The Tolerant Neighbor

We live less then a mile from from our youngest’s favorite place on earth. 

He simply refers to it as “The farm”.  And on the farm lives the very tolerant neighbor.  He allows Mike to hang out for hours claiming he is helpful and not in the way.

My husband is good friends with the farmer  and helps with planting/harvest seasons.  Mike  and I ran supplies up to field this week while the men were planting

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Mike sprinting back to the car with exciting news, once again the very tolerant neighbor will allow him to help with planting soybeans.

He was very happy to once again “help” out on the farm.

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Filling the planter with beans

And then I didn’t see him until long after dark. He blissfully rode away.

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Riding away to plant beans

Thank God for nice neighbors!

Meet Buddy

This is Buddy.  He is Mikes new feeder calf.

After Mike buried his previous calf he bleached down the pen.  Then went back to the dairy farm to replace Hugo.

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Unexpected cold rain meant Buddy got to ride home in the cab of the truck!

Buddy is a mainly white Holstein, a month old.  He is very active.  Most importantly, no diarrhea.

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Buddy settling into his new home and halter walking.

Honestly, I was disappointed.  Hugo was a very sturdy appearing calf.  I thought he was going to grow into nice show steer. 

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Buddy not enjoying his first walk on a halter, calves fight it just like puppies. Sweet talk and patience helps here.

Buddy is slight.  And has an under bite. And so white. ( I dread keeping him clean at the fair!)

But Mike is happy. And that is the one person that needs to be happy after burying his last calf

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Mike with Buddy. April 2012.

Rodent Control

We used to have mice and rats eating the grain in the barn.

Rob wanted me to lay traps and poison.  I really didn’t want to set poison with the dog and livestock (although he was putting it in between the foundation and barn siding, the animals couldn’t have  reached it)

I suggested a much more natural approach.   The farm up the road had 2 litters of barn kittens. He said he never had mouse problems, and offered 2 kittens.

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Fluffy, way too much fur but very sweet and snuggly


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Ninja on the deck hopeful there its some leftover milk replacer from feeding the calves

Fluffy and Ninja came to live in our barn.  I honestly don’t know if they have killed our rodents or if their  presence alone deterred them.

But there hasn’t been a single hole in a grain bag for 6 months.

And as an added bonus they are very sweet and run out to the kids when they see then coming to do daily chores.

The sad side of raising farm animals

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Mike with Hugo at 5 days old

Mike’s calf had a touch of scours ( calf diarrhea).  Nothing alarming or out of the ordinary for a 6 day old calf.  He seemed to be ok.  He was still bright eyed, playful and eating well.

He was a talkative calf, always mooing.  He seemed to be acting normally when I fed him in the morning. He jumped up and bellowed for his bottle when he  saw me walking into the barn yesterday.

My husband mentioned he was not quite as active for his afternoon bottle.  But he did perk up and drink.

I went out after dinner to look at him and he was very quiet.  I ran back in the house and mixed up a bottle of calf electrolytes.  

He refused to get up.  I picked him up, then he stood.  He wouldn’t drink his bottle.

I tried feeding with a syringe and he appeared to swallow some.

I knew it wasnt enough so I got the tube feeder. 

This similar to nursing equipment so, while I am new to cattle, I do feel comfortable tubing a calf. 

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Calf tube feeder

You guide the tube into his stomach through his mouth, open the clamp, and feed directly into the stomach.

This must be done with extreme caution. Feed it accidently into the lungs instead if the stomach and you will drown the calf. We had 2 calves last year that required daily tubing for almost a week.

We have him a liter of fluids.  Seemed too brighten him up. For the 90 min that I spent in the barn with him, I didn’t see any diarrhea. I hoped we had turned the corner and he would be perky again soon.

But this morning I went to the barn to find that he didn’t make it through the night. 

Mike took it better then me.  He was a sweet calf and I had tried hard, but to no use, he still died.  I  cried.

Dairy calves are notoriously difficult to get through the first month of life.  Last year we had several close calls, but they all lived.

