Archive for July, 2009
Bright and early moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters arrive on the fairgrounds with their little ones in tow. It is Kid’s Day at the fair. Children of all ages get to come to the fair for a fun and educational day.
When first arriving, the children register for information on the basics of 4-H. They will receive material telling them all they need to know about the age requirements and rules. This will provide them with the knowledge to decide if becoming a member is of interest to them.
Then we are off to tour the livestock barns. Our first stop is the Sheep barn. So many to see, the children are so excited. Some of the sheep stand right up next to their gates and let the children pet them and even feed them from their hands. Others, not so much.
Next to the sheep are the goats. They are much like the sheep in letting you pet them. There weren’t as many of them but the kids sure enjoyed seeing them.
Our next stop is a small group of cattle. The girls got to pet a couple of steers and take pictures. These were Herefords and Angus cattle. We didn’t make it over to the other barns full of cattle.
We left the cattle and ended up at the Hog barn. The barn was practically full of hogs. We were able to see the different ways to water the hogs by using what looked like PVC pipes with a spout on it for them to drink from. The waterers were a good farm accessories to have. It sure saved having to make several trips to supply drink for the hogs. The girls thought that was funny. They wanted to pet everything but, I was a little cautious here so we skipped the petting of the pigs.
After touring the barns, we went to the activity tent and let the girls pick apples from the tree display and place them in baskets. Next was gathering of eggs and milking a cow and goat. Now, I must explain that these are all made of wood and materials. These are not the real thing, which is good, because as many children as there were, I do not think the animals would tolerate much. I must say that whoever created the displays did a wonderful job.
The girls climbed aboard one of the John Deere tractors and we took pictures of the two of them and then they played in the straw pile. They also enjoyed a straw maze that they could walk and climb through.
Now it was time for a rest. The girls wanted to ride the Merry-Go-Round and so they did with their friend, Rachel. They giggled the whole time. We decided it was time to cool down since the temperature was pretty warm by taking a tour through the Exhibit building to see all the quilts, antiques, school projects, canned food, homemade goods and etc. that was on display.
Lunch was served to all the families, provided by the Kiwani’s Club of Salem and free ice cream cones were given to all the children from the Bullard Family.
By this time my two were exhausted, not to mention myself and my mom. We ventured out with fun in mind for my 3 yr. old niece, Kalissa and my 21 month old special little friend, Kennedy, she calls me grandma. It was a girls day farm adventure. The little ones had a blast, as well as the rest of the children that attended Kid’s Day.
It is so great to see the Marion County Fair dedicate one day just to the children of the community. It gives our future generation of farmers a look ahead, although they may not understand it just yet, to get to see and touch the livestock and learn about the different breeds and responsibilities. All the children took home goody bags full of infomation and surprises.
Thank you to all those who participated in making this a wonderful day for our children. I cannot even begin to name everyone involved but they know who they are.
Excitement is in the air all over the fair grounds. Today the fair began and it is time for all the kids in 4-H to show their projects that they have been working on for the past year. You can see the anxiety in their eyes and the chaos surrounding them as they prepare their animals for show. The barns are full of livestock equipment and supplies to help them throughout their week at the fair.
There were several sheep to show and in this category there were seven breeds with four classes each. It is amazing to watch these youngsters work with their animals.
Our goat show was next. Not many goats but, according to the superintendent, it was less than last year but will more than likely continue to grow. In this category we had a few different breeds. Boer was one and we even had some Pygmy goats. They are just so cute.
There is also a hog class and several of them were on hand to show.
We have a dairy and a beef show also. I saw Holstein, Angus, Hereford and other breeds.
It took a lot of hours for these kids to get their animals prepared for the shows. They are so dedicated and determined to do their best. You can really tell who puts in the time and effort. I believe they all did an excellent job.
It is also a lot of work to be a Judge at these events. They want to pick the best and at the same time not upset the crowd or contestant but it is not that simple. The judge has to pick which one he/she feels is the best and stand on their decision. I spoke to one of the judges today and ask what he looks for when judging.
J. J. McKinney, judge for the Junior goat show, says he looks for the overall best product. He looks for which goat will make or become the best goat in months ahead. For meat goats, he looks at the build and structure to see if they will grow and produce as they need. If it is milk goats, he looks at them the same but also checks their milk bag to see if it will produce the milk in the years ahead. He looks at their leg structure and how they stand, if they are solid on their feet. These are just a few of the details he looks at.
The judges do a great job and should be appreciated for their time and expertise.
I am sure it sounds simple but, rest assured it is a little more complicated than it seems. The superintendents, judges, clerks and all the people behind the scene put on a wonderful show for the crowd, it takes a lot of work and all should be applauded.
