Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I think Rosie is Mortyfied.

She was due on the 22nd and she looks like she's ready to calve any minute, so we've been making trips out to the dry cow pen every couple hours to check on her. Finally, last night, Glen decided we needed to bring her in so he could make sure everything was okay. We've never had a twisted uterus, but our last calving involved a heifer trying to push her calf out tail first. So, we always feel a little more comfortable knowing the cow's parts and the calf's parts all seem in order.

Rosie's exam showed nothing out of the ordinary, except that Glen couldn't feel the calf at all it was still sitting so deep inside her. Now, Rosie's a big cow, but usually Glen can tap a calf on the head when the cow is this close to calving.

I told him, that since Rosie's bred to Morty, we really shouldn't be too concerned until she's at least a week overdue. Plus, since she hadn't calved at this time it was most likely a bull calf anyway. None of our Morty (Semex's Stouder Morty – 200HO0044) bull calves, which have all come out huge, have come earlier than a week past their due date. The Morty heifer calves come a week early or, at the latest, on their due date.

So, we're wondering, are other dairies seeing this trend with Morty calves? Are all Morty bull calves big and overdue? What about the heifer calves? Hopefully, Rosie's Mortyfication ends before we have any answers to our questions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where's the semen tank?

I have some memories of cows freshening during the winter when I was growing up, but for most of my formative years the cows were bred to calve seasonally. From Christmas to early March, the herd was dried up. Then, in March, calving began. At times it felt like we had calves coming out of our ears. When Glen and I started farming, the cows were still seasonal; that first April we had a new calf a day for a month. The logistics of housing and feeding that many calves required creativity at times, but once the big rush was over we had a nice group of calves of relatively uniform size and age. Then our breeding window opened and the cycle started all over again. The system worked well for several reasons: the cows were in milk when the grass was green, the pasture was our calving pen, and we never had to worry about cold-weather calving issues like frozen calves and frozen teats.

Under our management, however, the cows are slowly returning to a year-round calving schedule. We still have mini-rushes every now and then from the cows who have maintained their seasonality, but for the most part calving is divided pretty equally amongst the twelve months of the year. Which means we have cows and heifers calving right now. Actually, we've had quite a few new calves in the past month, including two sets of twins (not heifers). Between monitoring close-up cows ("What's Jackie doing? Do you think she's going to calve tonight? Should we bring her in?") and trying to find room for all the newborns until they're ready for the hutches, I'm about ready to be done with winter calving. I'd much rather have the cows freshen out on pasture (it seems like we don't have to be nearly as involved) and deal with new calves in attire other than my Carharts (and the basketball I have strapped around my middle). Plus, it's a lot easier to arrange temporary housing for calves when the weather is more temperate than arctic.

So I circled some dates on the calendar for Glen and told him he should refrain from breeding any cows between those two dates so we wouldn't have to repeat this again next year. He told me he couldn't let a good heat pass for the sake of a calving schedule; I'd have to hide the semen tank. My breeding moratorium will be here before I know it, so if you have any ideas about where I can hide the semen tank, let me know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Good bye, Grandpa

The phone call I've dreaded since we moved down here came tonight: my grandfather passed away.

To borrow my sister's words, his passing was the way we all had hoped it would be. He was at home and didn't suffer; we never had to move him to a nursing home or watch him wither away in a hospital bed. But the suddenness of his passing caught us all by surprise. We didn't have a chance to say good bye.

Now, even more so than at the time, I am incredibly thankful we were able to spend Christmas Eve with Grandpa. We rearranged the cows' milking schedule to include five milkings in two days so we could be at Grandpa's for a couple hours on Christmas Eve. It was the best Christmas present ever. The gathering felt just like old times – everyone was there – and Grandpa was so happy. His slowing was apparent, but he sat smiling, listening.

We spent two more days together during our Christmas break. During our visit to his house the second day, Grandpa was just like I always want to remember him. He entertained us with stories from years gone by, from a whole different time. His storytelling and remarkable memory were two of his finest traits.

Grandpa had heard that I was writing again. He had always been my biggest fan. But he said he couldn't read anymore, his eyes didn't work right. I'm sure that bothered him more than any of us could have known. So, Grandpa, when you get a chance to read this, give Grandma a hug for me and know that you were the best grandfather a girl could have. I love you.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Crunch time

Every year I tell myself I'm going to update our financial records quarterly so I'm not faced with the huge task of doing it all at once. We've made progress – we're a little ahead of where we were last year – but once again the bulk of our financial record management has been saved for January (read: put off).

And, so, here I sit sifting through our box of receipts, milk checks, and bank statements. Sooner or later, hopefully more sooner than later, I'll move on to computerizing all of this information into something we can use to evaluate our farm's performance and prepare our income taxes.

I'm only feeling a smidgen of pressure (yes, I'm being sarcastic) to get all of this done. With our baby due to arrive in March, there's a certain sense of urgency to complete our bookkeeping and taxes before D-day.

Wish me luck!