Saturday, April 8, 2017

April is a Hard Month

You may have noticed I didn't write much last year, if at all. It was a hard year, and this one is not much better. April 2016 hit us hard.

Our beloved dog Chaos had to be put down on the 17th. She had been declining steadily with health issues and on that Sunday, when there was no way to get a veterinarian, she fell - several times actually. She had gotten unable to go down our few steps out of the house so we had to help her, and the return trip up was worse. Her back end was constantly going out from under her as her spine had fused in some places and outright dissolved in others. She was in pain in spite of the medication she was on. First she fell in the barn. It was her ritual to go for at least a little while just to get out of the house. I would take her in just before we started milking because we couldn't keep an eye on her and there was just too much for her to get into out there. After she kept falling I finally took her back to the house. When we got back a few hours later she was sprawled on the floor in her favorite spot right where I had left her. She had fallen trying to get up, probably to go get water, and she could not get up for anything. We managed to get her up but she winced, which told me she had tried and failed at least a few times and had bruised something. We got her up and she managed to get a drink but it wouldn't stay down and she didn't eat. Then she fell in the living room and within an hour her abdomen was swollen almost double and she whimpered. I got a look and saw it had started turning purple. She had ruptured something and was bleeding inside. It was the hardest thing we ever did to have to get her outside and put her down. There was nothing else that could be done. We mourn her loss daily. Honestly, I can't even see a picture of a yellow Labrador retriever or any dog that looks similar, without bursting into tears even now, a whole year later.

Then just a few days later I found out that the supposed pneumonia my father had been suffering from for over 6 months was not actually pneumonia. I told my mother to get another opinion from other doctors for several of those months. By the time they figured out (at another hospital) that he had Squamous Non-small Cell lung cancer he only had days to live. He kept saying he didn't want me there because he didn't want me to see him that way. I finally made arrangements to go anyway about the time he started calling for me at the hospital in his delirium. The first leg of my flight out of Wisconsin to Chicago was on time. Then the flight from Chicago to Miami (odd way to get to Tallahassee) was delayed. Then when we got to Miami the connecting flight to Tallahassee had already left and they had to book me on the next flight out later that evening, except the pilot never showed and they cancelled the flight until mid-morning the next day. No one had any flights out that night. He died early in the morning and I had missed the chance to say good-bye. I will never get over that!

My dad passed away 12 days after we lost Chaos. So, you see, April is and always will be a very hard month for me.If it weren't for my dear cats, I'd be totally lost.

                                                    My mom and dad (They are holding my first book)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Long Time Passed

I can't believe it has been so long, over a year, since I have posted on this blog. I do apologize.

A lot has happened on the farm. Milk prices dropped to impossible lows and yet the cost of replacement cattle stayed way high, unless we were selling of course. Cull cows, or cows no longer able to be milked, were really low. Calves too were really low as a result of a new high in beef cattle populations. We just couldn't catch a break. The stress, sleepless nights, and series of dangerous situations have led us to put the farm up for sale. We are not young and have discovered that stress can make any illnesses you already have, such as rheumatoid arthritis in my husband's case, worse and steadily worsening. There is only two of us and now I have permanent injuries as well due to an ornery bull.

The Bull
We finally changed bulls from the Jersey bull that constantly harassed me as if he meant to kill me, to holstien bull. It was time anyway as his offspring were about ready to be bread and he was not the bull for the job. This new one though, turned mean rather quickly. In September I had accidentally left what is called a 'can't kick' on a cow and then she got turned out after milking. (It stops her from kicking the person doing the milking and she was really good at it.) I went after her immediately but she got away so I followed her into the pasture- all the way to the other side near the cornfield. Enter Bob (the bull) who did not want me near HIS ladies. I tried to get her to the barn again so I could safely remove the apparatus. Bob kept between me and her so I decided it wasn't worth it and would just go back to the barn without her. She actually did know how to get it off if it bothered her that much, any tree would do it, I just didn't want to lose it. Bob wouldn't let me leave the field and in fact put his head down and pawed the dirt. I started backing up because that is the attack warning. I saw him coming and threw my arm up somehow, I guess instinct, to protect my check because that is exactly he hit - right- square- in- the-chest, and he has big horns! I went flying threw the air about six feet but he was fast and I was stunned so I couldn't get away from his secondary offensive. He beat me with his head and used his hoof and horns to flog me over. When he backed up to start all over again (toying with me I think) I somehow had enough wits about me still to get to my hands and knees and crawl the rest of the way to the electric fence and get under it. I went through all sorts of sticker weeds poking my hands and my knees and if I got shocked on the fence I didn't even know it. I just hoped it was enough to keep him at bay. It stopped him but he still pawed the dirt daring me to try to get back to the barn. I couldn't walk by then so that wasn't happening.

