Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life and Death

That is what farming is all about. Days like today remind me of that fact...

It was cold this morning, the water in the barn was frozen. I was almost done my morning barn chores. One of the last things I do on my routine is throw hay out to the cows into the circular hay feeder. Riona, our smaller Irish Dexter cow, can climb into the feeder to reach the center hay but often is not motivated to get back out again so I wasn't surprised to find her in the feeder waiting for me to rescue her and put more hay into it. I hefted up the round feeder on one side and let Riona walk under it to get out. As she passed by me I noticed her vulva was wet and bloody. Immediately my head popped up and started scanning the area for a calf. I didn't see one anywhere. I also didn't know how long Riona had been trapped in the hay feeder and separated from her new calf.

I gave the cows their hay then set out to find the calf... hopefully alive. We have seven acres of pasture here and after covering most of it I still couldn't locate the calf. Finally, toward the back of the pasture were it adjoins our neighbor's crop field I spotted a dark pile on the outside of the electric fence. Closer inspection told me it was a calf but it wasn't moving so I still couldn't determine if it was alive of not. Their is no gate here along our neighbor's field so I had to walk back up to the barn. I knew I couldn't carry a calf back all that way so I took the tractor around the outside of the fence to get it. I stopped a bit away from it as if it was alive I didn't want to spook it and have to catch it. Even as I stood over the calf it didn't move. I reached down to touch it and was surprised how warm it was as it lay there in the sun. It's head came up when I touched it and I quickly scooped it up and climbed back up on the tractor.

Driving with one hand with the calf on my lap was slow going. I hadn't said anything to Neil so as I drove up behind the garage where he and his Dad were working he came out to see what I was doing driving the tractor through the wood on that side of the pasture. I could see that he couldn't figure out what I was holding at first. As I shifted the calf on my lap Neil could see what it was but his Dad yelled out, "Is that a dog?" I responded, "No, it's a cow." lol

I drove up the gate near the hay feeder. Before I got down I lifted a leg to check if it was a bull or a heifer... it was a little bull. Neil opened the gate and I carried the little guy into see his mom. It was the first time I saw him on his feet and he eagerly started to nurse. She swung her head around to smell him then returned to her hay. All was well and we have a new calf!

Not sure of his color, he is very dark brown/black right now but that can change. His mom is dun and his sire is red.

Once I was satisfied that the calf was all set I finished up the remainder of my chores. I then had to get started on my next task of the day. I had a customer coming at 3pm to pick up her dressed out turkey for Thanksgiving. I went and got my butchering knife and put a big pot of water on the propane burner to simmer. I picked out one of the tom turkeys from this year and carried him behind the shed were I have my bleeding cones attached to the wall. I dispatched him quickly and once bled out I carried him up to the deck to scaled him and pluck his feathers out. I do most of that job outside to keep the mess out of the house. Once that is done I move into the kitchen where I wash the bird, remove any last feathers, remove the neck and legs, disembowel it, prepare the giblets and finally clean up. From start to finish the process takes a little over an hour. He was cooling in the freezer when the customer arrived to pick him up.

A full day and the beginning of a busy week.

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