Cattle sorting is an art that grew out of necessity. Ranches in the American prairie lands often butted up against each other. As a result, cattle herds became mixed up and ranchers lost track of their valuable property. Ranchers solved this problem by branding their cattle with an identifying mark and then sorting their cattle into a pen using special tools.
Cattle sorting sticks feature a paddle end used to shepherd cattle into a designated area. Successful sorting depends on a keen understanding of cattle behavior. For instance, handlers need to stay outside of the cattle’s comfort zone – sometimes a distance as large as 300 feet – in order to get them to move without spooking. A handler’s positioning outside this comfort zone helps to influence the cattle’s movement.
It is that time of year again and the work has begun. The fair grounds are being prepared for the eight days of events that is about to take place here in Marion County, Salem, Illinois. There is so much work to be done that if you are not involved in the process, you would never know how much work really does go into the actual planning.
These members of the fair board meet once a month, all year long, to plan and prepare for just this event. It isn’t like a month before and all falls into place, it takes time and planning to organize and arrange for every detail to work. From my understanding, members have specific and different areas in which they plan their events. For example, each event has a supervisor in which to oversee the details. At the meetings, everything is discussed from the price of the event to the price of the tickets to be sold, rules are gone over and updated, any changes, layout of the fields for the events or any kind of promotions that need to be done. Then come the day of the event, the supervisors oversee the preparations and get everything ready to go.
At the fair you get to see all the old and new models of farm equipment that has had an impact in our county and across the nation. Farmers from all over bring tractors, new and old, in for the week for folks to view and watch when they are in an event. Other equipment is brought also but, the tractors are a big attraction.
Same goes for the 4-H livestock shows. There are those that cover this area as well. Today is the day that they are setting up barns for the 4-H kids to begin bringing in their livestock projects. There will be cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, horses, maybe some chickens, dogs and even a kitten or two. We usually always find a stray kitten left behind to bring home at the end of the week.
Getting ready for these events takes a lot of hard work and organization. Pens have to be set up, separate barns for the different breeds have to be readied, water supply must be working, areas for feed, hay and straw have to be made available, and of course, a place for all the owners to stay as well. Then finding Judges to judge each event is a job within itself. They must have knowledge and experience in the field that they are judging.
There is so much to get done, that it is hard to list every little thing, like making sure the vendors arrive on time, that plenty of food and beverage is available, that there is adequate facilities for the crowds and plenty of working restrooms.
I am proud of our Fair here in Marion County. Mr. Ron Wilkins, President, and all the members do an excellent job. Come for a visit, you are sure to have a great time.
For more information on the fair and events go to www.marioncountyagfair.org.
Those little cute yellow chicks, oh how fast they grow. Why do we want to raise them? Do we do it just because they are cute or do we do it to put food on our tables in the future months? Are they worth the time and money?
I think so. Fresh meat that we raise is so much better than that processed meat in the grocery store. We know exactly what we fed them and if they needed any medications and for what. We watch them daily and feel good about having the ability to be able to provide the freshest meat for our family. Not only do we provide meat for our loved ones we also provide fresh eggs. Fresh eggs are just the best!
Yes, the chicks cost little if you purchase them but the feed bill can get expensive depending on what you are raising. If you are raising broilers for meat, they will eat you out of house and home. They are constantly hungry. You would think they would eventually get full but they keep on eating. These little guys soon become big in a matter of weeks. Not months. I raised 15 that I purchased in May and here 10 weeks later, we are dressing them at 8 lbs. That is their dressed weight. So live weight, they would have to have been approx. 10 lbs. They were huge and will make a good meal.
I enjoy my chickens and have fun just watching them especially the little ones. The hardest part is the day the we have to butcher. When they get so big that they are beginning to have trouble standing we know it is time to call it quits with them. I am not the one that will do the worst and kill them but, I do the rest. The plucking is a chore within itself. It just drags on and the checking and double checking to make sure they are clean before we can cut them up seems to take forever. Even though it is tedious, I much prefer to raise my own and feed my family with good fresh food.
One thing I did learn throughout this process is that the water needs to be HOT! Not just hot to touch. I mean scalding, otherwise the feathers will be a pain to pluck. Also, it helps to have your knives sharpened before you start. Sharp knives are a farm accessory that is needed on the farm, especially if you do your own butchering. A dull knife just makes the job harder. Have your sink or tubs ready to put the chicken in to cool while you continue working on the others. I save plastic milk jugs and fill with water and freeze and keep them on hand for jobs like this. You can just take them out of the freezer and place in the sink or tub. They will cool down the bird to prevent ecoli from setting in. Get them into the freezer as soon as you can. If you have several, you may want to clean and freeze them whole, you can always cut them up when you get ready to cook them.
