Farm Update

No particular topic today, just thought I’d fill in with the latest happenings in our life. I thought this blog would be more of a day to day journal of the farm but it seems like every time I sit down to type I feel the need to find a specific topic. Well, not today.

I considered titling this post “The Downside of Farming” because things haven’t been the greatest around here lately. Brian found 7 baby Holstein calves for sale last week and we bought them. They were cheap and we thought it would be nice to have some calves around again since we still don’t have a place to bring our bigger cattle home to. Anyway, cheap isn’t cheap when they all die on you. Brian’s sister took 2 and we kept 5, but we only have 2 left. The other 3 basically died of scours which is a broad diagnosis in calves. I fought hard to save the last one, taking his temp and tube feeding him milk and electrolytes. Didn’t work. I am pretty sure now that they probably never received any colostrum which gives them very low chances of survival. They remaining two are doing okay although the one acts like he may have pneumonia. I’m going to call our large animal vet tomorrow and try to get an antibiotic injection for him. I hate using antibiotics but don’t much like watching them die either.

I have mentioned before (to Brian) that I would like to eventually start a small herd of cows and raise our own calves that way instead. It is hard to justify that when there is such a surplus of Holstein steers in our area. In any case, we both agreed not to be tempted to bring anymore calves home until we can find an honest, reputable farmer to deal with. It is too hard and too disappointing to lose them, and it isn’t helping our financial situation much either!

Our 4 ewes have been doing well. They are full of energy. It is very heartwarming to watch them jump around like babies when it is time for dinner. However, there is bad news there too. One of the ewes we purchased at the MSU sale developed a few wart-like lesions on her face a couple weeks ago. I initially thought it was either a pyoderma (bacterial infection of the skin following mild trauma) or a papilloma virus (causing warts). I’m still not exactly sure what is going on but when I inquired about it to the previous owners they “mentioned” that she had a case of sore mouth as a lamb so it could possibly be that. Sore mouth is a very contagious sheep disease that can spread to humans and can be life threatening for lambs. This is obviously a big concern since all 4 ewes are (hopefully) due to lamb in the spring. I am still not convinced that she has, or every did have, sore mouth. The signs seem more consistent with a papilloma virus. I’ll update here when I figure out more.

On a lighter note, the chickens are continuing to lay very well despite this cold weather. We get 5 or 6 eggs a day from 6 hens! I’ve been sharing the eggs with our friends and family since we have too many for us but not enough to sell.

It is always hard to post about the negative side of farming because A) I don’t want people to think badly of us, and B)I don’t ever want to come across like I’m asking for sympathy. However, I know that we all make mistakes and face hardships. It has really helped me to follow other farming blogs and see that even when you are uber prepared, animals still get sick and things happen. Check out my sidebar if you’d like to see the obstacles others are facing.

Thanks for reading! 🙂


6 thoughts on “Farm Update

  1. Joyce

    Wow, what a challenge. I know basically nothing about large animals, but I’m really feeling for you, trying to get them through all these illnesses, after just having to treat a cat at some length for a couple of age-related problems. I hope you see a turn for the better soon!

  2. Farmer's Daughter

    Hi Jena. So sad to read about your calfs. I hope the 2 left do better. Both my parents were raised on dairy farms (I think I told you that before…) My mom’s family’s farm still has cows but they’re not a working dairy anymore, and instead board horses. My dad’s (our) farm had the fire where they lost the barn and most of the cows, and now we just keep one calf in our petting zoo each year. It’s really hard when they’re sick, but we get them from the same farmer each year and send them to auction after the year is up. Our family has known the family we get the calfs from for years and years, and they’re trustworthy.Would you want to do dairy or beef? I’ve heard that beef calfs are often healthier because they stay with their moms longer, but I don’t really know if that’s the case.

  3. farm mom

    So sorry you are dealing with illness. That’s by far the most difficult thing in having animals, IMO. It makes you feel so helpless and guilty all at the same time.

  4. GreenRanchingMom

    Sorry about the loss of your calves. I think that this is the worst part of farming/ranching. The helplessness in trying to save an animal that doesn’t WANT to live. I agree you should look into a specific farmer. Dairy calves (IMHO) are the hardest animals to keep alive. Especially after they go thru an auction with all the sickness and who knows what in the pens.

  5. Jena

    Joyce – I would rather be in my shoes than yours any day. Best of luck with your kitty’s problems, I’m sure he/she is very grateful for your care. 🙂FD – It is great that you have found a responsible, reliable farmer to deal with. I hope we can build that type of relationship with someone in our area. Our goal is to raise calves and market them as beef at around 18 months of age. Holstein steers are actually quite tasty and since there is an excess amount of bull calves available, that is what we have been raising. You are absolutely right though, dairy calves are the wimpiest, most vulnerable animals on the farm. They are bred for milk production and in the last several years have become much less hardy as a result. Beef calves would cost us much more initially but may come out ahead if they proved to be more mom – you’re exactly right. I hope to have this all down pat by the time I’m 90!GRM – I agree, I think these animals are bred without a strong will to live. I talked with our large animals vet for a long time yesterday and he said it will take a lot to get good at this since the dairy calves are so hard to keep alive.


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