The labor shortage is a major problem effecting every facet of our lives right now, and Eden Shale is not exempt from it either. We only had one person apply for our summer internship position, and before he started was able to find a better opportunity making more money and doing work more closely related to his interest. I do not fault the kid, and I encouraged him to take the better opportunity. But it has left me with a lot of time in the tractor seat this summer.
This lack of help and abundance of rain this summer has meant that it has taken us longer to get the hay up than every before. I am ashamed to say that we put our last bale of first cutting in the barn on August 6th. The last 40 acres were fields that we had sprayed so we didn’t have mature weeds growing in them, but there was a lot of brown fescue stems. As always we will get the hay tested to see if we need to supplement the cows while they are eating it.
This hay was put into our self feeding hay feeders and the cows will eat it first once the stockpiled fescue runs out. This will be 30-45 days before they start calving and they can handle eating the lesser quality hay. As soon as they start calving, we will switch them over the better quality alfalfa/orchard grass mixed hay.
As we filled the self feeding barns we take all the strings off the bales so that there is nothing impeding the cows ability to clean up all the hay. The Large Bale Feeder under the hoop barn holds 32 round bales and the tobacco barn self feeder holds 18 bales. This hay will now be stored in the same location it will be fed at, eliminating the need to haul the hay to the cattle. This hay will service the mature cow herd and we should not have to use the tractor to move hay to these cows until the end of February. We have been using these self feeders for two years and really like the efficiency that they provide during the winter months.
In between rain showers and baling hay, we also put the shade balls on four of our tire water tanks. The shade balls allow the water to be shaded, reducing the water temperature and eliminating the growth of green algae. The balls float on the surface of the water and the cows can push them down and out of the way to get a drink.
If you would like to see some of the recent work at Eden Shale Farm be sure to RSVP to one of our fall field days. We will be hosting tours on September 15th and October 9th. Both tours will be exactly the same and will start at 10:00 am. A complimentary lunch will be included with both tours. Each day is limited to 100 producers so be sure to RSVP early to save your spot. To RSVP please call the office at 859-278-0899 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unlike most years, this year during the month of June we continued our work with the heifers in the paddocks. As you recall, these 32 heifers are part of a two year trial that is taking place in partnership with USDA and UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. We are working with Brittany Harlow (USDA-ARS) and Dr. Les Anderson (UK Animal Science) to manage the project.
The purpose of this trial is to determine if pulverized clover, fed in free choice mineral, can have a positive impact on the heat stress in cattle due to toxic fescue. This study will take into consideration heat stress of the animals, hair coat and body condition scores, pregnancy rates, and average daily gains.
The heifers have also been tagged with Cow Manager ear tags which will collect data about the animals, such as how much time is spent grazing, herd activity, and body temperature. Readers have been placed on the shade structures which capture the data when the heifers get within 110 feet, then shoot it to a laptop receiver which is located in an upstairs window of the farm house facing the paddocks. Not only does this collect tons of data, but Harrlow and Dr. Anderson can watch the data in real time on their smart phones. I don’t fully understand it, but I can assure you it is a powerful tool for accurate data collection.
Per usual, the heifers were synchronized and exposed to one round of AI. The heifers were bred AI on May 21st. For this first breeding, the heifers were bred using sexed semen and we bred for all heifers. Then 19 days later Dr. Anderson pregnancy checked the heifers and anything that was open received another CIDR to be resynchronized for a second round of AI service. For the first round of AI we had a pregnancy rate of 53% using the sexed semen.
The second round of AI took place on June 18th, and we used the heifer sexed semen on the second breeding as well. Assuming we get 50% of these heifers bred with this second AI service, the bull should only have to clean up about 6-7 heifers.
Every trip through the chute the heifers get weighted, body condition scored, hair coat scored, blood sample collected, and ultra sounded for blood vessel dilation (effects of toxic fescue). After pre-breeding shots and two rounds of AI synchronization and breeding, these heifers have been through the chute more times at 18 months old than most cows will do in a lifetime.
Brittan Harlow and Tracy Hamilton (USDA-ARS) are also measuring mineral intake every week, and conducting vegetation counts in all the paddocks for each group of heifers. There are two control groups that are not on the clover mineral and two treatment groups that are on the clover mineral.
The heifers will be pregnancy checked at the end of the breeding season to determine conception rates, and all the data will be analysis to determine if the clover had an effect on reducing heat stress in the animals. This study will also be repeated next year to collect more repetition of the data. I will give updates in future articles as to the findings of this years work. In the mean time, you can follow along at www.edenshalefarm.com