In mid January, we welcomed a new friend to our farm. Flat Aggie, as she prefers to be called, came to Illinois ready to learn about the beef cattle on our farm. Man, was she in for a surprise! My children - Payton (6) and Nolan (3) were very excited to teach her about our cows.
The weather has been VERY mild so far this winter. That has its pros and cons. The cons = MUD! When Flat Aggie arrived, we had just started calving. Calving is the process of a cow having a baby. A baby cow is called a calf and there are few things cuter than a newborn calf! On our farm, we try very hard to walk through our cows every night to figure out which cows are closest to calving. Those cows that are close get put in the barn for the night. They each have their own pen that is bedded down with fresh straw and alfalfa hay for them to munch on. After the first couple times of going into the barn, they get very used to it and before we know it they all want in! Flat Aggie was a big help when it came to cleaning those pens every night. My son Nolan showed her what to do!
On our farm there is always something that needs to be done. Although this is a busy time for our mama cows, we still have others to take care of. Our replacement heifers are heifers that were born between January 2015 and March 2015. A heifer is a female cow that has not had a baby. Instead of selling them, we keep them and feed them through the winter. Once they become old enough, they will replace older cows in the herd and eventually have babies of their own. A herd is a group of cattle. We also have bulls that we must continue to take care of. A bull is an uncastrated male cow. One of things we must continue to do for our cattle is provide them with minerals and salt to keep them growing and healthy. When Payton and Nolan got distracted while helping me haul mineral around in the their wagon, Flat Aggie was a big help. She even met a new friend...
In the pictures here, Flat Aggie is standing by the mineral feeder. This is what the salt and mineral goes into. The cows lift the rubber top up with their nose and lick up whatever they want! Yum!
As I mentioned before, it is calving time on our farm. Flat Aggie got to be up close and personal for the birth of a little heifer calf. Her mama is yellow tag #13 and is probably the friendliest cow we have. She is always sneaking up behind us to sniff or lick our shirt or coat. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of her calf and I am so glad Flat Aggie was there to witness it.
We always hope that every cow will have a calf without problems. Unfortunately that does not always happen. Since Flat Aggie got to our farm, the weather has changed and it is very cold. When heifers get ready to have their first calf, it is often hard to figure out how close they actually are. Needless to say there are certain cases when a heifer shows no signs of getting ready to have a calf and therefore she may not be in the barn. And she may decide to have it in the mud or when it is very cold out or even when a storm is coming! This happened to us the other day when it was cold and the windchill was near 10 degrees. Most cows will immediately beginning smelling their newborn calf and then start cleaning it off. This particular heifer had the calf outside. She did not clean it off because she was not done calving. Shortly thereafter she had another calf.
One calf was less fortunate than the other and died during birth. When my husband got home she had just had the second one. He quickly went and got the first calf, called me to hurry home and then took the calf in the house. I keep spare towels and sheets, as well as an old hair dryer on hand for this reason (see The Truth About Calving...Beef Cattle)!
Payton, Flat Aggie and I milked the cow out so we could get the initial colostrum to the calf - who was still warming up in the kitchen!! Colostrum is the first secretion from the mammary glands after giving birth which is rich in antibodies necessary for the calf to get going in the early hours of it's life.
Within three hours or so, we were able to get the little bull calf alert enough to go back to the barn with his mama. She had very little milk and we had to supplement with some colostrum replacer for him to get some nourishment. He is still receiving a little bit of milk replacer while his mother's milk starts producing.
The excitement will continue on our beef farm for a long time after Flat Aggie is gone, but we hope she can visit again someday! She was a busy girl at our place and we enjoyed having her. I think she may have learned enough she could raise her own beef cows!
Thanks to A Kansas Farm Mom for the opportunity to host Flat Aggie and tell our beef story. We had a blast!
Original post and more pictures on Outside the Ag Room.
Good Hope, IL