There is no debating that this spring has shown the stranger side of Kentucky weather. The cool weather just refused to go away, surprising us with multiple April snow days. But hopefully we can put all that in the rearview mirror and focus on the work at hand now that the weather has improved.
As I’m sure is the case with most everyone else, we got our fertilizer spread late this year. The first cutting hay crop looks to be short and thin compared to normal, but hopefully we continue to get some moisture throughout the summer and the second cutting can make up for it.
Calving season went well again this year despite all the mud in February and March. We ended up with an AI conception rate of 66% for the first calf heifers, and 60% for the cows. We also had 68% of the calf crop on the ground in the first 30 days of the calving season. The main calving season lasted 50 days, not counting the handful of stragglers that always have to drag it out. Despite the muddy conditions, this years calving was a success.
Due to the muddy conditions we had to divide the cows up into more groups than we normally do to be able to spread the mud out and not tear up each feeding location quite as much. This meant that there was a lot more manure to clean up than usual. Last year we hauled around 40 loads of manure onto hay fields, and this year I would estimate that we have close to double that amount that needs spread. We also worked on repairing a lot of damaged areas that needed reseeded. We lightly disced the areas and then drilled in rye grass to try to get some quick cover on them. With the cooler weather they have not germinated as quickly as I would have liked but I am still hopeful.
As spring time get kicked into full gear I hope that you find enough time to get everything accomplished. It is a challenging time with so many task demanding your attention, but if it means winter is over, then I am up for the challenge.
We have all seen the dreaded sight of buzzards circling above the calving pasture. This should cause alarm, especially with the increased presence of the black headed buzzards (technically called the black vulture).
Thanks to the help of the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, we were able to try out one of the black vulture effigies (a replica of a dead black vulture). Vultures have a strong sense of mortality and if they see one of their own dead somewhere, they tend to leave that area alone so that they too don't have the same fate.
We hung the effigy on a power pole next to the calving barn. The ideal scenario is to have the effigy next to the area you are trying to protect, and have the decoy hanging so that it is free to move with the wind. This will draw more attention to the effigy and have a stronger effect at deterring the vultures.
We made a homemade bracket to hang it off of using some scrap 2x6's for a fencing project. We used one with a knot hole so that the rope would not slide around and it would hold the rope out from the pole at a consistent length.
We used the tractor to hang the effigy so that it is approximately 10 foot off the ground.
Since hanging the effigy we have noticed that it has been successful in keeping the black vultures away from the calving pasture. We have not had any instances of black vultures landing, or harassing the new born calves. Interestingly, the effigy did not seem to deter the red headed turkey vultures. They will still land and eat baby calf manure and afterbirth. I consider this a success since the turkey vultures do not kill animals, they only eat things that are already dead.
After we finish calving we will take the effigy down so that the vultures do not get used to it being there all the time. Then next calving season we will hang it back up and hopefully we will experience the same success as we have this year. If you wish to leave it up year round it is recommended that you move the effigy to different locations to keep the vultures form getting used to it, and therefore keeping it effective.
If you are interested in building your own effigy you can follow the link below for the directions, provided by the UK Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.
Hello, my name is Dan Miller and I work for the Kentucky Beef Network. KBN took over operation of the Eden Shale Farm in April of 2013. We are using the 961 acre farm as a demonstration and learning center for beef cattle producers. This blog serves as a place to document daily farm activity and host discussions about the demonstrations being implemented. I hope you find this information useful and that you come visit us at Eden Shale Farm.