Beef Calves

We put our first loads of hay into the hay loft of the dairy barn Thursday night, starting against the wall at the south end of the space, and shrinking the dance-floor by ten or fifteen feet. We usually head out on a hay run in the afternoon, once the hay has dried down

An orphan beef calf getting breakfast at the dairy

completely and the baler has started running. We can transport around 175 bales per load, so on a big day, we end up doing multiple rounds of loading in the field and unloading at the barn. With an afternoon start, 350 bales to pickup, and another load of loose hay after that, we finished up Thursday around 7:30, with flood lights on in the hay loft as we stacked bales. The farm workday runs from dawn until dark, or just after, and with sunrise just after 5am and sunset at 8:30, we’re putting in pretty long days at this point in the summer. There is an essential back-and-forth between the short winter days, when we just can’t seem to find the time to get everything done that we want to do, and these endless summer days when we have to find ways to summon the energy to see the day all the way through to the end.

We had another wonderful inch of rain to start the week, refreshing the moisture in the soil and powering up the pasture plants and veggie starts for another growth spurt. We followed the rain with some incredibly hot and humid weather for a day or two, a beautiful taste of cool dry weather in the middle of the week, and back to pea-soup humidity to finish out on Friday and Saturday. All together it’s been a pretty typical stretch of summer weather, and as long as we continue to get regular rain, things are looking pretty good. We had gone weeks without rain by this point last year, the ponds were shrinking, the pastures had stalled, and irrigation was ramping up to keep the veggies happy and growing.

A new beef calf hiding in the tall pasture

We’ve had four beef calves born this week, with three happily staying alongside mama out on the pasture, and one here at the dairy barn. Like last year, we found a beef calf abandoned out in a pasture the herd had moved through, half a mile or more from the group. We scooped the little bull calf up, drove him over to the beef herd, and put him down to see if any mama cow would show ownership. Nobody reacted positively, despite the little guy’s best efforts to get a hold of an udder of milk, so we scooped him up again and drove him down to the dairy. He sucked down a bottle of milk in short order, and we’ve spent the last few days working to get Patty to adopt him as her own. She had a calf a couple of weeks ago, and has plenty of milk and patience, so we’re optimistic that she will provide for both calves. The kids here at camp named the little red bull Jax, and he is now out with the dairy herd trying to learn the routine here at Sentinel Elm Farm. Last year I assumed that we had an issue with our management of the beef herd when this same sequence unfolded, but with this very similar recurrence, I am starting to wonder if we have a mama cow out there a little deficient in the responsibility department.

One bay of the brooder, full of poults

I picked up fifty-one turkey poults from Bob’s Turkey Farm on Thursday morning, and they’ve been moved into the brooder in the back of the dairy barn. They’ll be in there for a few weeks, until they make the transition from fluffy down to real feathers, and then they’ll move out to spend the rest of their time on pasture. We’ll process them on the farm the weekend before Thanksgiving, and make them available to the Farm School Community.


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