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Hay Blanket

Colonel's Blog, Earthdate 14 Feb 2023...

Hey Y'all!

Happy rainy Tuesday from the farm! It was sprinkling when we woke up this morning. Gladly, we had a break in the rain and stayed dry while we completed morning rounds. The milk cows must have been in a good mood this morning as we got 3 1/2 gallons, our biggest single milking amount to date. The top pic is Stella this morning after we finished milking. She is VERY curious. She is interested in everything we do but is still a bit stand-off-ish when it comes to pets or treats. Overall, she is growing well and is starting to join Betty and Happy in munching on hay. Stella started noticeably consuming hay (not just nibbling at it) at about two weeks old. When calves are born, their rumen is not developed and makes up only 35% of their stomach capacity, compared to the fully developed rumen in an adult cow which makes up 85% of its stomach capacity. When calves drink milk, a groove in their esophagus moves the milk past the rumen directly into their abomasum, or true stomach. Only when they consume dry matter like hay or grain does their rumen get involved. The type of dry matter dictates the type of bacteria that form to begin the fermentation that takes place in the rumen. In Stella's case, she is consuming hay, not grain, so her rumen is becoming active with bacteria specializing in the fermentation of hay. By the time she is 6-9 months old, she will be able to thrive on grass/hay only. For our milk cows, in production, we supplement their hay with non-GMO grain to give them extra energy (calories) so that they don't lose body condition as a result of their milk production. The hay is for milk production and the grain provides extra energy needed for body maintenance. Yesterday, Shelley ran to town and picked up hay for the lambs, alfalfa pellets for the lambs, dog food, cat food, and salt blocks for the cows. While she was gone, I finished clearing the high-tensile fence in the pasture near the hogs. I also cleared brush, briars, and saplings away from one of our main gates. Shelley rejoined me and we repaired a high-tensile wire that I snapped by catching it with the rear wheel of the bush hog the other day. We unrolled hay for the beef cows and sheep late in the day yesterday so that we wouldn't have to unroll more in the rain this morning. Today we are going to do things with milk and attempt to finish inputting expenses in our bookkeeping software so that we can get our info to the accountant tomorrow.

I've often mentioned regenerating our pastures. I took a couple of pictures yesterday as visuals to support the discussion. The middle picture is the paddock the sheep left a few weeks ago. It looks like a blanket of hay covering the ground, bare and brown. The bottom pic is a close-up of what is taking place in that hay. There is tiny grass germinating and growing, in February, under the cover of that unsightly blanket. A fair question to ask us is: "How did you know that would happen, you didn't grow up doing this?" The honest answer is that we didn't know it would happen. We researched, read, watched, and listened...a lot. We filtered each new piece of data through our limited knowledge and experience and formulated our own plans. Some of the time, the exact thing we expected to happen did happen. That is not always the case. Some of the time, things that are presented as unwavering fact, turned out to be a bit different when applied to our context. For example, we only have a few inches of topsoil. Our soil reacts differently than soil that is thicker. Our ground may stay wetter, or dryer, than someone else's so our sheep's hooves react differently. We may have to trim hooves more often than other folks who may not ever trim hooves. It reminds me of comments about the different USAF pilot training bases. At Vance, you will learn how to land in crosswinds, at Columbus you will be great at flying instruments in the clouds, at Laughlin you will have great weather but will learn about how to operate in the heat and airspace boundaries may also be national borders. That does not mean that one pilot is trained any better or worse than another, just that the focus is different. Similarly, we have had to learn that lessons presented as hard-and-fast by some of the most learned folks in the business may not be a focus for our specific context, or may not even apply.

Check out Shelley's YouTube Short today and don't forget to subscribe!

Local Farm Report for 13 Feb 2023:


25 Chicken eggs

7 Duck eggs

5 Gallons of milk



Cheers! Rich & Shelley

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