Our Fly Season Arsenal

June 30th, 2014 by Kim

It’s fly season again, and how I hate the pesky little buggers!  They bite & bother cow & human alike, and can make farm life miserable.  Not to mention, the stress of dealing with flies can actually decrease milk production & weight gain in our cattle.  So how do we deal with flies?  Here are some things that we have in our arsenal.

A face covered with flies is NOT a pretty sight.

A face covered with flies is NOT a pretty sight.

As the saying goes, “the best offense is a good defense”, so our first strategy is prevention.  We try to eliminate fly “breeding grounds” by cleaning up manure, as well as wet/soiled hay, near the barn.  The infamous “manure pile” is in the chicken pen, and the girls happily dig through for bugs & goodies, turning the composting pile in the process.  Pastures get dragged to break up manure pats, and we are also happy to see some smaller varieties of dung beetles moving in to do their work.  Our plan is to be able to move chickens and/or turkeys around in “chicken tractors”, following the cows in their pasture rotation, so the poultry can do the work of raking out manure pats in the pasture & eating any fly larvae they find, but we haven’t gotten quite that far yet.  But without their preferred nice moist manure pats to lay eggs in, the flies don’t get quite so out of control.

Fly predators just starting to hatch in the bag.

Fly predators just starting to hatch in the bag.

We are also strong believers in the beneficial “fly predators”.  We have been purchasing & releasing these tiny parasitic wasps for several years, and see that they really work.  The adults are harmless to us, but lay their eggs in fly pupae.  When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae eat the developing fly.  This results in a significant decrease in the number of flies hatching out.  There are several places you can get fly predators, but we have always ordered from Spalding Labs, and are quite happy with them.

Close-up of predator ready to go to work.

Close-up of predator ready to go to work.

For the adult flies that make it past our defense, we put out those stinky bag fly traps.  They’re not pretty & they sure don’t smell good (to us anyway; I guess the flies think they smell great!), but they sure do catch the flies.  There are many different options for fly traps, available easily at most farm supply stores, so you can take your pick.

This fly trap is doing it's job.

This fly trap is doing it’s job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even with all this, there are still flies on the farm.  So we also have some tactics to keep the cows more comfortable.  The first is a mineral supplement from Agri-Dynamics, called Flies-Be-Gone.  It is high in sulfur & gives the cows an unappealing smell to flies & other ecto-parasites.  We have it out free choice, in our mineral feeder, and the cows seem to know when they need it.

Flies-Be-Gone in the mineral feeder.

Flies-Be-Gone in the mineral feeder.

I also use a natural fly spray on the cows when they come into the parlor each morning for their snack.  The best one I’ve found yet is No-Fly from Crystal Creek, which comes in either an oil-base or water-base.  It’s made from all natural essential oils, and smells quite nice.  It is a good natural repellent, but it will also actually kill flies if they get a direct hit with it.  And I find it very satisfying to see the flies drop to the floor when I spray a cow!

All natural fly spray helps keep flies at bay without exposing the cows to chemicals.

All natural fly spray helps keep flies at bay without exposing the cows to chemicals.

 

With this varied arsenal we are able to keep flies under control through the summer, which makes EVERYBODY happier.

Heifers Galore!

April 30th, 2014 by Kim
Tinkerbelle

Tinkerbelle

Spring is here and it’s calving time again.  And what an exciting time it is!  Heifer calves are good…they grow the herd, they can be milked, they bring more income.  Heifer calves make me really happy, so there has been a lot of ‘happy’ going around the farm for quite a while now, because we’ve had nothing but heifers born since early 2013.  I’ll take this chance to quickly introduce the girls.

Bunny

Bunny

BoPeep kicked things off in Feb.2013, giving birth to Tinkerbelle.  She is a very well-built heifer & has turned into quite the beautiful young lady.  She has recently been bred to Milkman in preparation for moving to her new home.

Zoie

Zoie

Next, Ladybell gave us Bunny on Good Friday, followed shortly by Ebony’s first calf, Zoie.  They’re both Mace daughters, fairly short-statured, with nice personalities.

Prissy

Prissy

In May, Prissy & Maple were born two days apart.  Prissy is taller & homozygous polled like her momma, Trixie.  Maple is an absolute sweetheart, typical of Rousseau babies.

Miss Maple

Miss Maple

Tundra is next in age, though she wasn’t born here.  She moved here with her momma, Sara, when she was a month and a half old.  Tundra will be our second Taco daughter in our herd.  She is fabulously built & a very friendly darling.  I can’t wait to see how much Taco has improved her udder over Sara’s.

Tundra

Tundra

October brought us Shortie…and that’s just what she is, a shortie.  Izzy was AI’d to Rainbow Hills Comet when we bought her and this was a much anticipated calf.  Though we are disappointed with her chondro-carrier status, she is still a very special girl, and we’re excited to add this old bloodline to our herd.

Miss Shortie-Pants

Miss Shortie-Pants

The run of heifers has continued so far this year.  The 2014 calving season started out in March with Annie, another Taco daughter, this time out of Red Girl.  She is a very nicely put-together heifer, and is growing well in spite of her dam’s teats & udder disaster.  I really hope Taco has significantly improved things there, then she should be a great little cow.