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Mike with Hugo 3 days old

Hugo has already been replaced by a white Holstein calf .  We needed to quickly replace him if Mike was going to show at fair this year.

But there were tears shed for this sweet baby boy who only lived a week.

Lunch is delivered

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Rob arrives with the feed grinder on a blustery spring day.

It takes a lot of feed to satisfy 3 steer.

If you have ever questioned the price of beef at the grocery store, then please be assured no one is becoming wealthy by overcharging you.  A steer eats a minimum  of 2% of his body weight in grain every day.  Ours are around 950-1000 lbs, so they each consume almost 20lbs a day!

We use 1700+ lbs a month of feed. And that is just the steer’s grain.  That doesn’t include hay.  So trust me, the $4.99/lb roast at the meat counter is not overpriced!

Typically our youngest son helps grind and deliver the feed, because he wants to do any thing that involves tractors and farming. He was at school, so today I helped Rob.

The kids feed the animals twice a day.  Early in the morning and before supper.  It has become much more time-consuming now that we have added the  bottle fed calves, and in May the hogs will arrive.

New babies! This years feeder calves have arrived

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Frosty and Hugo arrive Easter evening

The kids showed dairy feeder calves at last years fair and enjoyed it even with disappointing results in showmanship.  They asked to show again, but we told them no.  It is just such an expensive hobby.  We enjoy it, but it its expensive to feed all the farm  animals over the summer. 

The kids appeared to be very upset and offered to buy the calves themselves.  How can you say no after that?  They are basically asking if they can spend money on an animal that they have to care for all summer.

So they purchased their calves on Easter.

We ended up with 2 Holstiens and one Brown Swiss.

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Daniel with Rusty

Rusty is a 2 day old Swiss. 

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Hugo is a 3 day old Holstein.

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Frosty is a 3 week old Holstein.  He is going to be a handful, full of spunk.

Of course it its fun to snuggle and love them in the evening and another thing all together to get up at 5am to bottle fed before school.

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Hugo sucking down 2 quarts of mik in the early morning

But there were no complaints this morning as we got up to fed in the dark.

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Rusty gets a bottle

And honestly, I love it as much as the kids.

Pete the Piedmontese

Pete is our one non-show steer. 

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Pete at 400 lbs

He is a piedmontese, an Italian beef breed that is double muscled.  He was purchased to fill our freezer with lean beef. 

But his beefy personality is beginning to show.   Dairy steer are mellow, sweet.  Beef are much more assertive. 

I don’t like the kids to turn their backs on Pete.  I honestly don’t trust him. 

He is quick to lower his head and charge.  If the kids are in the pen then I am too. I carry a show stick and he respects my space.

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Pete 850 lbs

He makes me appreciate our mellow Dairy steer! I would take a holstein or brown swiss over a beef breed after any day.

A girl can dream, right?

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On vacation we took our oldest on a college tour.  The ONLY college according to her.  

They only accept 17% of applicants. And it is almost $60,000 a year.  And 10hrs from home. 

But all pesky facts aside, this is the dream school. 

We vacationed in Charlotte, thinking this was only 90 min from Duke, I promised her a visit. Unfortunately it was 3hrs away. My sweet husband spent 6 hrs driving her for a 2 hr tour.

Wonderful to watch her shot for the stars.  Great motivation to keep grades up and stay involved. 

And who knows, maybe her application will stand out from the pack. It certainly won’t look like all the kids from the suburbs.

At the medical school program she attends, the kids had to introduce themselves along with several personal interests. The director of admissions sat at the head table doing paperwork while each talented teen rattled off similar statements of sports, volunteer work, honor roll, etc. When it was Amanda’s turn she mentioned the flute, basketball and showing hogs and steer at the fair.

It was the only time in 30 minutes I saw the admissions director look up! She was certainly interested (or surprised) to hear that.

So lets hope a 3.9 gpa, varsity sports and agriculture help her shine through the crowd.

Go Blue Devils!

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Amanda in front of Dukes chapel