R.I.P.

R.I.P. Javelot  2011-2015

Bull2

Our large gentle bull, Javelot, died.  He was off his feed for a few days then rallied as if all was well, then died one afternoon a few days later.  The vet says it could have been for any number of reasons but he thinks Javelot ate a stray pice of wire from the hay bale and it punctured a stomach and got infected.  The infection part was obvious, it was throughout his intestines.  The vet said he probably could not have saved Javelot even if we had called him a few days earlier.  “Bulls are just delicate” is what he said. So has everyone else with whom we have shared our misfortune.  Who would have thought bulls were delicate.

 

Spring babies

A discussion that was on-going all winter long was if our “mamas” would have difficulty delivering their babies and if both mama and baby would survive due to the lack of green pasture.  We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase supplemental feed (which turned into daily feed, nothing supplemental about it), and we have access to water for the animals,  Between our well, pump, and water holding tanks, plus our newly finished ponds that are spring fed in the front and the back of the property, we did not have to worry about getting water to the animals. Some of our neighbors had difficulty with both water and feed for their animals.

We heard horror stories about cows abandoning their babies due to no milk, of birthing difficulties and mamas and babies dying.  One neighbor had sheep lambing and vultures attacked moms and babies because they were so weak they could not defend themselves. One farmer expected 125 lambs and only had 25 born. It has been a tough year for people with animals.

BUT… we were most fortunate that we had minimal issues with our mamas and babies.  The sheep started  lambing at the end of August.  We have about 50 babies with just less than half males.  Most are black with a few white markings here and there.  Megan is breeding for color rather than white.  We have managed to dock tails, castrate , and ear tag our new lambs.  They are adorable to watch jump and play and run about in a group. Here are a few playing king of the hill.

lambs 1

lambs 2

Our lecharas were really huge and for almost a month we kept saying they would burst any day. When they finally began calving in September, it was not the ones we expected to calve first  who calved first.  We had one born, then a few days later another, then one in the morning and one in the evening, then a few days later another was born.  The two largest cows who waddled because they were also the biggest around, we the last of the group to calve.  We have eight babies frolicking in the field with 4 more to arrive in a few months according to the vet.  We have six females and two males so far.

calves 1

The Normandy calves are up and running about within moments of being born.  Our mother lecharas are very attentive and keep close to their babies.

calves 2

Here is Jon walking around touching all the babies to get them use to being handles.

While we have rabbits and chickens being born and being sent to freezer camp on schedule, I have no photos to share.

But we have been keeping our eye on our geese and ducks.  They began nesting almost a month ago.

geese 1

geese 2

Just today, we had our first set of gosling hatch!

goslings

This mama took her little group on a walk about and another goose stepped up and is sitting on the rest of the eggs in the nest.  We have seven geese and one duck sitting nests full of eggs.  It will be interesting to see if the duck stays sitting after all the geese hatch because the duck eggs take longer to hatch.  Another learning experience.

Yes, we are still here.

We have not disappeared.  We have just  been busy.  Things are more routine now and less exciting if you are not living it.  (Our worker guys think we are crazy when we get all excited when another baby is born.  They shrug their shoulders and say it is just an animal.) The seasons come and go and for the most part follow a rhythm.  We had a few bumps with the weather.  No rain made for a hard winter and then spring began cold and was slow to provide rain. So, I will try to find some interesting pictures for the next few posts to catch everyone up on our activities. I know that it is the pictures you all care about, not our stories.

I will begin with the lecheras.  We had to purchase and then feed hay three to four times a day for our hungry pregnant milk cows.  Ruben made us some hay mangers so more would be eaten than trampled and peed upon. The lecheras were in the pasture just outside our front patio, and when we went in or out of the house and it was close to feeding time, they let us know, in chorus.

hay managers 1

hay mangers 2

We also purchased rations to be sure the lecheras were getting enough of the right kind of nutrients to stay healthy.  We poured about a third of a bucket for each mama and set it by the fence so we would not have to walk through the muck.  The mamas ate from their bucket and then from another bucket if the cow next to them was a slow eater.

rations 1

 

Having the cows right outside the door, and asking to be fed all the time, let us gentle the cows.  Instead of walking away when people went by, the cows came to see what food we might have brought.  So I tried to have a handful of grass or hay to fed who ever was standing at the fence.  The cows now do not mind as we walk amongst them and pat them.  Jon has had to shove a few out of his way while he has been working in their pasture.

hand feeding 1

hand feeding 2

Gentling the lecheras is the first step to being able to milk them when the time comes.  It is also fun to have them come running to say “moo” at you.

