Lots of activity on the farm

There’s lots of activity these days on the farm during June Dairy Month. Our bull needed to be moved to accommodate cycles and along with the frisky calves running in the pasture with their tails in the air, we’ve acquired two piglets and 40 fluffy yellow chicks.

We had to remove our Red Angus Seminole bull (named Bub) from the pasture so he wouldn’t breed the up-and-coming heifers too early. We need all our calves born in the spring to assure they’ll be hardy enough to handle wintering outside.

This big boy is so laid back he’s moving into yesterday, but he is a bull, and he is big, and a big bull, even an easygoing one, should never be fully trusted. If you know anything about me, you know that I am a little skittish now around these Angus on the farm, as one gave me seven staples and three stitches on the top of my head and a trip to the ER in January. This has made me more than a little nervous when I have to interact with them.

Because of my nervousness, a while back we purchased a cattle chute for ease of loading animals onto the trailer. My husband hauled a couple of gates home from Fleet Farm and, using them, we created a V of sorts, to make it easier for us to load up our steers in the trailer when it was time for a trip to the meat plant or the sale barn.

One of our sons was home recently, so we enlisted his help with Bub. I was delegated to the safe confines of the skidder. Getting Bub onto the yard was no issue as he comes up for water on a regular basis. My son and husband coaxed Bub over toward the wide end of the V, and he sauntered into the chute. Pushing the gate behind him with the skidder, I locked him in. My son was at the bull’s head ready to release the headlock when my husband backed the trailer up tight to the gate.

Meanwhile, I was so close I could see the steam rising from the resulting action of Bub’s digestive system. He was getting nervous. The trailer was backed up, son released the headlock and poking him from behind, up he went; the trailer groaning from the weight of this gigantic animal stepping in. I exhaled and stopped shaking.

Two piglets are squealing and grunting and fairly having a grand time in their new digs. Buying them from a coworker of my husband’s, we now have two eager hogs, in addition to their pig starter, ready to digest with gusto any watermelon rinds, too-far-gone cucumbers or whatever else we don’t consume. I enjoy watching them snort and fight over their food. They are simply fascinating to watch.

Another breed of animal I am captivated with are our new chicks. We are trying something different, having purchased baby chicks for the purpose of butchering them early August. My sister has butchered her own chickens, and I have tasted the labor of her love. There is nothing like a home-grown chicken. I have found, though, that there’s a bit more into raising chicks than I thought. We did our homework and asked questions from those who’ve forged the same path.

For our use, good friends of ours brought over two kiddie pools and a full, large box of clean pine shavings. Spreading the bedding out evenly, we added two waterers and a long feeder, all stuck on top of a couple of two-by-fours so the chicks can access it easily, yet not get their bedding mixing in with their food and water. Putting them all into one kiddie pool, we have the other one waiting so that when I clean them, I can just transfer them over to the fresh one waiting.

We’ve added a cover of chicken wire so that varmints stay out. One morning, I came into the shed and noticed the waiting kiddie pool had been flipped on its side. Something had been in the garage casing out those chicks!

We stuck the pool on top of a sheet of plywood over two sawhorses so I can easily tend without bending over. We bought two heat lamps that my husband hung from the rung of the garage (where my car used to be parked).

I like it that they’re so close to the house. Looking out my living room window, I can see the heat lamps and know they’re working. My brother-in-law suggested we raise them a bit because he noticed the chicks were staying away and thought it was too warm. I felt awful. I could have scorched them, but I’m learning!

They are changing rapidly, and I’ve noticed wings starting to form. One day, I glanced outside and realized one chick had literally flown the coop! It had somehow gotten itself out of the pool and fluttered to the ground, looking for all the world lost and forlorn. Quickly scooping it up, I gently placed it back in the safe confines of the pool. It was no worse for wear.

We have, unfortunately, lost two chicks. I have no idea why, which concerns me, but my sister has advised me that, yes, that does happen sometimes. It was very sad when I had to lift their lifeless bodies from the frantic activity of the pool, but that is life on a farm.

With June Dairy Month in full swing, from transferring animals to baby calves, piglets and chicks, there is lots of activity on the farm these days.

(“Creation and creatures applaud You, God; Your holy people bless You.” Psalm 145:10, The Message Bible)