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Fall Happenings

Posted 10/20/2010 3:30pm by Renae Schlatter.

The summer has gone by so swiftly and fall is upon us. It is such a beautiful time of year. I get the feeling of wanting to prepare for hibernation, but of coarse that is not practical! We are preparing for the winter months ahead though. Our last batch of broiler chickens has been dressed and put in the freezer.

Last chickens, 2010

It's always fun for me to see the first chicks arrive in the Spring and to put the last chickens in the freezer in the fall. There is a season for everything! Our turkeys are well on the way to being ready for Thanksgiving.

turkeys

turkeys

They are such curious birds that it's hard to get a picture of them without them flocking in one big group to come and check out what's going on. If you notice the bottom turkey picture here you will see our dog, Sampson in the background. He is behind the fence for a reason! I wrote earlier about what a good guard dog he was, but he is a little too friendly with the turkeys. We're not sure if he just plays with them or if he tries to, but either way he has a problem of wounding the birds. So, he has to be separate from the turkeys. Another thing to notice in the pictures is the grass. As you can tell there is not much there and what is there is rather brown looking. Take a look at the picture in the photo gallery from last fall and you will see an amazing difference in the grass color. We haven't have any significant rain here since about the middle of July. This has really put a hamper on our grazing practices. According to the government our county did not have a drought this summer, but we would like to differ!

The hardest thing for us to adjust with the dry weather is the premature feeding hay to the cattle. We can usually go until the first part of December grazing, but we have been feeding hay now for about 3 weeks or so. This means several things. One is that the hay that we made this summer to last "the winter" will be about 3 months not enough. So, we will have to, actually already have started to, buy hay in. This is one expense that we didn't budget for at the beginning of the year, but we feel committed to keeping the beef and dairy 100% grassfed. Another is that dry hay does not have the same nutritional value as fresh grass does. So, in order to keep the dairy cows producing well we have started supplementing them with blackstrap molasses. This is to provide extra energy for them. We don't want to, but we are keeping our options open and may also have to supplement with either oats or spelt. At this point we feel that if we can get a high protein hay we will be able to avoid the grain. Third, it adds extra labor to take the feed to the animals. Grazing is ideal because the animals find their own feed and spread their own manure. As long as the ground is dry we will feed the cattle out in the pastures. Right now with the dairy cows we are rolling the bales out on the field. That way they are still taking care of their own waste and are still able to be out on the grass and in the sunshine. We have actually improved the soil by doing this because the hay that isn't eaten and the manure fertilize the ground. So, I guess there is something good that will come from this!

dairy cows eating hay

dairy cows eating hay

If you look in both pictures you will see lines of hay in the front. They cows are eating hay in the background. I guess we learn to adapt! In the dairy herd we calve semi-seasonally. Our biggest number of calves come in the spring, but we do have some cows that calve in the fall. I wrote this spring about the nurse cow herd that we established. That worked out well this spring and just last week we took the mammas away and weaned the calves. They are really healthy looking big calves. I wouldn't want to wrestle with one of them! This fall we didn't have enough grass to do the nurse cow herd. We also needed all the milk we could get and if we would have taken cows out to the be nursers that would have put a big dent in our milk supply. The calves do get the milk from the cows, but when they are not with the cows they don't get an all you can eat buffet. Right after birth they are fed the high nutrient colosturm from their mamma and them just the milk. After they get used to sucking on the nipple they are moved into a group feeding pen.

fall calves

The blue tub you see is where the milk is dumped in at feeding time. Next spring when the pastures are green again these calves will be weaned and put out to pasture.

It has been an abnormal fall, but what is normal? One thing I love about fall (or any time of the year) are the sunsets. I took this picture last evening over our pond.

fall sunset

We appreciate the support our family farm receives. We encourage you to stay active and informed about food rights issues.

-Renae