the 90’s today and while I don’t mind working in the heat, sitting in the hot sun to watch a baseball game does not really appeal to me. It turns out our seats were in the shade and there was a nice breeze blowing.  We spent a very nice afternoon with friends and the Dragons won!  I just have one question, what are Dippin’ Dots really made of? Second night in a row we have finished the evening feeding in the dark.  In the wintertime that is expected, but in the summer—Really?  I have no idea where my cap light is!

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