Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

All Dressed Up with Somewhere to Go

Miss Siobhan is all dressed up and ready for a hot date--or should I say "undressed up?"  She's no longer wearing her fancy new Super Anti-Self-Sucking Harness™ 2.1!  Her harness would have posed an extreme hazard to Royal, so it had to go.  Somehow I don't think Siobhan minded!  I had her all brushed and pretty for her date (and photo op) when she turned her head into the bush beside her and looked back at me with pollen all over her face.  Oh well, we'll just call it glitter for cows!

We led Siobhan to the Back Pasture with Wellie following along.  As soon as he entered the new pasture he realized he had new territory to explore and took off running and bucking.  Siobhan just kept walking straight for the nearest patch of shade.

Then we fetched Royal and led him down to meet his new date.  The poor guy was "Torn Between Two Lovers", turning back to moo at Macree, then looking ahead to moo at Siobhan.  It was pretty funny!  Here he, Siobhan and Wellie are having a group hug under the pear tree, the bovine version of "Getting to Know You."  Next, of course, comes "Shall We Dance?" 

While Royal was meeting the Siobhan for the first time, the sweet romance of the moment came to an abrupt end when I looked over and saw Angel swaying back and forth, back and forth, using the old hay bale to scratch what itches!  Animals!  (Sigh.)

That's All, Folks!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Siobhan's News!

Once again, Siobhan is proud and happy to announce that her second post-freshening milk culture is CLEAN!  Thanks be to God!

Siobhan's Super Anti-Self-Sucking Harness™ 2.0 and 2.1

Here's a post on the genuine, original Siobhan's Super Anti-Self-Sucking Harness  from March of this year.

The harness worked great for Siobhan, but as time went on the surcingle tended to slip around and end up hanging off to one side or even upside down under her belly.  We would regularly go out in the morning and find things hanging every which way.  Occasionally Siobhan would even rub the whole surcingle forward over her head, and we'd find it trailing behind her.  The surcingle was buckled in its tightest holes, so there was no easy solution to the Case of the Straying Surcingle.

Once again, it was horse tack to the rescue.  In early May I was visiting our daughter Katie in Houston, and we happened to drive past a tack store.  Katie helped me look through all the wonderful tack possibilities until we found just the right thing:  a leather crupper, designed to keep a horse's saddle from slipping forwards.  (I'll guarantee you, I was the poor clerk's Weird Client of the Month, buying a crupper for a self-sucking cow!) The crupper is pictured below, the black leather strap that goes around Siobhan's tail.  Not sure it was long enough to reach the surcingle, we also picked up a red trailer tie down with clips at both ends.  It's a good thing we did.    

Here is Siobhan's new, improved Anti-Self-Sucking Harness™ 2.0.

Here's a different angle to show how it all fits together.

My poor girl is so patient with all her "costume changes."  If they ever make a Barbie Cow, Siobhan should be the model!

You can see that the red tie down allows for movement so the harness is not restrictive, yet the clips were smooth and did not dig into Siobhan.

The crupper has a neoprene sleeve around it where it goes under her tail, and it rides high enough that it doesn't get manure on it.  All in all, I was delighted with Version 2.0.

At the same time, I decided to make extra sure that Macree wasn't pushing up her weaning ring and nursing on Siobhan.  I had purchased some antique weaning devices off E-Bay for fun, but I figured the old-timers knew a thing or two, why not learn from them?

So Macree got her own "Medieval torture device."
The chain looped under her halter to be sure it didn't fall off.  Once I was sure it would stay on, I was able to remove the orange weaning ring.  The reason I'm showing this device here is that I think it would make a great substitute for the spiky screws I put in Siobhan's halter.  I ended up removing those screws because she showed no inclination whatsoever to suck on Macree; I had only put them in originally because other cow mamas had warned me that self-sucking cows sometimes end up sucking on other cows or heifers.  Siobhan hasn't done it, but maybe this idea can help someone else whose cow does.

By the time Siobhan had been wearing her harness full-time for five months, the surcingle was showing a lot of wear and tear.  Several rings had pulled off and others were loose.  It was time to replace it.

I was delighted to find the exact same surcingle on State Line Tack for under $30 AND a 20% off coupon.  They even had a pony size available, and after measuring Siobhan and talking to a customer service rep, I decided to go with the pony size.

Here it is next to Romeo's shabby old one.
When I took the old one off, it was clear just how well-worn it was.  Considering that a surcingle is meant for periodic use for probably an hour at the most, I have no complaints with how this one held up to rain, shine and fence-line scratches 24 hours a day for five months!