Annie, 2 months old

Annie, 2 months old

Later in March, Trixie had Cecilia, a gorgeous Jersey-cross girl.  She was sired by Hershey, BoPeep’s son by the old Isle of Jersey bull, Margarethe’s Dairyman.  Cecilia is 5/8 Dexter & 3/8 Jersey, and hopefully should be able to crank out the milk when she grows up.  Trixie & Cecilia will both be going to their new home in TN this summer.

Cecilia, 5 weeks old

Cecilia, 5 weeks old

My “flower girls” both calved in April, both first-calf heifers.  Tulip gave us Jammy on the 8th, and Iris had Scarlet the 18th…another Good Friday baby.  I’m really excited about these two little red girls, and can’t wait to see how they grow.  They’re pretty as can be.

Jammy, 3 weeks old

Jammy, 3 weeks old

We’re still waiting on Sara & Izzy to calve, due May & September, respectively.  So we will see if the heifer run continues or not.  I can hardly believe we’ve gone this long with no bull calves!  And other friends with cows want to know what’s in our water, or what we did, and ask me to please send the heifer fairy their way.

Scarlet, 1 1/2 weeks old

Scarlet, 1 1/2 weeks old

I am just thankful that God is blessing us with heifers.  Whether it’s because of choices we’ve made concerning our animals to honor Him, or “just because”, He is indeed pouring out His blessing, and I give glory to His Name.

The Milkman Comes to the Farm

February 10th, 2014 by Kim

I’m sorry I’ve not posted on the blog for so long…it’s been a rough couple of years.  I’ve been struggling with adrenal fatigue, and the old brain just has a hard time thinking clearly to write.  I probably will not be posting very regularly yet, but will try to get something up here occasionally, so don’t give up on me yet.  I HAVE been keeping the Herdbook, Calf Corner & Stock for Sale pages updated, though, so please check them out.  As a quick overview, 2013 was an encouraging year, with a 100% heifer calf crop, which has really grown our little herd!  Our very first cow, S&H Hilltop Sara, has come back home after selling her 4 years ago, along with an incredibly nice heifer at her side.  And that brings to me our latest, most exciting addition yet…our new future herdsire.

Mrald Perfect Lil Milkman

Mrald Perfect Lil Milkman

We are delighted to introduce our new young man, Mrald Perfect Lil Milkman, who arrived here about two weeks ago the whole way from WA.  When Emerald Park Farm decided to sell him, I jumped at the opportunity, knowing what he had to offer with his bloodlines.  He is Knotting bred, top & bottom, and both his grand-dams are high volume producing Galaxy daughters.  He has a scrotal structure much like his grand-sire, Serenity Oak Farm Taco, who has proven to significantly tighten udders on his daughters.  Needless to say, we have high expectations of the Little Man, and can’t wait to start seeing his daughters here on the farm.  We have a big start for him this year, with 7 heifers to breed!  He should be a great bull to follow up on the solid foundation laid by Rousseau. Read more »

Fall on the Farm

November 7th, 2011 by Kim

Mares at the big pond on a beautiful fall day.

Things have been a bit busy around here this fall.  Between everything going on & experiencing some writer’s block…well, you can see I took a little break from the blogging.  So now I have so many pictures I want to share that I hope this doesn’t get toooo long!  Here’s what things are looking like around the farm this fall.

The ditch along the driveway, fixed & with new culvert put in.

Drainage Work

We were finally able to get everything arranged with our friend Steve to do our drainage work in the cow barn pasture.  Dry weather, a week off & a rented backhoe and we were in business.  He put in a couple new drainage swales across the paddock, regraded it all, and fixed the ditch along the driveway, as well as some other things.  The first big rain after he was done, he showed up to inspect it all & see how it was working.  It appears to be working great…I think the swamp days are over!  Read more »

Drying Herself Off?! A Poopy Puzzle

October 10th, 2011 by Kim

BoPeep gave me a bit of a scare a couple weeks ago.  Her milk production dropped drastically one day, and I was worried that maybe she had just decided to dry herself off since Hershey left.  But after doing some investigating, I came to a different conclusion.  Here’s what happened.

Our "weed" growing along the orchard lane between paddocks.

We had previously moved the cows to the brand new paddock over on the “horse side” of the farm.  They had grazed the nice, tall grass in that paddock for a week, then I moved them through the other 2 paddocks next to it over the following 2 weeks.  At that point there was still a good bit of grazing left in the new paddock, so I decided to give them another week in there before moving them the whole way back over to the “cow side”.  Bo was with the herd & I was going out with the halter every morning to lead her in to the cow barn to milk, and then returning her when we were done.  About half-way through that second week on the new paddock, she gave me only 3 quarts at milking instead of her usual gallon and a half…and, yes, I was sure she let down nicely & gave me all of it.  I left her out in the corral behind the barn for a few minutes until I was ready to take her back to the pasture, puzzling whether she could really just be drying herself off suddenly.  Then I saw her poop….an unusually runny, squirty mess.  “Hmmm, what is going on?”  But she didn’t seem to be feeling sick or acting “off”, so I took her back to the herd. Read more »