Calving season ended June 4th this year with the last calf – 2014.  Our herd of 8 cows all calved within 3 weeks.

newly born calf

Newly born calf resting in fresh paddock.

Being born is hard work for both the cow and the calf.  Both animals have a depressed immune system right at birthing.  Under any conditions we feel it is important to keep the herd moving to fresh paddocks away from soiled areas to prevent potential disease issues.  Calves will creep ahead to the freshest available grass and rest away from the herd.  This is easy for them to do with our single wire poly fence.  Calves simply walk under the fence while the larger herd members stay in the current paddock.  Calves will rest often over the first few days of life away from the herd but close enough to get back to mom for a meal.

resting calf

New calf resting as mom keeps watch.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to visit the farm to view the new calves.  This is a great time of year to visit with fresh grass growing and rambunctious calves bouncing around.

The first calves of 2014 have arrived.  We found these two bull calves today.  Enjoy the photos.

First calf 2014 resting.

This calf had crawled through the fence to an ungrazed paddock to relax in some fresh grass. Momma was keeping watch from just across the fence.

 

First milk - colostrum

This calf was still wet when we arrived. Within 30 minutes the calf is up and getting that first important meal of colostrum (first milk).

 

Calf travels with herd on first day.

Later in the day, bath time. Within 30 minutes the calf was up for first milk. Here he has traveled about 300 yards with the herd to a fresh paddock.

Calves are born with a summer hair coat. Calving this time of year closely matches our local wild animal birth schedule, such as deer.

What a miracle!  God Is Great!

snow grazing - cows eating snow?

Cows eating snow?

We received our first measurable snow fall for 2013 this past week.  At our farm near Lincoln Nebraska, we usually have “open” winters, which means our pastures are not covered with snow for long periods of time.  When snow does arrive, we expect our cows to dig through the snow to find their meal.  Remember our cows graze 365 days a year.  To have grass for grazing this time of year, we set aside pastures during the growing season that are not grazed.  The grass left un-grazed during the growing season is “stockpiled” for grazing this time of the year (dormant season).

Snow Grazing

Calves learning to graze through snow by watching the momma cows.

Snow covered stockpiled green forage.

Snow covered stockpiled green forage.

As you can see from the photos, our cows are grazing down through about four inches of snow to find some excellent forage.  Cattle will easily graze through snow up to their eyes.  Further North, cattle herds graze through deep snow for longer periods of snow cover than our cows have ever experienced.  Our farm is located in what past UN-L Extension Educator Terry Gompert called the “Grass Finishing Sweet Spot”, so our cows have it easier than some other grass-fed herds this time of year.  None the less, our cows are well adapted to our farm forages and climate and the cow herd is improving with each generation.

It appears the cows are grazing snow, actually they are after the stockpiled forage and getting a drink of very cold water at the same time.  We are happy to give our cow herd the chance to be as cow-like as they want any time during the year and invite you out to see cows teaching calves to graze.

Geophagia Calves

Calves in sandpit enjoying a natural earth lick.

There is actually a term for eating the earth, geophagia (geo = earth; phagia = eating).  So what are the health benefits?

  • Minerals
  • Clay absorbs toxins

This article from Answers covers more topics than geophagia, scroll down to the section “Eating Dirt” for a little further reading.

Our pastures contain remnants of past glacier activity in this part of Nebraska.  As the glaciers receded, sand, gravel and boulders were deposited across our farm.  The exposed “sand pit” the calves are visiting in the photo above has very fine sand with clay.  We have a few of these open sand areas across the farm where the vegetation is sparse.  When the cattle move into these areas they take advantage of the naturally available minerals and clay.

Licking clay off calf

Momma cow cleaning “dirt” off her calf.

As you can imagine, we and the cows, prefer vegetative cover and not bare soil patches in our pastures.  Since the majority of our pastures are covered with grass, we can count on the local badger population to create small exposed earth patches all across the farm.  When our herd encounters these badger earth piles, they will paw, scratch and lick the earth.  During fly season the cattle will use their hooves to throw the “dirt” onto their bellies and backs as fly repellant.

In addition we offer clay as part of our mineral program to allow animals to self medicate when bare earth is not available.  A quick search of the internet will give you ideas on how to add clay to your medicine cabinet also.

Please leave a comment if you have experience with the health benefits of clay as part of your diet.