Friday, July 1, 2011
Yee Haw! Oscar and I are in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. We left on Wednesday after the morning feeding was done (about 1:00) to take a short trip to the Gatlinburg area. Jeremy will hold down the fort while we are gone. We come down several times a year just to get a little R & R. I planned this trip several months ago. It is always difficult to plan to be away from home. No matter how much you prepare and get everything done so the people standing in for you have an easy time, things often go wrong.
To make reservations for this trip, I was trying to guess when wheat harvest would start. My rule of thumb has always been that wheat needs to be run just after July 4. There is really no scientific reasoning for this. It is just that most Fourth of July holidays in my farm life have been spent gnashing my teeth and worrying that the neighbors’ fireworks will set the fields of wheat on fire just when they are dry and ready to be harvested and sold. It looks like I missed it this year.
According to Jeremy, the wheat is ready. He is taking classes this summer and had an exam today. Before he headed out for Oxford he had to feed the calves at our place. He has a local high school young man working with him, but he had to mix all the milk replacer (think baby formula) and get the bottles ready for Chris to feed. He also had to plan what he needed Chris to do while he was at class. We are very fortunate to have a worker who is capable of working on his own without direct supervision. Chris finished the feeding here for Jeremy then fed the older calves that are kept at two other farms. As soon as Jeremy got home from his exam around 3:00, he began to combine wheat. Due to the wet spring we were unable to get all of the wheat sprayed with herbicide. So in this first field we had wild onions (very bad—think onion flavored milk if used for feed, or onion flavored donuts, for example, if used for flour). Jeremy had to cut the wheat up high to get just the grain and avoid the grass and onions. This will make for less straw. We use a lot of straw to bed the calves and give them a soft dry place to lie. If we run out before next wheat season, we will have to buy from someone who has a surplus.
Jeremy loaded all the wheat onto one of the semi trucks and he will haul it to Brubaker’s tomorrow. He then went back to our place to mix the milk for the baby calves for tonight’s feeding. In the meantime a load of 15 new baby calves from 3 to 10 days old had arrived. He and Chris had to set up clean individual pens for them and get them unloaded into their new home.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Jeremy left home early with the semi load of wheat and sold it at Brubaker Grain in Collinsville. Luckily, we weren’t docked too much for having some onion in the mix so that was a good thing. Jeremy then returned to do the morning feeding so he could get back to harvesting the wheat.
We left Pigeon Forge around noon and arrived home around 6:00. Jeremy called us on the way to let us know that he had been baling the straw from yesterday’s wheat but the baler was broken down and he would need help as soon as we got back. It seems that the knot that ties the two rolls of baler twine together (think of it as two skeins of knitting yarn being joined for a continuous thread) had gotten hung up in the baler and all had to be cut out, untangled, and rethreaded. In the process three or four bales of straw had come out untied and were spread all over the place. So that had to be all cleared away and rebaled before they could go on.
When Oscar got back here we did the evening feeding and checked out the 14 new calves. The pens where they are now living had previously been cleaned out and sanitized after the last group were weaned and moved out. To clean the pens between groups, we take down all the wire panels and use a skid loader to remove the soiled straw. We then spread lime to kill bacteria. The area of the barn where the new calves will stay for the next 5 or 6 weeks had been sitting idle for several weeks. Last night, the guys had to wire all the panels back in and put down a thick layer of straw for bedding. It works best when each calf has his own pen so that it can be easily monitored for the amount of grain and milk each is consuming. We noticed a couple of the babies had scours (think diarrhea in infants). This is very common and caused by bacteria that most of the calves carry. However the stress of the trailer ride, the lack immunity in some very young, and the exposure to other calves with different bacteria can cause them to get sick. It is important to treat them with an electrolyte solution (think Pedialite) right away to avoid dehydration. The glucose and sodium in the solution allow them to absorb the water they need to rehydrate. No rain is predicted, but Oscar and I backed the wagons carrying the straw bales into the barn just in case! I was away for four days and home for four hours and it seems like I had never left home at all.
Sunday July 3, 2011
The morning feeding here at home where we have 53 calves on bottles and buckets and 65 weaned calves that are on full feed (they have grain available to them all the time so they can eat whenever they want) takes 2 of us about an hour and a half. That same feeding is repeated in the evening. So it takes about 6 man-hours to feed these little calves. We also have about 35 weaned calves at Jeremy’s farm. They are in a pasture where they can graze as they wish, but we still take grain and water to them once per day. That takes about an hour. Our largest calves (in the 300-400 pound range) are at a third location. They are on a full grain diet and are eating lots of grain daily. We have about 50 calves there. It takes about an hour to feed them once per day also. So in total it requires about 8 hours per day just to get everything fed. That does not count the human feeding!
After the morning feeding today, I came inside to cook. We have a couple of picnics to attend today so I will bake something to take to each one. While I was baking, Oscar and Jeremy got some help (one of which was his friend, Claire) and unloaded the four wagon loads (500 bales) of straw into the barn. Oscar and I went to the two other farms to feed the calves there. It really seemed hot and humid today as we were loading up the corn and corn gluten to feed. Or perhaps I am just spoiled and missing the swimming pool at Pigeon Forge! When the feeding was finished, I took a quick shower and went to our first picnic. Good food, good times! Jeremy helped a neighbor bale hay, but he did stop by the picnic long enough to eat supper. His friend Claire after helping unload the wagons of straw onto the elevator which takes it to the mow of the barn, went hiking with a friend. Oh, to be that young! I would have hiked to the nearest Starbucks and sat for an hour or two! We left the picnic when it was time for evening feeding. Afterwards I took another quick shower and we went to our next party. Homemade ice cream and fireworks! Happy Fourth of July!