It can become a disaster area around the house fast when butchering. All the pans and bowls, knives and rags to clean up, not to mention the counters and sinks, tubs, barrels and etc, Just make sure you clean and sanitze everything when you finish. This helps prevent saminilla poisioning.
So if you want to raise chickens, whatever kind, go for it and have fun.
I truly love my horse, Blaze. I have loved animals all my life and horses were always a big part of that love. As a teenager, I had a gelding named Rourke. At that time in my life, I had ‘no fear’ and broke him to ride myself. I had so much fun with him and it really hurt me to have to give him up when I left home. For twenty plus years I wasn’t around horses and I missed that. I did not realize that you can become fearful of the one thing that you once loved so much but, I had become afraid. Not as much as afraid of the animal as it was getting hurt by it. I had to face my fears and start over.
So, I started slowly and then bought me a Paint mare, Dallas. She seemed to ride well and do okay when we watched her in the arena. Once home and on the farm I realized that I had made a mistake. Buying her was the worst thing I did. She was not with the program and seemed to have a mind all her own. She threw me every time I’d try to ride her and that even made my fears worse. It didn’t matter how much I done ground work with her she would go right back to her old habits and she became dangerous for me. My daughter didn’t think I needed to keep her and that she wasn’t safe, as well as my partner so, I traded her for an 8 yr.old gelding. Blaze was gentle to handle and I could ride him with ease. It felt good to get some self confidence back.
Well, now that I have a horse, I thought I needed to look into buying a saddle and bridle. Allen has several already but, I wanted my own. Boy, was I surprised at all the information you needed to know on how to fit a saddle. I soon discovered that just because a saddle looks good, doesn’t mean it will fit your horse. If a saddle doesn’t fit right it can cause serious problems for your horse such as saddle sores or pressure sores. A saddle built for a quarter horse, with a round back, will not fit a horse with high withers. If a saddle does not fit snug and it constantly slides back and forth it can cause blisters to flare up or if the horse is not used to having a saddle on for any length of time this can also cause a problem. If this should occur and you have to ride your horse, ride him bareback until the sores heal.
These are all things to consider when owning a horse. Even when you get the saddle you want and it fits right, you have to have a saddle rack to store it on. The saddle always needs to be free of mud and hair or any other debris, especially the girth area. Make sure you wipe it down after each use. Always keep it in a dry area and stored off of the floor. A good saddle blanket is also a good thing to own.
It doesn’t take a lot to keep a horse happy. You can put him on pasture and he’ll do okay but, we like to feed ours a little grain in the morning before we turn them out to pasture and then in the evening we’ll give them about 2 lbs. of grain when we put them in their stalls for the night. Along with their evening feed we add horse vitamins and supplements to help with their growth and joints. In the winter they are supplied with hay to keep them satisfied and full.
One thing to remember is to never put a saddle on your horse without brushing him/her first. This can help prevent sores and your horse will love you for it.
Someone said the other day that they really liked horses but that he can’t ride because he gets sores on his behind and that he could not ever be a farm person. I told him that just because he got saddle sores once does not mean that he can’t ride, he would just have to do it again and not for a long period. Just take short rides and get used to it. He didn’t think so. I hear people all the time talk of their love for horses and how they want to come ride. They just don’t realize the care you need to take in preparing one to ride.
Like I said, I love my horse and every thing that we need to do to before we ride is worth the effort. Our horses are our friends, pals, pets and for some money makers. So here’s to our horses!
If you’ve ever owned a horse or been involved in the world of horses, it’s very likely that you’re aware just how expensive and intricate much of the equestrian riding gear can be. As such, one of the most intense and costly pieces of equipment that every rider needs is the horse saddle. But it’s a frequent problem for people to try to find a place to safely store that saddle.
After all, you never want to simply store something like this on the ground where it can sustain any level of damage. You also want to make sure that it retains its shape as much as possible while you’re storing it. This is why so many people look into saddle racks. These offer a convenient and easy way to keep your saddle in top working order, even when it’s in-between uses.
This year I have somehow got myself and my partner into all kinds of new adventures on the farm. I have expanded my love of animals to acquiring chickens, goats and now bottle calves. Chickens we have now had for about three years but the goats came ten months ago and the first bottle calves three months ago.
What is so funny about all of this is that I didn’t plan to feed bottle calves. We have not ever had them before and had no plans for them now. As fate would have it, we had a heifer give birth and lost her calf. We went to a dairy farm and bought a 2 day old bull calf and put on her. We assumed she would take to the calf and all would be well. Not so. She pretty much lost her mind and became dangerous. We had to let her go. So now then, we have a calf with no mama and need to feed him. So now we have a bottle calf, Buster.
