Spring Babies, At School, At Home

A hands-on visit at school!

Spring Babies to School

Taking our farm animals to the local elementary school is pretty high on my list of things we want to do.  Especially the young ones… they appeal so much to the kids. We took three calves (2 beef & 1 milk breed), as well a 2 mini-horses to the school.

On the Trailer, to the school

The calves were from 2 days to 6 weeks old. With a neighbor’s help, we loaded them up and a short trip later, they were out on grass being introduced to the students.

It was a chance for the kids to talk about, see, touch, and learn about real livestock. They get to see them pee and poop! call to their mothers, to their friends.  Get tired & lay down to take a nap!

They are able to check out the mini-horses in great detail, as mini’s are busy eating fresh “playground”… and of course, leaving some fertilizer behind as a “thank you”!

I like taking the smaller creatures because I think they are more “kid-friendly” size… as well as having a naturally built-in “baby” attraction that we all seem to have in our make up. We are drawn to babies and want to “nurture” them.

Great Discussions!

We talked about how soon after a calf is born, can it walk.  Guesses from the 3 & 4th graders ranged from hours to days to weeks.

A chance to actually touch a calf

I told them that the calf is born with hooves that are very soft… too soft to walk on. They look white at birth.

Newborn Lowline Calf, still hasn't stood-up yet!

The hooves are soft so that they don’t hurt the mother when the are being born. It’s like having your hands in water for a while; your fingernails get really soft. But as soon as they are exposed to the air, they begin to harden up.

In nature, the calf need to be able to stand, within 30 mins usually, and navigate to the udder to nurse, within a few hours at the most.

There is a “key” window for the calf nursing.  The best is within 2 hours, but 4 hours at most.  That is when the calf’s gut is open to absorbing the immunities that the mom passes on to the calf.  If he does NOT get that special milk, he will tend to be very sickly and not grow well.  It’s important for him to nurse as soon as he can. After 4 hours the gut changes and begins to lose the ability to absorb the larger molecules. By 12 hours that door is completely shut.

We always try to have some of that special early milk (colostrum) saved up in our freezer if we have a baby that has a problem with nursing or a mom that can’t produce the milk.  It’s good for calves, colts, kids (goats), lambs, etc!

This is a “real world” experience.

group discussion, and then hands ON!

It’s amazing what a great time we had talking about the livestock, with the kids. I was impressed at their questions and how much of an in-depth explanation they where able to take in.

They were very excited about learning about all the things that actually come from the milk the jersey cows produce.  They were able to name off quite a few items besides milk; cheese, butter, yogurt, whipped cream, ice cream, but NOT actually chocolate milk! Well, not the chocolate part, anyway. I think it made it very real to them.

As their teacher said, “Most kids see the world through books, pictures, TV, movies, video games, cartoons, computers…. but never REAL, in life!”  I was told that last year, when we brought animals, the kids talked about it for weeks.

first steps of newborn calf

Spring Babies on the Farm

Today we had newborn calf just suddenly appear… I love our compact pastured beef livestock.

They do their JOBS so well.  They convert the green grass and hay for their food energy.  They get pregnant, at the drop of a hat, and then proceed to calve with hardly a murmur. And smart enough to do it on clear, sunny days, for the most part.

Interestingly, the cows/heifers synch their cycles!  What that means is that they will all deliver about the same time.  We had three newborns this week!  Unlike commercial farms we don’t use medications to make the cows ovulate at the same time… but in nature, at least with the Lowline Angus breed, they do it themselves.

Safety in Numbers

Now WHY?  This is a comparatively old breed, Aberdeen Angus, so I think the older drives are much intact. In the wild or out on extensive pastures, it is actually safer to calve at the same time… and it’s usually early spring.  Why would that be safer?

Coming out of winter, the predators are looking for food, and young livestock are a perfect meal.  If there is only one calf… the chances of it being “prey” go up significantly.  If there are a dozen calves, then there is safety in numbers and the odds are YOU will not be dinner.  And by the time predator comes back, the calves are older and able to manage escape! Mom’s who tended to cycle together had more survivor calves. Outliers (those who delivered at odd times) did not have offspring with as high a survival rate.

Bigger is Better, NOT

I feel so sad when I hear stories from other farmers/ranchers who talk about their difficulties.  Having to get up in the middle of a (of course) cold, windy night (or freezing sleet night, or howling winds), … to help a birthing cow. In their stories it NEVER happens on warm, sunny days, mid afternoon!

Calf puller, for those that are too large for the mother

They also have these horrific looking devices to attach to a calf and pull it out, found at your local farm supply store. For those “Too Big Too Deliver Syndrome” calves!  Our calves weight in at around 40-55 lbs.  Standard or large breed calves weight in at 75-120 lbs AT BIRTH.

We have never lost a calf or mother, at birth because it was too big or badly positioned, which is sadly not true of the typical large beef breed ranches. But then, we only have at any time, 5 – 15 cows…

But many ranchers are beginning to see the advantages of the smaller calves, especially for their first time moms (AKA a heifer – never had a calf). They use Lowline Angus Bulls to decrease the size of those calves to make for very easy births! They lose fewer calves and their night’s sleep are NOT interrupted. Makes for a much happier farmer/rancher.

A breakfast surprise... new calf

But for us… Our experience, as our new intern said, “Oh, I was feeding this morning and an extra calf showed up!” I think Big Momma has delivered.

We were able to finish our morning coffee; then go out to see if we had a boy or a girl!

What a life… just love it.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: