April 2018 Newsletter
Whats Going On At The Farm April 2018
Spring is here, the grass is greening, weeds are growing, and the cows are calving. With the warmer weather we are beginning to see our daily routine change. In the next few weeks we will stop feeding hay and let the cows into pastures that are green with spring growth. No longer will they be moved to fields that have stock piles of dormant grass to eat, they will be able to graze on the best grass of the season, the spring flush grasses.
As great as this sounds, these early days of spring can be tough. Farmers have to be very careful where the cows are going and what the grass looks like. One of the major problems at this time of year is grass tetany. Grass tetany occurs when cows are put out onto pastures that are too lush after spending the winter eating hay or grass that was stock piled and went dormant in the field. This condition is very serious and can actually kill a cow. Most farmers try to slowly introduce the herd to the most lush pastures to avoid any complications.
Weeds are always the first things to show up in the spring. Most weeds cause cattle little to no problems and cows will readily eat them. Noxious weeds, on the other hand, can make a cow sick or be bad enough to kill them. Just this week we had an episode where one of our yearling calves was seen staggering in the field, collapsed, flailed around on the ground and eventually just laid there. We spent a good amount of time attending to her. We couldn't see any signs of a snake bite, knew she hadn't gotten into any spoiled grain since we don't feed any, but couldn't figure out what was causing this problem. It happened so fast that we didn't think it was caused by a bacterial infection but decided to give the calf a shot of antibiotics just in case; we felt if it was bacterial, not attacking the problem right away meant sure death for the calf. By morning the yearling was up and eating at the hay ring with her mom; there were no signs of staggering and absolutely no signs that just 12 hours ago she was in serious health. We finally determined the problem was caused by the yearling ingesting a small amount of a noxious weed, either pigweed or poisonous water hemp.
Our plan of attack for weeds has always been early bush hogging of the fields. This stops the early season weeds from seeding and normally controls them. The problems for us come along the fence lines and the brushy areas that we aren't able to mow. This appears to be where the yearling found and ate the noxious weed that almost killed it. Lucky for us and her there wasn't a lot of the weed in this area. To prevent this from happening again we will bring out the sprayer and Round-up the fence rows and the weeds laying close to our brushy areas. Within the next 2 to 3 weeks the weeds in the fields will be tall enough and ready for us to mow. At that point all of our pastures should be ready for us to move the cows in with little worry.
The 10 acre field at the back of the farm is currently getting fertilized with the shavings and manure that is coming out of our pastured chicken houses. In the next few weeks, once we have put a good layer of manure on this field, we will disc it and plant Sorghum Sudan grass for the cows to graze. With a good amount of spring rain, the grass should be around shoulder high in 5 to 6 weeks after planting. Sorghum Sudan is very sweet when compared to Coastal Bermuda or Bahia grass and really helps us pack pounds on our cows. We will rotate the herd into and out of this field from late May till late August.
Many of you follow us on Facebook and saw the recent posts regarding a calf we had born on Monday April 2. While showing a couple of chefs and a photographer around the farm, we found the calf laying on the ground; it appeared to have been born just a few minutes earlier. The calf was laying on its side rather than in an upright position as is normally the case. We kept checking on the calf and soon realized that something was seriously wrong. The calf was still laying on its side, its legs were stiff as a board, joints were swollen, and it was unable to stand or lay in a normal calf position. We contacted our vet and told him what the symptoms were and asked for his advice. He told us he would meet us in Charleston with a couple of steroid shots to help eliminate the swelling but he had no idea what could be causing the problem. Because of it being born in this state, he was inclined to think it was from a prolonged birth or damaged during the birthing process. Annie and I drove to Charleston, got back to the farm around 9pm, and met Jesse in the field to give the new born its first steroid shot.
During the night Jesse did a lot of on-line research and found a description and pictures to match what we were seeing with this calf. By all appearances, the calf was born with meningitis. Though this is rare, it is not unheard of. While in the womb the calf is affected by bacteria that came from the mother. In all probability the mother picked up a pathogen that wasn't strong enough to affect her but could make the unborn calf sick. On Tuesday morning we began treating the calf with antibiotics. We had little hope of this working since most calves born with meningitis die, but we were determined to try anyway. To add to our problems the calf was unable to get up and suck mom. Without the colostrum from mothers milk, the calf wouldn't get the needed antibody's to survive. We started feeding a colostrum supplement and milk replacer by bottle.
Almost a week later the calf is getting stronger by the day. Though it still isn't taking milk from momma, it is easily taking milk from the bottle. She is able to walk and run though she is blind or partially blind. Her mother is staying with her and is very attentive even though the calf has yet to suck her. She has had no antibiotic shots since last Thursday evening. Prognosis for the calf is getting better every day but she will not be out of the woods until she is about 2 months old due to her not getting colostrum at birth.
