Counting Cows Makes Me Sleepy

By on Apr 10, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

“How many cows do you have,” is a seemingly easy question I get all the time. In order to know how many cows I have, I have to count them. That is the challenge. When I run into a Utah or Texas rancher they immediately tell me they have 3,000 or 10,000 head or even 30,000 head of cattle. My next question is, “How do you count them?” My herd fluctuates between 50 and 70 head of cattle. I keep a board with the cattle names and locations but, the thing is, the numbers change all the time. Calves are born, cattle are sold, some are shipped for processing, I buy some. The herd numbers are constantly changing. We have over fifty head of cattle but pasture nineteen pregnant cows together so we can keep an eye on them. Giving birth is the most dangerous time for a cow. Most births are easy and don’t need human assistance but occasionally the mom needs help. With all the expectant moms in...

Good Fences

By on Mar 26, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

When you get a call from a neighbor at 5:30 in the morning it’s probably not a social call. Whenever I get an early morning call it’s usually because my cattle, pigs or horses are roaming the neighborhood. I don’t ignore those calls. Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” They also keep cattle and pigs out of the garden and off the highway. No matter how often we repair the two strands of electric wire that surrounds our 36-acre farm the work never ends. Fallen trees take down the wire and heavy snow shorts out the electricity that zap our livestock if they touch the wire. The electrical charge is not strong, I know because I’ve been zapped many times, by accident. Sometimes I get zapped because my husband, Bruce, says, “Don’t worry, that fence has no charge.” Right. The funny thing is that if you are not grounded you won’t get...

Pigs and Beer

By on Mar 19, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

What do beer and pigs have in common? If you said, “Beer drinking pigs,” you might be right. I have seen pigs and other livestock drink beer but that is not what I had in mind. Depending on the taste, different types of grains are used to make beer. Mashing is a step in the brewing process that combines grain with hot water to convert complex starches into simple sugars. After about an hour of brewing, the grain is drained and rinsed to extract sugars. That’s what the brewer wants: sugars, which is the starting place for fermentation. Left behind is the starchy grain. Because the grain has been brewed it’s called “spent grain,” or “brewer’s grain,” and can be an excellent feed for everything from pigs to chickens. Because Miles Smith Farm cattle are grass fed we don’t feed the cows spent grain but our pigs are another story. Pigs are omnivores with digestive systems...

Do you milk your cows?

By on Mar 13, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

The two-day-old bull calf was weak and not interested in nursing on his mother, a black Scottish Highlander cow. The mother cow’s teats were too large for this little fellow to get in his mouth. If we didn’t do something, he would starve. Scottish Highlanders are beef cattle that produce just enough milk to nourish their calves. Beef cattle are, well, beefy with backs and butts that are well muscled to produce steaks and roasts. A good beef cow has small udders which are easy for baby calves to nurse on. On the other hand, dairy cows are bred to produce milk, not beef. The back of a dairy cow might look thin but their udders, where the milk is, are typically large. Large udders on a dairy cow are a bonus and can mean good milk production. Large udders on a beef cow can be a problem which was the case with Flash, the bull calf who wasn’t nursing. Most beef cattle are...

Sap Loving Cattle

By on Feb 24, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

The black and white steer was clearly drinking sap from a maple bucket hanging from a tree pictured in a Facebook post. I thought that my cattle were the only “sap-sucking” culprits but, apparently, my herd is not alone. We had to stop collecting sap in our pastures because the cattle would tear off the plastic sap lines and lick the sweet water flowing from our maple trees. February and March are when farmers stay up all night to boil sap into thick, delicious maple syrup. It takes forty gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup. Warm days and cold nights in late winter and early spring are required for good a flow of usable sap. In the right conditions, farmers can be overwhelmed with sap. When the sap starts flowing it has to be stored and when storage space runs low it has to be boiled down to make maple syrup. Farmers will literally stay up all night to boil sap and check...