my daily life on a cattle farm, my love of agriculture, and stories behind my photos

Sunday, August 27, 2017

renovated calving area

We renovated an area of a barn for calving. We were in need of extra room during the calving season...especially with cold and wet weather. This renovated area of the barn gives us a permanent space for calving assistance, as well as flexibility for additional space during calving. In the fall of 2015, concrete was poured as a floor for the For-Most calving tub and cow/calf pens.

wood chip base spread for the pens

Two 10 x 12 pens were set up in the back of the barn to use for cows and their newborn calves, or for monitoring a cow close to calving. And if we delivered a calf in the calving tub, we can easily move the pair into a pen next to it. We use wood chips as base  in the pens to keep calves clean and dry. The wood chips work very well for calving. With using them, we can keep the pens clean throughout the day. We use straw in the corners of the pens as warm bedding for calves.

In the renovated calving area, I am able to store our OB equipment near the For-Most calving tub. This is perfect for quick access when we are in need of assisting a cow in calving. There is also plenty of space to store square bales of hay, feed, extra gates, a pitch fork and broom, extra wood chips, straw for bedding, and even my 4-wheeler.

I decided to paint the back wall of the pens. My dad wondered why I would since the cows would paint it themselves. So, I painted a shade of brown to camouflage the cow manure.

Two sheets of steel were removed from the roof and clear panels were installed for additional lighting in the calving area. They worked amazingly! These clear panels let in so much natural light...especially so in the pens at the back of the barn. They also bring in some warmth from the sun.

New wiring and lights will be completed in this area of the barn for improved lighting to work at night. And, my plan is to install barn cameras in the near future.

Friday, August 25, 2017

baleage sample

baleage sample

Before the round bales were wrapped, we took 5 samples of the hay as a representative to send to the laboratory for feed analysis. The samples were taken by using a drill with an attachment that takes a core sample from the bale of hay. I placed the samples into a sealed plastic bag.

A sample of baleage was sent of the Dairyland Laboratories for analysis. It cost $16 for analysis. We have used this laboratory before for feed analysis with oatlage, haylage, and silage. We are looking forward to results since the hay is alfalfa at 10% bloom. The baleage should be really good quality! The cows should enjoy it!

The feed analysis report arrived by email. We are very happy with the results for the baleage.


We are cutting and baling third crop hay. Two fields of hay were cut and tedded to be baled. But, the hay was not drying due to cloudy and damp weather conditions. Rain was in the forecast for the next two days. We decided to bale the hay wet then wrap the bales of hay as baleage to feed to our cows.
The baler was set at the smallest setting as the bales would be heavier with baling high moisture hay. We have never baled high moisture hay, so this was a learning experience.

The New Holland BR780 round baler did a great job baling the high moisture hay! Now to move them off the field to wrap...

Even with the round baler set at the smallest setting, the bales of hay were still heavy. At roughly 40% moisture, they weighed about 1800 pounds. 

All of the bales were hauled to the location to wrap. Once we started wrapping bales, I could barely keep up setting bales onto the inline wrapper. Wrapping was a very quick process!

It was pretty neat seeing the inline bale wrapper work since I had been thinking about purchasing one. This was a great opportunity. Wrapping the bales allowed us to harvest the hay in less than ideal weather conditions. And, the hay would be perfectly preserved and protected in the wrapping.

We are very pleased. At $10 per bale wrapped, it was well worth the money spent. We will most definitely wrap bales again.

The cows are going to love the baleage this winter. The third cutting hay is alfalfa at 10% bloom. So, it should be very high quality! We sampled the hay and sent in a sample into the lab for analysis.

Friday, August 11, 2017

2017 calving data

It is calculated. Our calving data for 2017...

In our purebred Shorthorn cattle herd, detailed records are extremely important to us in our management. During calving season, we track information through our unique record keeping we have developed over the years.
We had a 98.5% calving rate for 2017. Of our calves, 56% were bulls and 44% were heifers.

We calculate calving ease to determine the percentage of calves born unassisted (on their own without our help). This calving season, 79.1% of calves were born without assistance and 20.9% of calves were assisted in birth. We monitor our cows very closely and assist cows or heifers in calving when needed. This is especially so with heifers calving for the first time. We want them to concentrate on their newborn calf. So, the percentage of assisted births are normally higher for us because we want to increase our odds of success. As cows and heifers are in process of calving, we watch for progress. If a half hour has passed after the water bag has broken and there has not been much progress, we assist the cow or heifer in calving. We do not want her or her calf to be stressed. A lack of progress may indicate a possible issue...multiple births, or malposition (breech, backwards, upside down).     

Calves are vaccinated, tagged, and weighed at birth. The average weight of calves born at farm G (2 - 4 year old cows) was 82 pounds. And, the average weight of calves born at farm M (5 - 10 year old cows) was 96 pounds. 

During the calving season, we feed hay to our cows in the afternoon. We feed our expecting cows around 4:00 pm to increase the odds of calving during the day. If cows have calving issues, we will already be awake. We have used this feeding method for more than 30 years. And, it has proven to work well for us. In 2017, 91% of calves were born during the day and 9% of calves were born at night.    

Along with this data, individual records are kept for each calf born on our farms. We are able to track each calf throughout its life. The 2017 calving data is printed on colored paper and stored in a binder for reference. And, we often refer to it.