Over the years our cow operation has experienced few medical issues. We have never had an outbreak of pneumonia or other disease, we've had only 1 other calving issue, and hardly no death loss. Having 2 issues in a week will not only rattle you, but will bring you back to reality. Just because things are going well, doesn't mean you can afford to take your eyes off the operation for even a minute.
Spring break for local schools was this week. Our new farm hand, Brennen, asked if he could work several days this week while out of school. We looked at the task list and decided we could use him to help paint several of the pasture chicken houses and the turkey house if time permitted. He also helped us load chickens and fill hog and chicken feeders. Brennen has worked for us for only 2 weekends. He's 14 years old but has been helping his granddad and uncles since he was just a kid. Annie has known his family all her life and I have known them for over 30 years. At the end of the week Brennen asked to talk to us. We figured it was too much for him and that he was going to quit; he really wanted to ask if he could work here during the summer! We decided to hire him for the summer months and are looking at different tasks that would not only help us out but would also teach him some new things about farming.
Several weeks ago we planted bibb lettuce, carrots, spinach, brocolli, and Yucon Gold patatoes out in the front field. All of it is up and has really started growing with the warmer days and the showers we have gotten. The spinich and broccoli were almost totally destroyed by the winds we had right after we planted them so we don't expect to harvest much. The carrots, potatoes, and lettuce look very good; Ian picked himself some lettuce this week and said it tasted as good as it looked.
This weekend we are looking at other vegetables we want to plant. The field was fertilized by last years turkeys and manure we spread from the chicken houses during the winter. Brennen would like to work with vegetables so planting the field only makes sense. Keep your fingers crossed, we might be able to offer a few vegetables with farm market pre orders or home delivery orders. We will keep you posted.
Spring also signals the opening of farm market season. The first day of the Summerville Farmers Market is Saturday April 14th. Market hours remain 8am until 1pm. Annie will be manning the booth again this year and will be accompanied by Hunter or Ian. Ian has other obligations this year and will only help for a few weeks during the early part of the season. We are looking for someone to help Annie and possibly take over the Summerville market for her. As the farm has grown so has the tasks that Annie has to do on a daily and weekly basis. These tasks are making it harder for her to handle everything associated with a farmers market and do the rest of her job. If you know of anyone that lives in the Walterboro area that might be interested in managing rthe Summerville Farmers Market for us, please ask them to contact us and we will be glad to explain to them everything involved.
Marc will continue handling the Port Royal Farmers Market. This is a year round market and is open every Saturday from 9am until noon. If you haven't been to this market yet, please make the drive and check it out. We feel this market is one of the best farm markets in the state.
Pastured Pantry continues to grow our home delivery business. This past Friday they made 26 deliveries in Zone 1 and 38 deliveries in Zone 2 just 2 weeks earlier. They have added lamb and quail from G&M Farm to their list of offerings; Micheal has been a friend of ours for several years and is known for the high quality lamb he raises and processes. Pastured Pantry will deliver orders of $50 for just a $10.00 delivery fee or orders of $70.00 or more free of charge right to your doorstep. There isn't a more convienent way to provide pasture raised meats, milk, butter, cheese, Amish jellies, Amish popcorn, and now lamb and quail to your family. Meat share members have the option of getting either their 10 lb or 20lb shares deliveried to their home for free or picking their shares up at a designated drop site. Please check out Pastured Pantry and see how easy placing an order is.
Those of you that have known us for several years, have shopped at the market at the farm, or visited during our Family Day at the Farm events, know that our dogs are an important part of our farm and our family. On Easter Sunday we said goodbye to Goldie our 14 year old lab. Goldie had been diagnosed with cancer back in November during her annual exam. Rather than putting her through chemo or any other aggressive treatment, we chose to let her live her life out naturally. This gave us time to enjoy and spoil her; she ate whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted to eat it. For awhile our raw ground beef was her favorite. Later, for some unknown reason, she became hooked on Wendy's plain hamburgers.
We got Goldie when she was 9 weeks old from the Jasper County Animal Shelter. They found her, her mom, and another pup on the side of the road. Annie picked her up from the shelter on Saturday and by Sunday afternoon we noticed she wasn't acting right. On Monday Goldie was extremely sick and we took her to the vet; she was diagnosed with Parvo. Her treatment started immedialty, she soon recoved and has been healthy her whole life until the cancer dianosis in November.
On Saturday night of Easter weekend, Goldie took a turrn for the worse and let us know it was time. We will miss her greatly but are appreciative of the many years she spent with us. We highly recommend, if you are looking for a companion, please check out the local animal shelters. There are a lot of pets out there that need us just as much as we need them.
Thanks again for your continued support. Have a great month and we'll see you at the market.
Annie, Marc, Amy, & Jesse