Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Reassessment of My Abilities

For four years  I have kept cows.  Fed them, milked them, chatted with them, bonded with them, and sadly slaughtered some of them.  I have felt that I have risen high enough on the learning curve of cows to term myself a cowboy; a dairyman.  I realized yesterday that I was mistaken.  I am a neophyte.
On Thursday, the first day of the new year, Dinah 2.0 gave birth to a calf.  I was thrilled and took a great deal of pride in this even though I had only bought Dinah 2.0 the day before, had never seen her before that date, had neither raised her nor bred her.  I did not deserve to take credit for the birth of this beautiful calf. 
I took a look at this healthy, strong, lovely calf and quickly, confidently and sadly assessed it as a bull-calf, a male.  In the world of a dairy, a bull calf has a financial value equal to a large Reuben sandwich at the local cafe.  A heifer, a female, is valued more along the lines of a great weekend out on the town.  I concluded that this was an omen for the year:  healthy calf yes, but one of little value:  the year would be a B, not even a B+ and no where near an A.  
As I began working with Dinah 2.0, trying to get her to relax and let down her milk in the milking parlor, I began to bring the young offspring with us.  With her progeny in sight of her, I theorized that she would calm down, possibly she would even confuse the milking machine with its mechanical pulsating with the clumsy suckling of the calf.  With the calf stationed in sight of Dinah 2.0, myself trying to massage her engorged udder, I looked over at the calf. The small, yet fierce calf was peeing in the milking parlor, and peeing in a most un-male way.
In my rush to judgement I had mistaken his, well actually her, umbilical cord for a penis.  I would like to think that this is a simple mistake to make, although anyone with the moniker of dairyman would never make it.  I stand corrected. The calf is actually a heifer.  Jorge, noting the demi-lune markings on her forehead has named her Luna.  

As this is the beginning of a new year, a time of reflection, I still have a chance to reassess the coming year.  This farm now has the best omen:  a young heifer calf born on New Years' day, in the year of the Ox.  Most certainly this is an A+ in the world of an omen.
I have also downgraded my status to novice cowboy.  I have quite a ways to go and relish the trek.  

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Porcine Post Script

oh, and the pigs are good too.

The State of The Farm -- 2009

January 1, 2009.
It has been a great year here at Kurtwood Farms and I thought I would spend a few minutes reflecting on the year past.
This morning around five a.m. Dinah II gave birth to a beautiful bull calf.  I am taking this, partially at least, as a great omen.  The theme of the year will be a new start; birth, beginnings, hope, that kind of thing.  Now, if it had been a heiffer calf, I would have said that this was the greatest omen possible, but I will stick with a healthy calf on New Year's morning as a great, if slightly tempered, sign.
The veterinarian was just out to check on the nervous mother, the healthy calf and the other cows.  Boo was confirmed bred as well, set to calf in seven months.  Also, great news without question.  With luck, Andi will also have settled, after having spent a few days at the stud farm down the street.  
The pastures were greatly expanded during the spring of 2008 and are growing in nicely.  In addition, all the pastures were limed in late fall, with the hope of a great productive season coming up in the new few weeks.  
The barn is working out beautifully, albeit with a few design flaws.  The cows have found ways to push my buttons with the way the barn is laid out.  It is a glorious structure, however, and I always enjoy my time in the barn, even if it is time spent shoveling cow manure.  
A few days before the snows hit the Island, all of the sheep were sold off, freeing up a large chunk of the pastures for the cows.  I felt that the sheep were too inefficient to keep compared to the dairy cows.  I know how two large paddocks to rotate cows through and the main upper pasture is reserved exclusively for the cows.  I can't say I miss the sheep.  
The chicken tractor described in a blog post a few months ago has been a great success.  As of this morning no raccoons have been able to breach the coop and the chickens are safe and laying nicely.  With the exception of the two weeks when it was frozen to the ground and could not be moved, it has worked very well.  A new flock of layers is presently in the brooder and will be transferred to an additional chicken tractor in the next couple of months.  
The greatest change set for the farm in the coming year is the dairy itself.  After four years of selling raw milk, I am planning on switching to selling primarily cheese.  Last week I ordered a thirty five gallon combination pasteurizer-cheese vat from the C. van't Riet company in the Netherlands.  They will fabricate the cheese vat over the next eight weeks and then ship it to the farm in March.  I hope to make the transformation completely by April first.  I am most excited and quite hopeful of success.
On the home front, Daisy and Byron are healthy as ever.  I expect, or at least hope, that Daisy will live forever.  She looks far younger than her eight years.  Byron is the sweetest odd ball on the farm and is attempting to be the head dog here with some success.  Daisy may retire her position soon although I anticipate she will most likely fall into a more emeritus position, given her personality.

On the whole, Kurtwood Farms is set for a great season.  Dinah II, Boo, Andi and Lily look forward to the sun and warmth to return, the pastures to grow and some serious milk production to begin.  
And now, back to check on that beautiful calf.