Here's Siobhan in her new outfit.  It's a much better fit, and if it relaxes with time, there are still more holes I can tighten.

There's plenty of room for Siobhan to move in her
Super Anti-Self-Sucking Harness™ 2.1.

Several times since Siobhan freshened on May 26, we've found her with her old harness completely off or with the PVC pipe and tie down missing.  Each time her udder was as full everywhere as I expected it to be.  I really think that the harness has cured her of self-sucking, but I've kept it on her just to be sure.  I figured that the longer she's "helped" not to self-suck, the more likely she is to really be broken of that terrible habit.

When it's time to breed her, of course, it will have to come off.  It would be terribly dangerous for the bull to be mounting her with the possibility of hooking a leg somewhere in the harness.  (The thought makes me shudder!)  When it's time to dry her off, she'll have to wear the harness again, as the temptation to self-suck will be strong.  For now we just take things as they come, and the harness is a tool to help Siobhan "be all that she can be," a great little family cow.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Using Estrotect Patches and AntelBio's ELISA Milk Pregnancy Test

In a previous post I wrote that Royal had been put in a pasture with Ebony and her heifer Tiggy on June 18.

I put two Estrotect patches on Ebby and observed them twice daily when I fed her.  When new, they look like the one above.  The red line and "Estrotect" tell you that there is red underneath the silver; the patches come in various colors.  (When one is removed, it leaves a sticky patch on the hair, as above.)

By June 26, this is what Ebby's two patches looked like.  There's a lot of mud on them, but you can see that most of the silver is still intact with very little red showing.

Estrotect's site shows a patch that looks like these, minus the mud.  The caption says "Don't breed."  That's because they assume you're using the patches to time artificial insemination, and this coloration on the patch shows that the cow is not in "standing heat" where she allows other animals to mount her because she's ready to be bred.
For our purposes, these patches mean "She isn't bred."

Meanwhile, we had to go away for two days, and I wanted some reliable information on what was transpiring between Royal and Ebby while we were gone.

So I pulled off the loosened upper patch, cleaned the lower one, and applied a new one over it (top photo).  I wanted to replace the patch, but it was stuck on so well that it would not come off.  I couldn't complain.  That's what makes these things work--because they stick on like they're glued.

We were gone June 28th and 29th.  On the 30th, this is what Ebby's new patch looked like.  A patch with even less red than this one on Estrotect's site bore the caption "Breed."  For our purposes, it said "She's bred!" All that remained was to wait 35 days from June 29th to collect a milk sample from her and test it.

AntelBio can perform an ELISA pregnancy test on a milk sample from a cow (this obviously doesn't work for first calf heifers).  This avoids the cost of a farm call and having an invasive palpation done on your newly pregnant cow--a real win/win situation.  In addition, although the website still says the test can be run 35 days post-breeding, when I called to find out more about it, the lady I talked to said the test is actually accurate at 28 days, and they will be updating the website to reflect that.  That is earlier than any vet I've ever heard of can palpate a pregnancy.

What is ELISA?  AntelBio's site says: ELISA (pronounced E-LIZA) stands for Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay.

  • Measures pregnancy-associated glycoproteins (PAGs), to determine pregnancy status. PAGs are released by the placenta during pregnancy and are specific to pregnancy unlike some other chemical indicators, such as progesterone.
  • Uses ELISA technology, a rapid and trusted diagnostic method.
  • High level of accuracy (98%), comparable to palpation, ultrasound, and blood testing.
  • Effective from 35 days post breeding until dry-off.
  • Available within 24 hours of samples arriving at DHI lab.
  • Quickly access results online through a personalized database system.
  • Results reported as pregnant, open or recheck based on the level of the PAG’s present.
How do you submit a sample?

After talking to the helpful customer service representative, I decided to order a $14 kit for my first time.  It came promptly.  The kit includes a postage paid box (the photo is farther down) for returning the milk samples, clear instructions, a Sample Submission Form, and 5 lockable milk tubes containing preservative.  There is no need to freeze or refrigerate the milk samples.

The kit is made to send off five samples at once, but it worked fine to send off just one, too.  I saved the other four tubes along with photocopies of the sample submission form and a copy of the instructions for future use.

Here are the instructions.

Here's a tube with the preservative in it.  You do not need to wear gloves, but since my hands were rough, I did.

Sorry, I couldn't manage to photograph myself while milking with one hand and holding the tube in the other!  You'll just have to take my word that the orange stuff in the tube is actually Ebby's milk already picking up color from the preservative.  It is NOT a melted creamsicle!
Here is the tube, locked and shaken to thoroughly mix in the preservative.
To carry the tube back to the house, I put it in an empty ProBios jar with a spare tube (in case I goofed) laying in the bottom).  Since I drive out to the barn in my Doodad, I didn't have to worry about the vibrations causing the tube to bounce off the seat.

In the background you can see the handy brochure explaining the test, which I was offered when I placed the order.  The same information is on the website, but I'm old-fashioned and like something I can hold in my hot little hand without running into the computer.

I was sure to mark the tube with Ebby's tattoo and name, also on the Sample Submission Form.  The foam lining that came in the box held one tube just as securely as it would five.

I covered the tube with the second piece of foam and added the Sample Submission Form.  It does cost a total of $9.50 to test one sample, and I received the bill after my results.  However, the total cost for this preg-check--kit and test--was $23.50.  I can't get a vet to drive up our driveway for anywhere near that!  The next four tests will cost less because I already have the tubes.  It will be $9.50 per test plus shipping, probably under $15 per test.

Finally, I sealed up the box and ran it to the Post Office on Monday, Aug. 4.

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, I got an email that my results were waiting on the website.

There it was . . . PREGNANT!  It was that easy and that quick for AntelBio to verify what the Estrotect patch made me suspect:
Royal is going to be a daddy!   *cow*

The customer service representative explained that the value of 2.184 does not really mean anything.  They have not been able to correlate numbers with length of gestation or expected due dates, but thanks to Estrotect, we have an idea on that, too.  We should be seeing Royal's first calf on the ground somewhere around April 4, 2015.

Granted, this isn't the same as becoming grandparents, but it's pretty exciting, nevertheless.  We know this calf will be obligate A2/A2, non-chondro and non-PHA.  Beyond that, we'll just have to wait and see whether it will be a heifer or a bull, polled or horned, red or black.  But we've answered the two important questions:
  • Is she pregnant?
  • When is she due?
The rest is just icing on the cake!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Budding Artists and Bouncing Babies

We had such a fun weekend with the grandkids!

On Friday we got to attend an art show at the Hunter Art Museum where Charis had attended art camp.  Kol was excited to show us the sculpture he made when he visited one afternoon.

Charis was a bit shy about modeling her artwork, but she was excited to show off some of her favorite art in the museum.  This one clearly made her imagination soar!

Eden put on several miles practicing her new walking technique.  She obviously marches to her inner drummer!

It's so refreshing to see the world through the eyes of children.  That's something you're often too busy or tired to appreciate as a parent, but getting a second chance is one of the joys of being a grandparent.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Many Happy Returns

After being dropped by me or whacked by large animals one too many times, my good old Nikon D3000 finally reached the end of its useful life.  So for my birthday, Herb gave me an I.O.U. for a new camera.  I chose the newer version of my old camera, a Nikon D 3300 with more than twice the megapixels (from 10 up to 24) AND video!

I haven't tried out the video yet, but here are some still shots with my new camera.  This is a candid I snapped of Kara in our kitchen.  It was taken "on the fly," and if I'd composed it more carefully I would not have chosen to place a basket on her head, but I love it, anyway.

This is a strange Holstein!

One great feature of my new camera is a continuous shutter speed.  Before, I could take several shots quickly, but this camera snaps one right after the other and keeps going as long as the shutter is held down.  So when Wellie does something interesting like meeting Julie for the first time, I can snap a bunch of photos and choose the one I like best.

Do not walk behind me--Just pretty much leave me alone!

Poor Julie clearly wishes Wellie would stop "getting to know all about you."  Thanks to the continuous shutter, I was able to choose the best shot of her dismayed expression.

Green, green, our jealous hearts 
My new camera has a lens that actually works.  (The old one was jammed, making all my recent photos pretty wide angle and distant.)  The zoom allowed me to step back quickly from guarding Siobhan's food, widen the angle, snap the photo, and step back up before Angel, Macree or Julie could shove in--although Angel was already moving in!

I love my new Nikon!  You're sure to hear more about it as I try out the telephoto lens and the video function.  This birthday present will ensure many happy returns of the day, indeed! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Do Not Walk in Front of Me . . .

You have probably heard a version of this quote (which is apparently often--and erroneously--attributed to Albert Camus):
Do not walk in front of me, because I may not follow;
Do not walk behind me, because I may not lead;
Just walk beside me and be my friend.
You may have seen a funny version of it online:
Do not walk in front of me, because I may not follow;
Do not walk behind me, because I may not lead;
Do not walk beside me, either--
Just pretty much leave me alone!
Well, Ebony would like to share her bovine version, brought to you by her heifer, Tiggy:
Do not walk in front of me, because I may not follow;
And whatever you do, DON'T walk behind me!!!