For two weeks I fed him a bottle morning and night and if I was at home during the day I would give him one at noon. I am very naive at this point and not sure if I am giving enough or too much. He develops the scours and I think I am giving too much so I decrease his intake and add some Pepto Bismol in his bottle, just a cap full. This seemed to help but I had the feeling that he was still hungry all the time. My partner, Allen, brought me some calf starter home and we started putting that out for him. He would eat a little but not much. He couldn’t seem to find the water on his own so, I would fill a bottle and get him to drink it that way. I know he was confused but, so was I. We were quite the pair.
Around that two week mark, we had incident with someone elses cattle that left a calf without a mama and they didn’t want the calf. So we thought that maybe Buster would do better with a friend and now we have Barney. Now Buster is a Holstein and Barney is Angus, the odd couple. So, now my new adventure begins and it grows from here.
Buster and Barney have become pets. They know when it is feeding time and I have handled them enough that it is nothing to walk up to them, slip on a halter and lead them wherever I need them to go and there are the moments when a halter is not even needed.
Barney took a few days to discover he would only get his milk from a bottle. He was fortunate enough to have a mama for a couple of days and that was just enough to confuse him. Once we got that process going we introduced him to the sweet feed and hay. He took right to it. Needless to say that he has grown and filled out a lot better that Buster.
Now just when I thought my bottle days we coming to a close, we have 4 more calves that need a home. These came in at the local livestock barn where Allen works and there are not many folks around here that want to mess with calves, too time consuming. So, I got the call and said bring’em home. Now we have Sally, Brutus, Brewster and Callie, all Angus babies, ranging from 1 – 2 weeks old. Now the fun begins!
Not knowing their exact ages and going by size, I tried to figure out how much they would need to be fed. Sally was the biggest of the four and Brutus was next, Brewster and Callie were the smallest, so to begin I gave each 2 quarts to see how well they would take the bottle. It took about 4 days to get them to where we didn’t have to fight them to get them to eat. Sally only took more than 2 qts. a couple of times and the others were just pigs once they got the hang of it. The two smallest ate just about 3 qts. every feeding and Brutus ate just as much if you let him. Sally just didn’t take to the bottle well and she usually finished after one bottle. She did do well at eating grain and hay, though, and we had it in front of them always. This I found also helped to keep them from sucking on each others ears since they have the urge to want to continue to suck after they finish their bottles. At times I have to separate them for a few minutes and they do fine.
This is when I realized that a good livestock feeder is an essential for bottle calves and has to be at a height where they can reach it easily. It needs to be accessible to them at all times and feed kept in them. If you have several, a self feeder might be more to your liking.
Now we are at the 90 day age and it is time to think about weaning. We are weaning our other calves that are the same age today and so I have decided that Barney, Sally and Brutus needs to be weaned from their bottles also. Well, Barney has been for a while and I have kept him with the rest so, once in a while, if there is milk left that the others didn’t finish, he gets. Now it is time for him to be completely off the bottle too. I started decreasing Sally and Brutus’ milk intake a week ago so that it wouldn’t be so hard on them. Today they have done well so far. We will put them in with the other calves this evening and we will see how they do.
Buster, on the other hand, gets to stay on the bottle a while longer with the little ones. I think I messed up and didn’t give him enough to begin with and then took it away too soon. He started looking thin and didn’t seem to eat the feed well so I started supplementing him with a bottle again. I am going to do this for the next four weeks and see how he does. By then the other two should be ready to wean and him along with them. I recently read that you should give a bottle calf at least one to one and a half gallons of milk a day. I wasn’t feeding Buster enough.
After going through all this, I finally find an answer to my question of how much to feed. Oh, well, it is a work in progress.
Having bottle babies can be fun but, it is work. There is more to it than I first thought. You have to have the right kind of bottle and nipples for them and you want the milk to come out at a nice flow, not too fast or it could choke them. A livestock feeder that is at the right height and a good starter feed and grain, 15 – 18% protein, as well as hay is a must. First and foremost is a good milk re-placer. This is a necessity. You want to feed them on a schedule just like you would a newborn baby. They need consistency as well, we feed ours at the same time we do chores and feed the other livestock, that keeps everything on a routine. This lowers the risk of upsetting their stomachs and the possible scour.
On our farm, the time for weaning the baby calves is just around the corner. Actually, today to be exact. It is not ever an easy job to separate the little ones from their mamas but, it has to be done. This is my bull calf, Snowman, from last years herd. Here he is 4 weeks old.
