Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a brief visit from two angels

I am exhausted, and grieving, but life on a farm goes on.  Last Thursday we were visited by two angels.

  CJ, the dog, wouldn't leave the barn.  Apparently, since he is indeed part "cattle dog" he found his calling.  He wouldn't let the chickens near the calves.
He was diligent.  It was endearing.

I have seen week old calves, but have never spent much time with them.  They are so, so, so cute - it's nearly indescribable how very precious they are.  

Two Jersey bull calves were delivered Thursday evening.  They were less than a week old.  We started them on Milk Replacer and I taught the littlest one (with the bottle above) to drink out of a bowl.  After they ate, the bigger one (in the picture with CJ) lay down.  We put them in their comfy stall and bid them goodnight.

The bigger calf (#1) died just after noon.  

the culprit:  e. Coli. infection

read more about bottle calves here

The littler calf (#2) died Sunday night.  

If you ask me, I think there is a major problem with the way that bull-calves are handled.  This article parallels my thoughts, somewhat.

Dairy Calf Management…
Early care determines what you get for your bull calves
Part 2 in 5 part series

This 5 part series is provided by the Veal Quality Assurance Program.  The series suggests ways of managing calves to increase the value of bull calves, but the techniques discussed will benefit heifer calves as well.

Calf care is a major area of lost economic opportunity in dairy production.  Many producers do not realize that what is good for the heifer is good for the bull, and what is good for the bull calf is good for dairy herd profitability.  Improved management of ALL calves on the farm will benefit the overall herd program, the milk market, the calf market and the producer’s farm income.  How calves are managed in the first hours and days of life determines their potential as dairy replacement or veal grow-out.
Today, 80% of the nation’s veal supply comes from dairy calves going to special fed veal growers where they are raised to about 20 weeks of age at a weight of 400 to 500 pounds.  Only 14% of Holstein bull calves leave the dairy farm in the proper health and condition.

Industry and university studies indicate that calves which acquire a higher level of passive immunity in the first hours after birth are worth $20 to $25 more in their first four weeks of life, based on this single management factor.  Not only are they healthier, less likely to die or incur treatment costs, and more likely to reach their potential - they also demonstrate faster growth and better gain, using less feed than their counterparts with low serum antibodies.

The quantity, quality and timing of colostrum feeding accomplishes far more than any vaccine or injection in protecting calf health and promoting long-term production and profitability.  Four to six quarts of colostrum should be fed daily for at least the first three days of life.  However, time is of the essence.  The calf’s ability to absorb these antibodies from the lining of the small intestine directly into the bloodstream diminishes every hour as cell structures mature during the first 24 to 36 hours of life.

At the same time, calves are most vulnerable to ingested bacteria or viruses because these molecules are also absorbed easily into the bloodstream before gut closure.  Whatever gets there first - antibodies or bacteria - are immediately absorbed by the calf to determine its future health and profit potential.

First colostrum is the only antibody source for disease protection in newborn calves.  It also contains vitamin E necessary for the four to six week process of immune system development.  Colostrum is a source of important growth factors and hormones.  The quality of the colostrum is determined by herd health, nutrition and immune status and the dry cow management program.

That's all for now.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

be careful what you wish for...

A while back (last year?) I was frustrated with my goats.  Nanny (as pictured at left) was particularly a handful and, being relatively new at goat wrangling, I was working with less-than-to-be-desired fencing conditions (read: no fencing)

Nanny was tough to handle.  We kept her stalled in the barn at night and tied out on a 30' lead
 during the day, which we would rotate around a couple acres.  What made her tough to handle was that 1. she had horns, and knew how to use them. 2.  she weighed about 120 lbs. and was very, very strong.  and 3.  she was afraid of Ed so that left me to bring her out and back in everyday.  

On January 5th, 2008 she had two babies - both bucklings, in the picture.  The lighter colored one was,  (drum roll please...) yes, you guessed it, "Billy" and the darker brown colored babe was named "Willy".  Not because it rhymed with "Billy" but because he failed to thrive, yet had a strong will to live.  He was my favorite.