I screamed over and over for help but for some reason my neighbor just the other side of that cornfield, which was narrow, could not hear me. My husband was still milking the last round and the equipment was running. There was no way he heard me and I was probably too far from the barn anyhow. I was in crying and in severe pain so I couldn't even crawl to the road end of field to try to flag down any of the few and far between vehicles that might pass. It was almost dark so they might have thought I was just waiving if they couldn't see the blood all over my arms.

Eventually my husband did come looking when he realized I had not returned to the barn and saw the cows all standing in one place looking to the cornfield. Panicked, he ran and was relieved to see me sitting, squalling my head off, in the cornfield. That is until he saw how beat up I was. He helped me sort of walk back to the barn fighting off the bull the entire way, then helped me into the house. I got a shower while he finished in the barn but I knew he would be too tired to take me to the ER so I told him to wait until the next morning after chores. I should have called an ambulance.

The next day I had double vision (turned out I was wearing his spare pair of glasses and was too dazed to realize it- mine were still in the pasture). I was completely black and blue on my right side with bumps and bruises, and to this day some of the lumps still have not subsided. My knees were swollen and purple (both of them) and I had pulled the muscles in my ribs on my left side and I had torn the left rotator cuff in my shoulder. I also have damage to my pelvis which took a chiropractor to discover. My hips were twisted and shoved up out of place causing severe pain when I sit for very long and make walking difficult at times, although I can stand far longer than I can sit. Since it took so long before I just said, "screw it, I'm going to the chiropractor anyway," after the regular docs said not to, the damage may be permanent. She has tried several times to put things back in place but they won't stay.

Needless to say, I still have nightmares and when even a yearling heifer comes straight at me all I see is that stupid bull and I let her have way. My husband doesn't understand that. He thinks I should be over it by now. Maybe so, but I'm not. I haven't felt much like writing so my blogs have suffered.

Finally, last week Bob got sold. I can't believe my husband would not sell that dangerous animal knowing he had a taste for blood, and everyone who came by knew it. He menaced them from the fence and terrified potential buyers who were looking around.

We do have that first batch of heifers milking now and some more ready to breed. Bob was too big for them (he weighed in at over 2400 pounds - yep, it felt like getting hit by a train engine). I also have a ton of calves to feed on the bottle. We sold a few to test the market since last year they practically stole them from us so we ended up keeping about all of them. We are out of room. Due to the unfortunate fires in the lower Midwest (Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas) that destroyed multiple herds of beef cattle the price of bull or steered calves is higher so I can sell them without so much financial pain.

Our beloved Chaos also died last year, almost exactly a year ago actually. We are still mourning her loss. Our foundling cat Sable is in the house and keeps us entertained. She's not a dog, but she has captured our hearts in her own right.

Less than two weeks after Chaos passed, my father also passed away from lung cancer. He only found out he had that instead of pneumonia 12 days before he died. I was unable to get there before he died. I was stuck in Miami after my flight was canceled when the pilot failed to show. Yes, I was rather angry to add to my mourning. I tried, but he had said many times he didn't want me to see him like that, until it got to the end and he changed his mind. If I had been able to get there when my flight was scheduled I would have seen him at least for a few hours. The airline and I are not on friendly terms. 

Our female tabby (named Tabby) in the barn had a kitten who just would not open both eyes for the longest time. We named her 'Squint'. She's a goof ball. Tabby had another litter the other day. There are 5 of the little milkaholics. The guys, Whiskers and Zorro, are getting altered (read: neutered) in a couple of weeks. Yay! Unfortunately for some unknown reason the one who the most attached to me, 'Smokey' walked away last summer and never returned home. It's possible he got the cat flu. Whiskers and Zorro did and nearly died. Had they not come home when they did and let me nurse them back to health they would have died. The vet commended me on the save.

Well, that's about it. Until next time.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

My Cat Posse

It finally got to the point that we needed a cat. Being on a farm grain is everywhere and those nasty rodents eat about as much as the cows. Yuk!

It started out with does anyone have a good mouser they are willing to give up? Our nutritionist from the feed mill had two kittens that could do the job. Someone on Facebook that I used to work with had two kittens they were helping someone who was relocating get rid of. I ended up with all four. My dog, who is notorious for killing cats is old and crippled with various joint problems and a lack of energy so she finally just lives with them and they tolerate each other. Yay! Not old and sick part, of course, just the doesn't kill cats anymore part.