 

 

 

 

Hides

Megan has done a nice job keeping up with tanning the sheep and rabbit hides.  She has read a lot about how to tan hides and there are many ideas out there.  Megan has tried several different ways.  Recently she read about how to preserve the rabbit feet and tail and it too went smoothly.  We have finally slaughtered one of our heifers for us. We are now eating our very own home grown beef!  But that also gave us a cow hide, and a decision  of what to do.  After talking with the guys we learned that there is no market for cow hides, there is no place that will process them, what everyone does is to just bury them in a hole with the entrails. O.K. so now what?  Megan was ready to bury ours, but then the guys all said what a big hide! what a thick hide! what a shame not to do something with it!  So Megan went on the internet and found a straight forward way to tan the hide, and we are off with another experiment.

hides

Underside with the cow hair.

hide cow

We’ve been told the only thing to do with a cow hide is to make a rug.  We’ll see.

Warm Windy Dry Autumn

This summer was hot, which was great for the tourist beach people, then came the autumn season with warm windy sunny days without rain. Again nice for everyone but the people who need Fall Grass.  The pastures are brown.  The little ponds are low on water.  The talk in the country is about a rough winter.

The suppliers of alfalfa, straw, and grain are also hurting.  There will not be much to purchase, so feed prices will be going up.

We normally look greener than our neighbors, with lush fall grass.  This year with no water from the sky, we still look better than our neighbors but not good heading into winter.  We are already supplementing feed to our chickens, rabbits, and pigs and have just begun giving more to the lecheras.

supplemental feed cows 1

supplemental feed cows

They all came running to the fence to see what we had brought them.  Now they stand at the fence in the evening mooing to get dinner. The weather forecast is for lots of rainy days any time now. We keep waiting. If the rain doesn’t come while the days are still warm it will be too cold for the grass to grow. It could indeed be a very rough winter.

Hazy days of summer

We’ve been dealing with hot, humid summer days. Typical for January here in Uruguay. I’m going to skip over all the negative things I can say about the heat. And I could go on, and on, and on. Instead I’ll just say that the hot, humid summer days make for gorgeous scenery with soft colors, hazy vistas, and a symphony of insect noise.

hazy days 1

I’m working hard to take a few moments while working to just appreciate the beauty of the farm, the region, and how lucky we are.

Calves

The calf update is a bit late in coming. We were so on time sharing the earlier arrivals and then we fell apart. Sorry about that. And the calves really are too cute not to have shared. With the end of the expected spring calving we have six Normandy calves, one Hereford X Normandy cross, and two Hereford calves. Our cross came from Lady Di who you might recall let the neighbor bull get frisky during his visit.

baby calves 1

Mamas and babies are doing fine.  El Blanco – the mostly white bull calf you can see in the above picture is the current ring-leader. He’s Masie’s calf. While time will tell we think we may grow him out as a replacement bull. We only had one difficult birth, and Jon, Megan and Alejandro had to pull the calf mid-birth.

birth 2birth 3

The first-time mother had to go into labor in fairly abysmal weather. The other calves were all huddled around this poor pair.  The delivery was doing fine until the calf got stuck – just too big. But after he was born, mama and baby took to each other and spent the night together in the corral.

With all the Normandy now back in one herd on the front pasture the best entertainment to be had is to stand and watch the calves get into trouble. Their antics are adorable!

 

Masie’s newest calf

One more calf joined the herd here on the farm. Masie (short for Masochist) had her calf late yesterday. There was no getting close enough to take pictures yesterday. Masie wasn’t having any visitors.

This morning she was very, very attentive but let me get close enough to snap a picture of her sleepy calf.

Masie calf 1

He’s significantly larger than Lady Di’s little calf. But that’s about all I can tell with him laying down. And with Masie keeping a close eye on him I’m not about to rouse him while mama’s paying attention.

Oreo’s calf was stillborn last week. Which leaves us five more Normandy to calve.

 

Tablillas – or, fancy yellow nose accessories

Like always, we learn by doing. Last year when we weaned the Normandy calves from their mothers we separated everybody with permanent fences. And then listened to a godawful lot of noise. Evidently there’s a less stressful way to wean. Alejandro mentioned it this year when it became time to wean the Hereford’s calves and I promptly bought the required items.

Tablillas. Bright yellow pieces of plastic you hook in the nose of calves so that they can’t reach a teat. As one can imagine, it’s a bit challenging to put on. But once there? No problem. The tablilla doesn’t actually pinch the calf, so after a bit of initial irritation all is fine.

tablilla

No noise. No fuss. Nothing. A much better mousetrap!