Right after Dory, that is.  We got Dory a while after Nanny first came to reside at Hope Farms.  Dory was just a few months old in the summer of 2007.  I know, you're asking "you have a favorite goat?"

It's true, I do.  I love her.  

There really is a point to this post.  Now, what was it?

........................................OH! yes, I remember.  Be careful what you wish for.  I was so "done" with these goats!  What a pain!!  I wanted to trim down the herd to just two.  Maybe just one! (Dory)

Last summer a friend of ours said he needed a new nanny for his herd.  I told him Nanny would be perfect (he has fencing) and so we struck a deal.  That left me with two bucklings and Dory.  Well, buckings get big.  They have horns.  And...they stink a little bit.  And, they're procreatively driven.  Poor Dory.

I sold Billy.  I can't remember when, but I was wearing shorts when they guy loaded him up so it must not have been winter.   Wait, I'm wearing shorts now...nevermind.  Billy was used for meat.  (see disclaimer in last part of post)

A few months ago, Nanny had twins.  One lived, one died, and because of complications, she died also.  As much of a pain in my heiny as she was, I grieved for her.

  Then, two months ago, Willy got sick.  I thought he had an intestinal blockage as he was off food and water.  I diagnosed him wrong.  What he really had was urinary calculi and you can read all about it here .  When I finally figured out what was wrong with him, I was heartbroken, and amazed that he's survived as long as he had.  Usually, the goat will die within 24-48 hours.  Willy hung on for 5 days.  It was completely my fault.  They were allowed to eat too much corn, which offset the calcium to phosphorus in his diet.  (I knew as much with horses,  to avoid the
 combination of well water, and feeding 100% alfalfa hay, but had NO IDEA with goats what that could mean.)

On the last morning he was alive it was a sunny day and about 45 degrees.  I sat with him in front of the barn and I had with me a small tote bag with pretzels, a book, lip balm, and had a cup of coffee with me also.  He laid his head on my lap and bleated a soft, sad and telling noise.  He was done.  I made arrangements that morning to have him euthanised.  Not the "city slicker" version of euthanasia, and there are some gentle (?) readers who might not like what I'm about to say, so be warned that there is an honest and potentially offensive description coming up.  

It's no secret that the Hispanic  population around here eat goats meat.  I have heard that it is delicious, and I have heard that it's not-so-delicious.  Either way, I knew that Willy had no 'disease' and he was otherwise healthy and I didn't want him to go to 'waste' so Ed called a guy and he and his father came to get Willy.  

I told him what was wrong, but that his meat should be good and that I'd taken good care of him.  (later, they guy told Ed that Willy had excellent meat, and no parasites - so indeed I had taken good care of him)  I carred him to the truck (I think he weighed about 60 lbs. and he felt like he weighed 100 lbs. by the time I got him to the truck.  I hugged him and told him that he lived a good life and that I was doing the best thing I knew how to do for him (aside from spending
 thousands of dollars on surgery, and post-op care) and thanked him for his life.  He bleated one last weak cry and then I bawled my head off.

So, all three of them are gone.  The moral of the story is:  be careful what you wish for.

The bad news?  Sometimes even when we have good intentions, and try with all we have, our animals suffer from our lack of knowledge and money.  

The good news?  After I grieve, and allow myself to feel what I feel, I'm better for having learned and loved.  And....Dory's Pregnant!!!!  She should kid this next week, or the following.  I'm guessing March 21st. 

Then, I'm going to milk Dory.  Goat's milk, goat cheese.  BAAAAAA!!

These are three of my most favorite people in the world. 
I think our friendship transcends the "reason, season, lifetime" label.
And I also think it revolves around good food and good drink.
And of course, our kids.
And extreme goofiness.

What is this leisure time of which you speak?

my grateful button