It is getting cooler on the Rock Farm. The shorter days remind us of the approaching winter. Regular readers might recall that a little over a month ago, we had almost no water or feed on the property and were looking at a the least worst option for our cattle (https://rockfarming.com/2020/02/03/weaning-and-a-rough-plan-for-the-cattle/). Despite the initial promising falls of rain, and quick growth of some grass (and weeds), I wasn’t convinced that we would grow enough feed to get us through the winter. We decided to go ahead with one of our options, to sell our steer calves, our heifer calves with horns and one cow, who was a little too aggressive for my liking.
The early weaning paid off, with the calves all averaging over 200kg. We also sold our 400kg yearling steer Moo, that the Little Helper trained to halter back in July (https://rockfarming.com/2019/07/05/a-lesson-on-leadership-taught-by-a-calf/). After the initial handling last July, he had been left to run with the cows, and had put on good weight.
We kept four of the naturally polled heifers – bringing our numbers back to 15 head. As we returned the keepers to the paddock, we drenched them and put them into our large flat paddock with good feed. I have a feeling we have one or two dry cows, but with the Corona Virus shutting down travel, my expert adviser (Dad) was unable to travel down to teach me how to pregnancy test them. We will give them another chance.
In the mean time, we have all been working on little jobs around the house. Jo has got back into the vegetable garden. Keen to reduce waste, and make rabbit proof vegetable beds, she is re-purposing our old roofing iron to make raised beds. Despite my initial doubts, it looks fantastic.
The beds are not chicken proof, and poor Sapphire doesn’t know what to do when the chooks ignore her steely gaze and leap up into the beds to scratch for earthworms. It is hilarious watching her get more and more frustrated with the chooks who are more than happy to forage where they please.
I tackled another job that only became important after using our neighbour’s horses as lawn mowers. Our garden gate was in a sorry state and had fallen off its hinges. More correctly, the hinges had fallen out of the rotten post. The original post had sometime in the past assumed a lean, and a stop gap solution installed by owner previous was to simply put another post in the ground beside it. The ‘new post’ had rotted completely out, so I dug out both posts and re-installed the original post back where it was originally. The tractor saved my back lifting the heavy post.
After tidying up the fence – really hard to see in the photo below – it was nice to have a pair of gates that swing again.
The boys have remained committed to their school work – but on the weekends we get a couple of hours of ‘farm work’ out of them. Last weekend they were keen to get on the tools just after breakfast. I am not sure if they love doing it, or the reward of quid pro quo X-box time is worth it, but I’ll take any help I get. It is good outside work that surprisingly I don’t find a chore, and it seems with tunes blasting from a portable speaker, neither do they.
Whilst the battle against the weeds is one I fear we may never get completely on top of, it is great to see some of the grasses in good condition and setting seed. I am also really happy with the large number of earthworms we are finding in the bottom paddock. I believe this paddock has been heavily sprayed for weed control in the past, and the earthworms are a sign that the soil is healing.
The good news is that the cattle are now relishing the experience of eating long grass – and are putting on condition before winter. The lawnmowers managed to get ontop of the garden grass, so I even put them down there with the cows for a special treat. Whilst Mater has spent a good deal of his life working cattle, our cows have never shared a paddock with a horse before and were most curious at their new paddock mate.
I hope the warm weather stays around for a little longer. The first frost will slow the grass grown rates significantly, but for now, we are getting a nice reserve to get us through the next month or two. It is now time to service the chainsaw, replace the wood splitter handle and get ready for the winter jobs.