The first two little ones took to killing those mice right away. They are a real force to deal with. One, a male, is black and white and I named him Zorro. The other, a female, is a tabby so of course I named her Tabby.

The other two are male (long haired- not really a good thing) and came from an apartment. They have NO IDEA HOW TO KILL A MOUSE! One that is solid black is named Smokey. Originally I was going to call him Voo Doo after another black one I had, but he just isn't scary enough. The other one is a tabby and I named him Whiskers. They are all into being held and stealing the other two's food. My husband does not like these too "moochers". They are jumping machines, like flying squirrels. I get great comfort and peace in holding all of them though. He will have a hard time getting me to get get rid of any of them.

Yesterday, I came home to find a small, brown, long haired ball of fur on my sidewalk in front of my back steps. It could barely get around as it had been hurt somehow. The night before I heard a strange noise like something getting caught in the fan of the furnace and then loud meowing. I checked out the basement since it sounded like that's where it all came from and found nothing, although the furnace did start up when I was down there. I looked outside around my bedroom window and saw nothing as well. It was dark since there were heavy clouds blocking out the moon and the outdoor light doesn't shine there. Coincidence? If someone was out there, they should know better. We are loaded for bear and do not appreciate trespassers, especially around our bedroom!

That poor tiny kitten was injured. I took it inside and cleaned it up and dressed its wounds. Its front leg had the skin peeled off (and gone) almost the entire length of the lower part and one eye was gooey. I cleaned the eye with a cotton swab and discovered it had not lost it (whew!) but it was swollen around it. I put antibiotic ointment in the eye and it looks a lot better today. I am not sure the kitten was weaned. I got it to eat, but not drink, even milk. Wow, fresh from the cow milk could not get it to drink. I think I'll try a syringe to feed it milk tonight. I has a potty problem too, like it doesn't know to move when it goes so I find myself bathing it often. My husband didn't even bat an eye when I told him I found it and had it in the pet carrier in the milk house. He just looked at it when I got it out and said, "Yep, it's small." I named it Sable. Sable is dark brown, right? I have never seen a solid brown cat before. I also cannot really determine its gender. I keep calling it a her but it might be a him. I'll have look it up or ask someone better at it!

                                          Smokey and Whiskers, cuddlers- not mouse killers.
                                                    Zorro - awesome mouse killer and cuddler
                                  Tabby, kills mice like a champ, lets you hold her when SHE wants.
                                               Sable, the foundling. Needs to learn some things.

They are all real good at purring and cuddling. Tabby has to be in the mood, although she is getting better about it. My husband actually won her over with of all things Cheeze It crackers .He says he doesn't like cats, but Zorro (whom he usually refers to as 'Roscoe') is an okay cat. Zorro sits on his shoulder when he sits down in the barn. He won't even pet Smokey and Whiskers because they won't go after mice unless they take them away from the other two. He wants them gone. Hmmm.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Implements of Husbandry?

I've heard a lot over the months about new highway laws regarding implements of husbandry. The government sure uses strange terms. Implements of husbandry actually refers to farm equipment. Now, if someone would please tell me where they get that name, I would really appreciate it. The implement part I get, but the husbandry part I don’t. My HUSBAND doesn’t even know where it comes from. It’s not like one can marry a piece of farm equipment or have an inappropriate (or supernatural) relationship with it and create children. 

I could understand farm animals (males) being referred to as husbandry, because of the obvious need of a male to make more farm animals. Yes, I know, people use artificial insemination, but it wasn’t artificially created in a lab somewhere. It came from a male animal. Maybe it is an antiquated term once used to refer to draft horses or oxen used on the farm. (You hear that Budweiser™, you can’t drive your beer to the warehouses anymore using draft horses without a special permit!) 

I even understand the laws changing because equipment is getting larger and heavier and doing damage to paved county roads (that once were gravel), and highways. Fines are unbelievable if one doesn’t get an expensive permit every time they pass over the roadways and they get caught. The places to get the permits are often far from convenient for the farmer who needs them, and trust me, when you need to transport equipment, you need to get going. Sometimes there is only a small window when the weather cooperates and to have to go get a permit might take up that window. Farm equipment doesn’t exactly qualify for NASCAR in speed.  

Wouldn’t you think when they update the laws, they could update the terminology as well?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Beware! Don't Open the Gate!

