feeding time

Another beautiful day but it sure didn’t start out at all like the above picture. It began as a difficult day for driving. I wasn’t able to get to work today. Oh, the highway was clear by the time I would have gone but the driveway was the problem. We had rain, then about 4″ of snow and then more rain on top of it overnight and into the morning. It made for a slushy mess.

Our driveway is quite a ways from the main road. It is also a maintained county road but it was not maintained this morning when I needed to go to work. About halfway down the drive the poor ol’ van started to bog down into the slush. I figured that if I couldn’t make the corner there was no way I was going to get up the hill. It was best to put ‘er in reverse and follow the path back. Front wheel drive … much easier in reverse but I promptly embarrassed myself by getting stuck in front of the garage. At least I wasn’t stuck so close to the garage door to prevent it from opening. With some muscle (a few shoves from behind) the van was rescued from its slushy trap and ungracefully slid into the garage like a slimy slug. I could have tried to take the pickup but I figured I had better not press my luck at this point. Even the goose was embarrassed.

Now that my plans for the day were altered, and I’ve gotten over my 15 minutes of drama, how about a glimpse… well, about a 15-minute glimpse… into feeding time around here.

The video was taken a couple days after Christmas but this is kind of how we feed the cows and calves. Anyone who has animals feed as they see fit. What may work for some, may not work for others but this is how we feed our cows and their little brats calves. Some days they can be a little excited about their feed and other days they are of the opinion of ‘What? Leftovers again?” but they still will wander up to the plate and dig in.

We don’t feed them their hay in feeders or bunks. There is no waste. Some may say that we’re wasting hay because they knock it around, walk on it and foul it. Yes, a little bit of that does happen but it is very, very minimal due to how we set the hay out. They are really good at cleaning up and when it is spaced it keeps them from pushing and shoving each other around. The little calves and gentler cows can eat without the fatty cows from pushing them about. But when they do knock some of the hay around, walk on it and foul it it all goes back into the ecology of the field. There might be some hay seeds in it that may sprout in the springtime. The hay bits mixed with manure and dirt will compost back into the soil. They are fertilizing the field… what goes in the cow, comes out. It feeds the biology of the field. Stores sell steer manure in bags, we just get it directly from the cow.

We have seen a tremendous improvement to the portions of our fields that we have fed the cattle in. There has been an increase of clovers, grasses, earthworms and dung beetles. Some people say feeding hay on the ground will bring weeds. If some ‘weeds’ do pop up, the cows still eat them. What may be considered a weed to a human may be seen as food by an animal.

We are also feeding our pastures and fields by feeding the cattle on them. Yes, there may be some hummocking (pits caused by their feet) in a few spots but we try to keep that to a bare minimum by not feeding them in the same area or in spots that can get boggy. A little hummocking will hold water on the field like a miniature pond but it is just to manage the cows so they don’t ruin your fields. It’s all a balancing act.

This year created a challenge as to where to feed and overwinter the cattle because of the Woodhead Fire that burned all our stored feed and fencing. Keith and the boys have worked over most of the exterior sections of fence but there is a lot more to do once the snow goes away so the cows and bulls have been in the same fields close to the house because they are very secure. We also have to be mindful of where our next door neighbor to the south of us has his cows or bulls. We both like to keep 2 fencelines between them to keep the peace. So enjoy the video. It is not a really clean or super smooth video. And don’t listen to my croaky voice… nag, nag, nag…. lol!

So until next time…

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