Monday, January 17

Keeping the livestock comfortable

In addition to my previous post about how we care for our hogs in Iowa, while we were visiting for Christmas Scott and I also got out to help with other day-to-day winter farm tasks, which include giving more bedding/feed to the calves, now almost a year old. This is the group of calves from which we brought seven heifers back to Wyoming to add to our breeding herd.

The first step in bedding the calves, and also getting two more bales for the cowherd to eat, is to find the cornstalk bales under the snow. In this photo my brother Nathan has the snow bucket on the loader tractor to dig out the bales.

Iowa gets a lot of snow, and it stacks up everywhere. Unlike Wyoming, Iowa does not get mid-winter thaws to clear out some of the piles and mounds, which only melt in springtime, when they all melt at once and rivers flow down the driveways and ditches, the ground turns into a sponge filled to capacity and large ponds form in the fields.

After digging out the bales Nathan switched to the tines attachment on the loader tractor, which spears the bale and easily carries it into the lot where the calves live through the winter. They stay locked up for the winter months so they can be fed and cared for to ensure that they grow well and stay healthy. There's really no reason to leave them out in their pasture, as the ground is covered in snow and there's no shelter from the wind and driving snow. They're really much happier where they have a shed to block the wind, cornstalks for bedding and a daily feeding of corn.

Scott is also much happier when he's in a shelter and warm, with food, rather than standing out in the Iowa winter weather.

The bale is set down right under the roof, on its end, and the tractor then pushes it under the overhang. This lot the calves are in is a repurposed outdoor hog lot, where my family used to keep a portion of our hogs before the new confinement buildings were built. The larger, much taller part of the shed is used to house various farm equipment, grain wagons filled with corn for the calves, trucks, tractors, etc. The calves get this separate shed to themselves for their shelter.

Getting the bale clear inside the shed ensures that the most cornstalks will stay where they will be best used, both as feed and as bedding, and not wasted. The bales are composed of cornstalks - a popular way to get more value from leftover corn stover in Iowa. The stalks are baled up each fall following harvest, and along with the dry forage they also contain some of the ears of corn that were missed or dropped by the combine - a special treat for whatever calf finds them first. The indigestible, more tough parts of the cornstalks become the bedding.

These calves were very happy we were getting them more to eat. Talk about service!

Scott cuts the twine from the bale, something that's done to keep the strings from getting frozen into the ground over the winter, which could make a big mess when it's time to clean out the pen after the spring thaw.

1 comment:

  1. Dad is happy that you are writing about agriculture. I told Nathan to check out the photos of him on your blog.