Hey you, yeah you! The one who thought it was funny to unhook the electric fence gate to the pasture where our cows graze. It's just off the road so you got easy access. The thing about it is that while you can certainly unhook it with it on, you can't re-hook without unplugging the electric fence box. Trust me: You don't want to grab that live wire. Been there, done that, nearly got a permanent wave from it, definitely got thrown several feet, and I was just trying to put it back on an insulator and the rubber handled pliers slipped.

Lucky for you, we took all those dry cows we had out with the bull inside so we could feed them and make sure they got minerals since the grass was pretty well eaten down. The bull decided to hang out around the barnyard and terrorize the cow entrance to the barn trying to get the cows back. He has a thing about 'his' cows and someone -anyone- being around 'his 'cows, or 'his' fence fence. He will take you out, and not to dinner, my friend. There is a reason we carry a long stock prod and an aluminum baseball bat when we are out in the field. He's nuts. He's dangerous. He has tried on many occasions to take me out. At the moment he is still afraid of my husband when he waves his arms and yells at him, but no one else.That could change in an instant. He actually scares the hell out of EVERYBODY that sees him. Several people have told us he needs to go, as if I haven't been begging to get rid of him for almost a year now. So when you think it's funny to let the bull out onto the road, you are not just taking the life of someone who may come across him into your hands, you are taking your own life into your hands. You've been warned.

Oh, by the way, that culvert you had to stand on - the one in the ditch next to the fence- had a nasty troll living in it. There was evidence he may have introduced himself to you. I hope you enjoyed your little meeting with the troll. In case he didn't give you his name, he goes by Skunk!

Eliza Lynn Taylor, the farmer whose gate you opened.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Calves Then and Now

Well, I must say I was certainly surprised when my beautiful red and white calves started turning black or dark brown and white. Huh? I was told that Jerseys do that. It's been so long since I had a Jersey calf that I didn't remember that, or maybe all we got the last time was bull calves and they were sold. Now, the market is all about the beef bull or holstien bulls (last check was $7.00 something a pound for day-old calves at the sale barn.) Jersey or crossbred calves not so much, actually downright insulting.

We had a calf born the other day from a crossbred cow that we had no idea what she was bred to. It is obvious it was holstien. My husband said as we went to move it so mom could clean it up, "Let it be a bull!" It was a heifer. She is adorable. He named her Holly.  Hey, that is an improvement over the other names he has come up with.

My husband came home with two cows at the end of April that are supposed to be crossbred Jersey and holstien. One doesn't look so much crossbred. They were enormous, weighing in at 1450 pounds and 1300 pounds. He named the heavier one (definitely crossbred) Tank, which I let him get away with because she was built like a Sherman tank and being all riled up from changing farms, she crawled under the rails and beheaded a water bowl. I saw it coming and was already at the shut-off valve. Whew! She is considerably calmer now. The other he wanted to name Jeep! I said no. She became Flossie, although he is constantly calling her Frieda for some reason. They were springers, which means they were close to having their calves. Tank had a pretty deep red heifer. I named her Willow. Flossie had a brownish red bull calf. His name is Buster. We may keep Buster as a replacement bull. The jury is still out on that. The other bulls have already been altered to steers.

Ghost about a week old                                                      Ghost now

My red calves are turning dark colored! I really hated putting in ear tags. Their ears were so cute without them.

(I have been trying for two days to load the other calf pictures on here, but for some reason they just refuse to go. I don't know why. Wish I were a techie!)

We now have 12 calves in the barn and one due today, but she isn't acting as if she will have it. Then again, the vet told us one was not due July 30th, but May 30th, dry her up immediately. We're still waiting on it. At least Brownie is all ready to go. She is bagging up nicely.

We have to get that pen ready to put the older calves outside. It has rained so much, when it stops we have to catch up on other things that have been put off. Wish us luck!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Valliant Effort but Brokenhearted Anyway

So, what happens when a dairy cow (possibly because of its breed) has a swollen abscessed knee? Well, for one it needs to be lanced so it can drain. Check did that several times. Then, let the cow out of the barn to walk around on the soft ground so it doesn’t have to stand on concrete (padded or not). Did that too. What a farmer cannot control is the attitude of the cow. We have one that we have done everything we’re supposed to, including drying her up early (according to the due dates given the sale barn by the previous owner and acknowledged by the sale barn’s own vet). It was only by a few weeks, but we suspected the dates were wrong anyway as she was huge and milking less and less every day. She used to eat everything that wouldn’t get out of her way, but once that knee went, she stopped. We even took feed to her outside and kept the other dry cows at bay so she could eat. She wants corn silage, which unfortunately, like many farmers this time of year, we are out of, and grain, which given too much is not good for the cow or our wallet. She lost an enormous amount of weight as she wouldn’t graze very often. She did eat the fresh grass, we could see that in the manure, but still, she mostly just laid around. We made her get up and exercise that leg and brought her in to the barn to give her grass silage, extra minerals, and grain, checked her knee and did whatever was necessary, and let her back out. Still, one day she started bagging up (putting on milk) and within three days she showed signs of being in labor. I told my husband not to let her out that morning since it was overcast with rain due anytime and there was a cold wind. He did anyway. 

