There’s nothing like the adjustment of having a new baby (human baby) to reasses what it means to have ‘spare time’, even by our standards! We’ve increased our family by one- with a little boy- Charlie. He was born last December (for anyone reading who doesn’t know us personally)…hence the LONG delay in our blog posts. Now that we’re into the swing of things I’ve been meaning to get another post up about all the progress and happenings over the last year! The biggest occurrence being that of our newborn calf- Norman!! To back track a little, for those interested in the whole process, lets travel back to last October, when I was 8 months pregnant…
Realizing we needed to prepare and adjust to having a newborn baby, due to arrive December 2014, we downsized a bit and rushed to finish a few projects. We no longer have the goats, ducks, or geese, and we finished the headgate for the cows as to prepare for having some calves this year.
As we mentioned in an earlier progress post about the headgate system we designed/built- it had to be custom to accommodate our unique cow’s large horns. While the traditional steel systems might work- Highlands have to turn their heads to pass through. More importantly, however, we were too tight on extra money to spend a few thousand dollars on a traditional metal chute-enter farmer ingenuity (read:frugality by necessity)! We used some lumber we had laying around and purchased 3 gates to construct our new chute/ gate system. Eventually we will run a roof from the barn out to the tall posts for a covered manger. I’m not sure if that will get done before winter, but I’m still hopeful!
The biggest difference in our system is the pivoting arms at the front which are held in place by a guillotine that slides up and down with ropes at the top.
With a few tweaks to the spacing of the front arms…it worked!! We were even able to lure Juniper in, put a halter on, and lead her around afterwards!! This is a cow that was 2 years old and had never had a halter on her since we’d owned her at 6 months- a very exciting progression for us🙂 Most importantly we were able to inseminate both cows last fall, which meant late summer calves this year…Which brings us to the present….
Meet Norman, the Japanese Wagyu-Highland cross!
We chose to cross one of our purebred Highlands with a Wagyu (pronounced WAG-yoo) for a couple of reasons, including wanting to experiment with genetic diversity (hybrid vigor/ beef quality/flavor etc) and calving ease.
Wagyu beef has a genetically natural, heavily marbled and tender quality that is very desirable (and expensive) in Japan. This type of cow also has a low birth weight (as do Highlands) resulting in reduced birth complications-perfect for our first time heifers. A higher percentage of complications usually occur with the first calf. While a low birth weight calf might contradict the conventional beef industry’s practices of bigger-faster growing calves and breeds- the risk of crossing our cows with a large continental breed weren’t worth it to us. Being a small hobby farm, conventional doesn’t apply to us anyway- obvious to anyone who is interested in Highlands for a beef breed. We couldn’t be happier with the result of our experiment! A bull calf born in about an hour just over a week ago- success!!
You’ll have to stay tuned for the resulting beef quality/taste review as that is going to take another couple of years…did I mention raising beef is a LONG process?!!…Not all our efforts were successful, either.
In order to be sure your heifer/cow is impregnated successfully during the AI process, I’ve learned you should either keep an open cow in your herd (not possible in our small situation) or have them checked with a blood test or vet check to be sure. While Laurel showed no signs of being open all year, she turned out to not be pregnant😦 So we’ve missed an opportunity and spent money feeding a cow for a year with no resulting offspring (read: lost money). Live and learn. While disappointed, we’ve chalked this up to a learning experience and know better for next time…which will be within the next month for both cows.
In other news…we were able to have a large garden this year and thank goodness we did- it’s been a record-breaking hot year in Washington! Our corn was 4-5′ tall by early July- unheard of in this state!
Some practices we tried this year to save time were mulching heavily with grass clippings and increasing our raised timber beds- both of which successfully saved weeding ease and time. We had a much better success with the onions this year than last- they didn’t bolt and go to seed prematurely this year.
Basil (grown in under row cover) crop!
Squash and corn harvest. The round squash is an heirloom ‘Eight Ball’ and tasted delicious stuffed with Italian pork sausage and Parmesan cheese.
The only thing left to harvest this season are the root crops- carrots and potatoes. We’re waiting for some cool weather so as they don’t spoil in our steel bins in the barn since we don’t have a root cellar.
We’re also still doing pigs- which should be ready in late October. We figured with the increased cost of childcare in our budget we’d only be able to afford 2, but when offered the runt for less than half price- we ended up with 3. Our tentative plan is to save the runt for a whole-hog pig roast.
All in all, I’m proud we’ve stuck with most things post-baby, and continue to learn and experiment with new ideas. Up on the agenda for next year/ winter project: HONEY BEES!!
We had a swarm of honey bees in the garden for a day this June. We’re looking into making a top bar style hive this winter.
Norman naps in the shade of some rush in the hot afternoon sun.
I will try not to take a year long haitus from the next post…but I’m not promising anything🙂 Thanks for reading.