Remember when Miss Amelia had her calf, Possum, last January and we hung around for 35 hours waiting to see the birth and be there in case she needed … hmm… moral support? cheering?
Same thing happened this time. We had Delilah on baby-watch all week, visiting her in the pasture a few times each day to see how she was progressing. Finally Saturday morning Joseph said, “Nah, she’s not coming due any time soon. I say she’s still a week away.”
How do they do that? Sure enough, we showed up to water them a few hours later and Delilah was standing over a still wet baby boy.
Today we took our five cow herd up the road to the east pasture for winter. We gather together a group of friends, no matter if they’re cow-savvy or not. We post someone at each driveway and orchard along the way with the task to wave arms and shoo cows back onto the road if they shuffle off. But shuffling never happens. The cows get excited about the road trip the minute their hooves hit the pavement and it always turns into a herd of galloping bovines racing to crest the hill before we catch up. They always get there first. Luckily they remember where the gate is and by the time we arrive, panting heavily and doubled over from laughing, they’re already inside munching green grass.
This should be the last move until spring. They’ll get this last bit of rich green grass and then frost will hit and they go on hay for winter. Our herd will get smaller in a month as Maurice is nearly big enough to butcher. We may take Possum then, too. We’re still debating that. We’re thinking of finishing up with the beef cows and just having dairy cows which would be simpler. Hay has gotten so expensive that taking cows through winter is a real expenditure and sometimes it doesn’t pencil out to keep them going.
We had a very good hay season this summer and managed to put away 180 bales but that’s not enough to take us through winter. Because of the huge spikes in oil, production costs went way up. Bales here are $7-8, up from $6 last year and $4 the year before. Our cows can run through quite a few bales in a week. if you’re buying beef, be aware of this. We feed our cows only grass and hay, nearly all of it from our land. That makes them what’s called “grass fed.”
Commercial grain and corn growers put fertilizer on their fields and costs for that have skyrocketed, boosting prices for feedlot owners who raise grain fed cows. Since we don’t do that, that’s one cost we’ve avoided being caught by.
In case you didn’t know, grass fed beef is significantly more tasty and better for you and the cow than grain fed beef. Grass is what cows have always eaten. Their digestive systems are designed to process grass and hay, not grain. Commercial operations feed grain because you can put weight on a cow a lot faster and raise more in less space. Problem is that grain gives cows indigestion which makes them less healthy, needing more antibiotics and medicines, some of which stay in the meat. The indigestion they get causes flatulence ripe with methane. In plain language, their poop stinks.
Grass fed beef doesn’t have that. On our farm you can walk right up to a pile of manure and you’ll notice there’s hardly any smell to it. We spread the manure on our fields and it helps keep the pastures lush. Our grass fed cows don’t need medicine to keep them functional. They eat what nature intended and they do just fine. The compromise we make is that grass-fed beef doesn’t grow as quickly but they are significantly more healthy overall.
Next time you buy beef, try some that’s grass fed. Way more flavorful, less fatty and more tender. If you slow cook it like we do — put it in the crockpot on low in the morning with some veggies and dinner’s ready by evening — it cuts with a fork. Knowing what organic, grass fed beef tastes like, we can’t order beef in a restaurant anymore.
Our chickens are out in the garden cleaning up frost damaged, limp lettuce and mushy, green tomatoes and happy as can be. Nothing a chicken likes better than finally being allowed into the garden!
These cooler days mean we dress warmer and I get to wear my insulated farm boots which I love. Joseph bought some early last winter and liked them so much I got a pair for Christmas. Warm, dry feet on a cold, wet morning is a real joy.
A full moon came up over the field as Joseph and I closed the hens into the coop last night. Everything’s turning: Bronzed yellow and scarlet orange leaves, newly sweet apples, fragrant purple grapes ready for pressing. We’re fully into cider-making season. If you come by, we’ll pour you a cup of sweet fall ambrosia.