A few hours later she started pushing. He was doing field work and told me if she hadn’t had it by the time I got back from the feed store, he was going to intervene. She had it while I was gone, but this was six weeks earlier than that due date of June 24th. When I got home, he told me the calf was well on its way out and she just stood up and let it drop on the ground on its head! Then she walked away. Two other dry cows actually went to it and cleaned it. They did a fine job, but it never got up, as would be normal, to nurse (on anyone handy).

The truck was loaded down so I couldn’t take it out to the field which left me totally on foot. I took my trusty baseball bat because our bull is ornery to say the least and seems to have it out for me. He was interested, but not too much at the time. The other cows backed away when I got to the calf. The poor thing was not quite dry and he was shivering. I knew I couldn’t just leave him out there but he would not stand up. Hoping he wasn’t too heavy, as I was still nursing a back injury, I squatted down and lifted him off the ground. I was shocked to discover that he couldn’t weigh more than 25 pounds. That is way small, which of course he was. It didn’t look six weeks premature, so they were probably only off a month and he was likely only two weeks early. Turns out that was enough.

I started walking, trying to figure out how I would get this poor thing in the barn when that stupid bull decided he was more that interested and started jumping and snorting and lowering his head as he pawed the dirt. I was literally just across a plywood wall from my husband where he was loading the manure spreader, but with two tractors running he couldn’t hear me. I couldn’t swing my bat because, even though I had it in my hand, my arms were full and there was no way I was putting that calf down in the mud. He was the other dry cows run across that section of the cow yard in my direction and figured out the bull was at it again since what they usually do when he’s after me. He came to the rescue and kept him at bay while I got next to the barn and helped me get him in and into a stall.

I called the calf ‘poor little guy’ as I was afraid to name him. He was so small and he couldn’t hold his head up at all. I warmed a bottle of colostrum (we keep some in milk jugs frozen just for this purpose). I went to spray his umbilical cord just to find he didn’t even have one. It had broken off at stomach level (bad). I rubbed him vigorously to warm him up and even wrapped him in a towel to keep him warm. I worked fluid out of his lungs and checked him over closely. He couldn’t keep his tongue in his mouth, as if he were dead and it appeared he was blind in one eye. When I tried to feed him, he couldn’t stand or help hold himself up when I held him up and then I discovered he was unable to even suckle. We ended up rigging up a feeding tube with a small hose and a funnel, which isn’t the way the commercial ones are made, but at least I could hear it if I got into a lung rather than his stomach. We got a pint down him and later two. The next morning I got three. He could hold his head up for a minute at a time and sort of crawl, but still could not stand. His breathing was labored. By chore time (feeding time) in the afternoon, because he was unable to stand up, his milk had come back up on him and he aspirated it into his lungs and was well into pneumonia. As we picked him up it literally ran out of his lungs. He was no longer able to hold his head up at all and he was limp and all but dead. I had to leave the barn as my husband did the kindest thing he could have for the baby calf and I cried for the loss of the beautiful little thing. 

One of our cows who normally is a bit standoffish, backing away when I unhook her, actually sensed my distress as I unhooked one next to her to go to the parlor and laid her head against mine for a moment and then licked my face. (Yeah, yuk, but I didn’t care). She did it again when I unhooked her. 

I am still brokenhearted over the loss. I know we did all we could for him, but he was born too early and severely malnourished from the womb, and he really wasn’t going to make it. I had him for 28 hours. His mother still is not eating very much. We’re giving her forced supplements (paste squirted down her throat). Of course the vet leaves town on Thursdays not to return until sometime Monday so if we call the vet, it will have to be then. (She has two practices over an hour’s drive apart.)

The last tally is out of 14 calves since December 23rd, 2 bulls sold, 1 heifer stillborn for unknown reasons, and one premature bull calf which died. Of the 14, 6 have been bulls and 8 heifers. We're waiting on 1 that is overdue by a few days, 1 due at the end of the month, and a couple due in June and then a lot due in July (I lost count.)