Most of our calves are 90 days old now and are eating grain and grass well. When they are able to do this and can fend for themselves it is the right time. We do this by watching the signs and have found that the best time to accomplish this is when the sign is in the thighs or knees, it must be below the heart. Not everyone watches the signs of the moon but we do and that is just our preference. In our opinion there are fewer complications when it is done in the right sign. If done too early, some of the problems you may encounter are:
- some calves do not adapt to the change from milk to grass and feed
- they do not eat well, therefore, they lose weight and do not develop and grow as well as they should
- they become stressed from the changes without mama and can become ill
A couple of reasons we like to wean early when the calves are around 90 days old is because it is the time of year when the weather is turning hot and the pastures begin to dry up. It takes the stress off the cows if they don’t have to produce milk for their calves and their bodies can begin to prepare for the next calving season. Also, we don’t have to feed as much grain and unless the pastures completely dry up, hay is not necessary until Fall. It also helps, in the re-breeding of the two year old heifers and cows because the stress on their bodies is not there.
When done at the right time, there is less stress on the mamas and calves and also the time of mourning their loss only lasts about 3 days. It can get quite noisy around here for a few days.
This time I am weaning three of my bottle calves with the others and am curious to see how they will all interact with each other. Sally, Brutus and Barney were not happy with me this morning when they didn’t get their bottle. I have been decreasing their intake for the past week and today is the day that they are on straight feed and grass. They have been eating pretty well and I hope that continues.
When separating, it is always good to have your cattle sorting paddle or sorting stick handy. The sorting paddle is a huge help when trying to block the calf from the cow. The paddle draws the calves attention away so the cow can go where you need her to go and the calf stays behind. It can keep the calves attention and you can guide them to their new destination. The sorting paddle is also useful in that it can give you the distance you need between you and the cow and you are still able to guide her as well.
The paddle is good to accomplish both jobs here, although some prefer the sorting stick. The paddle is newer to the market and a safe way to handle your livestock. They are available with or without BBs for a sound effect.
Spring has sprung and Summer is here. It is this time of year that we love and enjoy working out in the yard. If you are anything like me, you’ll find something new that you want to either add or remove from your yard. It may be some new rose bushes that you want to add or a part of your yard that just isn’t working anymore.
I have discovered my love or preference to Daylillies, the regular and dwarf sizes. They are so easy to take care of and I have added several to my yard this year and plan on several more. It is getting late enough in the planting season that I have a dozen more to set out and the rest are bulbs that I will plant for next year in my greenhouse and then set them out.
I have found that to plant these, after they are about 4-6 in. high, it is easier to use a spade shovel. It makes the hole large enough and it is much easier on my back to set the plant in and cover. I planted over two dozen last year and this summer they are just beautiful.
Another project is my patio. It is covered with river rock and does have a weed problem in the Spring. It takes a couple of times of Round Up to be rid of those. I then keep it nice looking by using a yard rake to keep it leveled out from the dogs and keep the leaves and limbs off of it. It has a country feel to it when we entertain and has enough sand in the rock foundation to keep it pretty dry even when it rains. We had discussed pouring concrete but, there are tree roots so close that it causes caution to go through with.
I have finally decided that the rock foundation is okay and that I can decorate and landscape just fine. I recently added some hanging plants and will be purchasing an octagon picnic table for the area. I have a potting table off to one side where I prepare my plants for my garden and greenhouse and a bench that fits around the tree close by to sit on. I have my water bucket close to my table and a rain barrel that catches the rain water off the house. The garden hose is hanging within working distance to help with the watering of the garden and plants. I have surrounded our home with plants and bushes of all kinds.
With my son’s help and my garden tractor and wagon, we were able to bring my plans for a rock garden, at the back of the house, to life. We hauled several loads of rock to accomplish this task. My partner was good enough to provide all the rocks I needed in different sizes. It took some laying of weed control fabric and muscle to finish this project but it looks beautiful now that it is done.
The other projects like planting Inpatients, Gladiolas, Marigolds, Black and Blue Sage and etc. required a little help from tools like trowels and small rakes and buckets for water. You never know what tools you may need so I keep mine in a handy garden tool organizer to carry with me as I go from one job to the other. The smaller tools fit great in an organizer and the larger ones I can lay in my wagon. When I am done, I clean and hang up the shovel, rake and hoe and I can then hang up the organizer and keep all the small tools together.
I love the outdoors and can’t get enough of it. There is always something to do outside in the fresh air and having the right equipment is a major plus. If you don’t have what you need, borrow from your neighbors or rent from a local garden store. There are many possibilities.