Monthly Archives: March 2014

Our boys have been raised with certain expectations. They haven't always willingly followed the rules or program, we've laid out for them, but the consequences have been made clear. Sometimes there's a painful shock to them when they realize they're off track. At one time, one of our son's was cutting corners and not living up to his obligations. He was twelve at the time and earned money helping around the farm. He also had his own farm related side business and was earning a nice income from it. Despite clear guidelines he decided to slack off, thinking we wouldn't notice. We noticed. He was given one warning, didn't heed it, and was fired. Eventually he earned our trust and was re-hired and there hasn't been an issue since. Last week we were asked if we'd take a thirteen year old into our home for the summer to teach him responsibility. I'm not sure I know how to teach responsibility to a teenager. We didn't teach our boys, they learned by example. They've worked side by side with us for seventeen years and twenty years, respectively. They've been given responsibility. When they accomplished the small tasks they were given larger ones. The rewards started small and grew larger, as well. Truth be told, we never believed we were raising four year old boys, fourteen year old boys, or even eighteen year old boys, we were raising men. That was our goal, so that's  how we treated them; like men. Being given instruction, responsibility, and compensation they've gained independence. They're capable of helping friends and neighbors without any concern that they're unprepared for the job. They can earn their own money, set their own goals, and accomplish great things, not because we've taught them, but because we've worked with them. This particular thirteen year old is welcome at the farm. We're willing to work with him, too, but at some time he's going to go back home. If at home there isn't an expectation of responsibility, then the time spent here will have been for nothing. He just won't get it. He'll forever  be an adolescent with no direction and when he's out on his own he'll be in for a shock, a painful jolt of reality. He just won't get it.

“A brat is a child that acts like yours – but belongs to your neighbor.”

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The cows are trained to respect the electric fence. The sheep are respectful of it, too. Every now and again we raise a few bottle lambs who aren't loyal to the flock of sheep, instead they bond with the goats who are independent and refuse to follow the grazing plan we've laid out for them. They scoot over, under and through the fence, going wherever they want. They aren't protected by the herd, which makes them vulnerable to predators, so they're kept in a separate pasture and rotated on a more limited basis. The cows get it. The sheep get it. The goats don't, and they never will. I'm talking about our MIG grazing program.

Every now and again we'll have other farmer's cows here for breeding to our bulls. There's always a learning curve with the visiting cows, especially if they have calves at their side. These calves aren't trained to the electric fence and run through before they realize there's a consequence waiting for them; a painful shock. The guest cows follow the herd, learning to wait patiently at the electric fence's gate handle for one of us to move it aside so they can advance into the next paddock. They're moved daily, which makes learning the routine a quick process.

 

Every summer the same few cows return for breeding. As soon as they step out of the trailer they remember the grazing system and follow the herd. They don't challenge the system, they get it, they just get it.

Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?

DSCN1951Electric Revenge

The deep snow pack prevents the electric fence from delivering a shock, so it's turned off during the winter. A five-strand, high tensile wire fence contains the cattle, two of the wires are usually electrified. There's plenty of hay for them to eat, but at the first sight of exposed grass in the yard the temptation is so great that the adolescent steers sneak through the fence. Once they're through they run, jump, and act wild. In the few days since the snow has receded the steers have broken one young oak tree, a small apple tree that was planted last spring, trampled some lilacs, and rubbed on a cherry tree until it cracked. They like to scratch on young trees. The grass in the yard isn't any different than the grass in the field, but the freedom of sneaking through makes it taste more delicious.

The bottom strand, which is one of the hot wires, is clear of snow so the grounding rods are making good contact. The charger is twelve joules, which is strong. Only three of the steers come into the yard, the three oldest. They're excerpting their independence from the herd. Heifers don't test the fence, they're content. Today I got my electric revenge. I plugged in the fence charger and waited for the rogue steers. It wasn't a long wait. The first one hit the fence with his nose, jumped into the air, kicked up his back legs, and ran down the hillside. The second steer leaned through the high tensile, got zapped by both hot strands at once, let out a burst of protest and ran back to the herd. The third one stretched his head through the fence, felt the shock and rushed forward, breaking a few connectors. He ran through the yard where the dogs met him and chased him back through the gate. He tried again, this time he felt the full force. The shock made a loud, crackling, 'POP' as he touched the wires. One good zap is enough to re-train them for the season. Revenge is sweet, just ask Cookie.

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This morning there was a cow off by herself. She wasn't far from the herd, just distant enough to be on her own. She's been on the watch list. Every morning Keith checks the list of cows with their potential calving dates. This morning he said, "Number 105 should have her calf today." 

Our cattle are fed in the evening which means they'll calve during daylight hours.

From a distance we kept an eye on her. After she had her new calf they were moved into the barn where they'll stay for a few days. Then she'll move into a small pasture with the other cows and their calves. They'll have access to the shed, which is bedded down and dry. With luck the pastures will be ready for grazing by mid-April. It's been a long winter.