The beef herd completed their first grazing rotation on Friday, finishing a full circle over every acre of their pasture. They started grazing in the first week of May, so here around the twentieth of June, their first pass around the pastures took about forty-five days. We typically try to make the first rotation as short as we possibly can so the cows can pass over everything when the grass is growing at its fastest. If they can knock everything back a bit by grazing it, we hope that we can forestall the production of seed heads and the growth of the rigid and unpalatable stem that holds it up high. This year, with a rainy spring coming on top of our already saturated soil, we made some adaptations to the usual grazing’s opening gambit we employ to move the cows over the landscape. We had to move the cows first to the sloping, better drained pastures, keeping the herd off the lower softer areas to avoid tearing up the ground. Those sloping areas also grew better grass this spring while the flooded areas were significantly delayed as they slowly dried out. Many parts of our wetter pastures seem to have taken a significant step closer toward being wetland and swamp this growing season after being inundated for the majority of the summer last year, and being soaked well again this spring. The majority of the plants that thrive in these wetter conditions are not appealing to our grazing animals, depriving us of these areas in our productive acreage, and reducing forage intake opportunities for the sheep and cows. We have started looking into ways to improve these wetter areas, either by enhancing drainage, or by planting forage species that will tolerate the wet conditions and better serve as livestock feed. Reed Canary Grass is a forage species that thrives in wetter soil, and that our cows will happily graze, but it also has some significant drawbacks in our pastures as well. It is not native to our area, it will crowd out every other type of plant growing out there with aggressive expansion, and it becomes much less palatable to the cows when it gets more mature. Thinking about seeding a forage species that we may potentially need to brush-hog in a wet area that we may potentially also not be able to drive a tractor over gives me a good deal of worry, and we continue to consider the options. Other than these wet pasture challenges, our pasture looks really great so far this year, and I am looking forward to another strong rotation over the next month and a half.
nurse. We bottle fed him in the field for a couple of days while the cows were in the area and his mother could make it back for periodic visits, hoping that he’d eventually get up and get moving. These larger calves often end up curled up a bit in utero, and this can lead to joint tendons grown a bit too loose and long for proper leg function. This little guy was doing the classic ankle roll on his front two feet, putting his weight on the turned over front of his ankle joint rather than on his hoof, and this posture kept him from moving around much. After a couple of day, we drove the calf down to the dairy barn and put him in a little pen in the milking area of the barn. He’s getting three half-gallon bottles of fresh Jersey milk every day, regular ankle massages to get his tendons worked out, and more attention from the campers, who’ve named him Lynus, than any cow has every gotten. We’ve had many calves born with similar difficulties in their knees and ankles, and every one has eventually tightened up loose joints and developed into a healthy animal. The second cow was in a much more dire condition, having gone into labor Saturday morning with no results at all by Sunday. We also haltered her and got her cinched tight to a tree, and the vet found that her calf was in a breach position. With some intense manipulations inside the cow, the vet was able to get the calve’s back legs directed at the exit, and then to pull the calf. Unfortunately the calf had died before birth. Another internal examination by the vet found that there was a second calf also in breach inside the cow, and with a similar sequence of care, he pulled a second dead calf. We hustled the dead calves off the scene in the hopes that the cow would not form that strong maternal attachment to them, and then we flushed her whole reproductive system with iodine wash to help avoid infection after her difficulties. This was an experienced and successful mother cow with a good record of delivering and raising calves, so there is some hope that she can breed and be a successful mother again next year. We had two more smooth births this week, and there are two healthy calves running with the herd now. We had ten pregnant cows last year, so with four delivered so far, I expect we’ll have more over the next few weeks.
Strawberry harvest is still dominating the vegetable and fruit side of things these days, and those beds of plants are producing a truly incredible pace. The community has been harvesting as fast as we’re able, but the gorgeous red berries keep ripening and ripening in this nice sunny weather. We’re in the throes of that funny transition from the initial excitement about the onset of a beloved seasonal crop, and the exhaustion that comes with trying to keep up with the prolific harvest as that crop chugs along through its season. Though we all love strawberries, and dream about their season all winter, I can sense a bit of strawberry fatigue setting in around the farm these days. Other than strawberries, we have a lot of healthy looking crops developing around the farm, and the Flat Field is looking really good at this point. We have had some nearly ideal weather over the past few weeks, with regular gentle rain and some strong sunny days, and it wasn’t until the end of this week that we ran into any real sticky humidity. This nice stretch has done a lot for the pastures and veggie crops, and we are all hopeful that things can continue like this for the rest of the season. Hay production has also benefited from this excellent weather, and I expect we’ll be putting up quite a few bales next week as folks finalize cutting started this weekend.