Cow Tales from the Dairy Farm: Spring Cleaning!
As many of you know, winter is the season that makes mice of men, or in my case, a frozen farmer. Living in New England, we get it all—wind, snow, sleet and a winter thaw (and often all in the same day). During the winter, all of us down at the farm wait impatiently for when the calendar rolls around to spring.
Through the winter, I have to work extra hard to get myself prepped for chores. I have to pull out my long johns, thermal-lined bibs and my favorite winter hat, which are just a few of the steps to get me going in the morning. Once I am bundled up (like Ralphie from The Christmas Story), I head out the door into the frozen tundra. The promise of spring brings the promise of warm weather, sweatshirts and plenty of projects.
Our farm is small, with only a few milking cows, several beef cows and lots of calves. With the warmer weather comes extra chores to get the cows ready for pasture and to get our equipment ready for crops. One of the biggest tasks I take on is checking our fencing. We have a combination of both electric and non-electric fencing that keeps the cows in their proper pastures.
Once our fencing is up and functional and the grass is long enough, it is time to release the wild beasts (also known as the VERY impatient cows) into the great green world. The first time the cows get to go to pasture after the long winter is always a good show. Daphne, my 9-year-old cow, turns from a cranky old lady into spry young calf, racing around the field to finally stretch out her legs. If you have ever seen a cow run, you know exactly how “graceful” they are, and Daphne is no exception. She has been known to trip on a rock or two as she runs through the grass.
With spring headed our way, other projects come up on the farm. One annual project we take on is getting ready for planting. We raise silage corn, rye straw and hay. Taking the tractor and plow out of the barn after the long winter is always one of my favorite days. It reminds me of a sleepy bear waking up after a long winter’s nap. For our farm, we plow, harrow and plant all of our own corn, so getting the equipment up and running takes a few days before we drop the plows in the ground. We also get prepped for one of the worst tasks—rock picking.
Here in Connecticut, rocks grow just as well as crops do. This means that when we plow the fields, large rocks will work their way up from underneath and have to be collected. Luckily, we own a rock-picker, which is a grate-like implement that allows us to drive across the field and sift through the soil to get the larger rocks. After that is done, we sometimes walk the fields to make sure we didn’t miss any rocks that might cause problems with the planter.
After all the rock-picking and fence fixing is done, we look forward to a little break before summer. Hopefully this year, Mother Nature smiles down on us and helps us with our crops. Best of luck with your spring prep and here’s to wishing you a warm and not-too-muddy season!