Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bringing Home the Butter

Recently we brought Buttercup back to our farm.  She had been staying at a friend's farm since March in order to be bred.  You can read more about that story HERE, but the jist of the story is that we brought her to live with other cows so that she could be artificially inseminated when she went into estrus. Unfortunately, there was a bull on the farm.  There was breakout and for the past several months she has shown no sign of going into heat, so we all assume that she has been bred. I believe she will calve sometime in December.

The ride home was uneventful.  I'm sure it was quite a change for her; being taken off lush, green pasture and brought back to our sandy brush land.  One day we hope to have grassy fields, but there's lots of prliminary work to be done. We have to finish clearing and burning brush. We have to plant seed, and most importantly we have to have rain or some type of irrigation sysytem. 

Years ago, when we first bought the farm, in early spring we decided to plant Bahaia grass. There was a rain storm on the radar, so Bob got out the tractor and began to till the ground. We hadn't cleared, but we thought we'd just plant trails of grass through the scrub brush.  Bob tilled, I followed behind with buckets of seed, scattering it in the broken ground left by the rototiller.  Levi and Joel, who were about 9 and 12 years old, walked behind me kicking dirt to cover the seed.  Then we waited for the rain. And we waited. And we waited. Little did we know then that it was the beginning of a major two year drought. Several days later we drug out fire hoses we had, laid out what seemed like miles of PVC pipe, and pumped water up from the creek.  We dragged those hoses all over the woods trying to save our seed. I have NEVER worked so hard in my life - you can't imagine how heavy fire hoses are filled with water, pulling them through the brush without letting them kink.. it was almost impossible!  I will NEVER do that again!
Sadly, after all that work, nothing grew.

   When Buttercup went to stay at Jim's, she became a cow. She learned to graze, she met other cows for the first time and became part of a herd.  When we would visit, she recognized us, and though she would come to say hello, she was becomming more distracted and a bit rough. I was concerned that she would be very difficult to handle when she came home.
   One  of the greatest mistakes we made with our Jersey cow was that we did not halter break her when she was a calf. We bottle fed her and she followed us everywhere.  I guess I just didn't consider that it might be difficult to coax an 800 pound grown cow to go where she didn't want to once she was older.  I won't make that mistake again!  Thankfully, Jim put a halter on her when we went to pick her up.

Once we got to our farm Buttercup immediately reverted back to her former self. She instantly became the pet cow.  It was quite surprising, but I'm so pleased.  The other concern I had when she arrived was that she would not take a liking to her feed.  Before she left to be bred we were feeding her a type of hay very high in protien. She loved it! She and the goats would belly up to the roll and spend all day there.

Unfortunately, I found out that the hay and grain I was feeding her was not good for her. She was too fat and I had come close to ruining her bag, so when she returned I had a roll of horse hay for her instead, and although it was quality hay, I'm certain she remembered the days of lushious Perennial Peanut Hay, which, by the way, I still feed to our goats.
So there she was at feeding time, giving me her big, brown, doe-eyed look

and longingly watching the goats eat the desired hay.

It was pitiful. I'm an enabler, and it was impossible to watch her for long, so I gave her just a taste.

 Two days later we were able to go pick up a drum of the feed she can have.  It's a maintenance feed made up of soy hulls, corn gluten and peanut skins.  I looks like this:


 And it must be pretty good because it seems everyone wants some!


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