March at Eden Shale means calving season. This year has been warmer and drier than normal which makes things nice. It makes you realize why producers enjoy fall calving with no mud.
If you recall, last spring we bred 114 females. As of this spring we have 97 bred cows that are expected to calve. That equates to an 85% total conception across the entire herd.
The herd is broken into two main groups during calving season. The mature cow herd consists of cows that are having at least their third calf. This year we have 63 of these mature cows. They will mainly calve out in the pasture and Greg will ear tag them and rotate them to new pasture as they calve.
The second group is made up of first and second calf heifers and they will calve at the barn next to Greg’s house. This makes keeping a close eye on them much easier. This year we have 34 heifers at this facility to calve.
Much like the cows, as the heifers calve the babies will get tagged and the pair will get moved into the “nursery” field for they next 10-12 days. Once the babies are stronger and doing good, those pairs will get moved in to a third field. This rotation during calving season makes it easy to locate new calves because we are always moving them out of the pregnant group and into the nursery. The nursery group never has large numbers in it as we are always adding to it but also moving the older stronger calves out. The last group starts small and continually has new pairs added to it until calving season is over. This rotation allows us to keep the mud at a minimum and have fresh pasture that we are rotating the new calves to which keeps the udders cleaner and the calves healthier.
As of writing we have had 52 calves born in the first 18 days of the calving season. That is 54% of the calf crop born in two and half weeks! In my opinion this is the best reason to synchronize and AI the herd. Having the calves all be similar in age and size makes it easier to manage them throughout their time at the farm. The AI component gives us consistent genetics and coloration throughout the calf crop and it allows an advantage at marketing when there are more animals that will sort on to the same load.
On the farm there are many things that are difficult to control. In my opinion the length of your calving season is the easiest thing to manage. Besides; calving season is hard, so why allow it to drag on for months…
Travel across rural Kentucky this time of year and it won’t take you long to notice where they have been. They mark the road with their muddy tracks which fade away as they near the next farm gate entrance. There you will find, idling patiently, the farm truck.
While easily recognizable farm trucks are each one unique. They come in many makes and models and the good ones can date back decades to when they came without amenities and they were made with American steel.
Of course there are different variations of farm trucks. The row crop farmers tend to have ones that look like service trucks with enough tools and air compressors to keep their fleet of equipment running during planting and harvesting season. It seems that these trucks tend to be newer than their livestock counterparts. I guess its because they don’t have any baling twine to keep things tied together…
It's easy to spot a cattlemen’s farm truck as they tend to be a little older and a little rougher (I’m referring to the truck). A good farm truck serves multiple purposes. It simultaneously can be a tow vehicle, a feed wagon, a service vehicle, and a farm office. The truck will contain 5 gallon buckets, empty mineral bags, multiple colors of baling twine, a couple of spare tires, various hammers and cheater bars, the paperwork of any transaction from the last two years, one to two dogs, and enough fencing tools to run two crews. There is no chance of all the lights being operational and you can hear the co-op mud tires humming along from a mile away. A safe top speed is about 45 MPH and if you see a farm truck going faster it means the cows are out on the highway.
Our farm truck is a 1996 F-150 with the 300 inline six cylinder paired to a 5 speed manual transmission. While not a power house by any means, the torquey motor and low gears work with the positive tract differentials and aggressive tires to pull it out of any muddy situation it encounters (again, sorry about the road).
Our farm truck came painted mud brown from the factory which is how it got its name “Brownie”. After years of faithful service we noticed this winter that the frame under the bed was cracked and needed some repairs so we contracted the services of our neighbor welder.
Upon removing the bed we realized that there was not much left of it either. So the decision was made to give Brownie the ultimate farm truck upgrade of a homemade flatbed. The frame was repaired and a leaf spring shackle was replaced before the bed was constructed. The bed was built from oak boards that we already had at the farm. The existing custom steel bumper was integrated into the new design. A headache rack and tool compartments added to the functionality.
Overall it turned out great and I want to thank Mr. Steve Petzinger for his construction of the flat bed. Now Brownie can continue to serve as a very capable farm truck for years to come, and we will do our best to keep the mud off the road…