Sunday, December 22, 2013

First Snow Day - family guitar sesh, happy animals, free choice bark, and wonderful hay

We had our first real snow storm last Saturday night into Sunday morning. We tried to think of everything. Put all the chickens together, closed them in their insulated coop, came up with a makeshift mega-feeder, and filled everyone’s water. We filled the bathtub with water to flush the toilet with, and stored 3 ½ gallons of drinking water. We weren't planning on days of power outage, just a little inconvenient overnight type. I told Joel we would just fire up his grill and melt snow if it really came down to it. There is an abundance of wet around here.

This is our first year with a variety of animals. I had already heard all the horror stories of going out in the storms to check on animals, making sure they are okay etc. I figured we would have a little work to do Sunday morning.

Turns out, we had about 10 inches on the porch and no power outages. Our road crew was out, and I’m not complaining, but I still didn’t want to go out on the road Sunday morning to get to church by 9:30am. Since we live 25 minutes away, we wouldn’t know what would be between here and there.

This was from another day, but the bundled up look was the same.
I bundled up, and went out to tend to the animals, and was inside in less than 10 minutes. It was cold out – but I wasn’t in because it was cold. I was in because there was nothing to do. I guess we have a pretty sweet set up here. The chickens were toasty in their insulated coop, the cows were perfectly happy in their shelter and their water heater was working fine, and the rabbits were fine… I didn’t have to shovel my way to anyone because we made everything so that we wouldn’t have to do that in the winter.

So we all settled in for the morning, turned on the Christmas tree lights, and read Luke 2, focusing on the Shepherds. We sang a few Christmas songs and a few specifically about joy - the specifics of Joy and the Shepherds because this was the advent week with the Shepherd Candle representing Joy. The boys got to actually interact with Joel and the guitar, and “play” the guitar with him. I think it was a treat.

D'aww. It was a nice winter snow day.

Seeing how our animals have dealt with the cold has actually made me thankful we don’t have a barn. I’ve read a little about blanketing cold cows (like some do with horses) and how if their body is kept too warm, they will shed their winter coat (assuming they have one) prematurely. I’ve seen other Jerseys that seem to have no winter coat at all, and while some of that is genetic, I assume some of that may be because of their warmer barn and that the less noticeable temperature change caused them to not develop a coat.

Buttercup started getting a beautiful thick winter coat – much thicker than I expected – months ago. Norway has a wonderful winter coat which is typical of Dexters, but I had been slightly concerned about Buttercup. Many people keep Jersey cows up here, but I knew most of those people had a barn. So far, it seems like we have the right animals for our area, and it seems like they are all incredibly happy with their arrangements – and that their arrangements are generally helpful to their health and comfort!

We are generally happy with the arrangements too! The bales of hay lasted EXACTLY as long as I had calculated. Praise God! Woot, Woot! We have to role a new bale in every 10 days (or 20 if we put two in at once). I’m also loving that we don’t currently have a feeder around the bales because some of the hay is sacrificed to nap time bedding and they are loving it. They are just taking a nap in the grass - they must miss the summer too. Even with the sacrifice hay, they ate it in the amount of time I calculated.

I told you about minerals in another post. My main concerns with them are: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Selenium (articles here, here, and here). Salt is really important too, but that is easy, so it isn’t a concern for me.
My cow folder with details on the cows, minerals, wormer etc. I love this folder. 
There are adequate levels of minerals and nutrients in all the feed and supplements we have on hand. The hardest nutrient to get in our cows this time of year is phosphorus, which would be found in their kelp.

That's great! However…

Norway knocks over everything including their kelp feeder. We finally screwed in a feeder to the fence. He quickly destroyed this plan as well. We are having quite the time giving him minerals without him playing with the feeder and dumping everything after he’s had his fill.

They are doing a bit of bark chewing. I think this is telling me they are currently low on phosphorus. From what I’ve read, many other people report the same thing this time of year, but some chock it up to a bad winter habit and boredom.

Hopefully we’ll figure something out with the mineral feeder and see a decrease in bark chewing. Our kelp has phosphorus (and pretty much everything else a cow could need) in it if we could keep it out there free choice (instead of free choice bark). If any of you have a favorite mineral feeder or suggestion, let me know! We are all for homemade plans too.

The view of the "brown shed" and chicken coop fencing from our window. This was taken a few days after the storm.
Otherwise, all the animals are happy and healthy. And it might take us 10-20 minutes outside a day to check on water and feed, and collect eggs. Of course, we can spend more time if we want and are able, but I’m glad the required time is so low.

Come March or April, when the hay will start to run low, we’ll be adding milking to our daily animal chores. I can’t wait!

Mmmm, fresh milk, cream, butter, cheese… come quickly! I’ll be counting down to milk with bales of hay. One bale of hay down, 9 to go!

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