Carrots, Garlic, Calves

Essex Farm Note

Week 43, 2015

I was in Kentucky until Wednesday night, so I missed most of the heavy action here this week. In short: carrots came out of the ground, garlic went into the ground, and more calves hit the ground. Carrot-wise, we have about six tons in storage, and six in the field. Thanks to the whole team for a long day of plowing, bagging and hauling carrots, followed by a full round of garlic planting. Garlic went into the new field, inaugurating it. This is a crop we save for seed, year to year, and the 2015 harvest was a quarter what we had hoped for. All of the garlic we harvested in July was used for seed yesterday, so alas we will not have garlic this winter.

Meanwhile, there were calves, calves, and more calves. Old Sis had a healthy boy on Wednesday. Sis is a daughter of our original cow, Delia, and I think she’s about ten years old, which is ancient for a dairy cow. Last year she aborted her calf late in her pregnancy and so by rights we should have culled her, but after the stillbirth she did give some milk, and there was never a free moment in the butcher shop, so we kept milking her. Then the bull arrived and Sis was bred, and so was granted clemency. You can’t run a dairy on sentimentality but it does make me very happy to see this sweet old gal back in the lineup, her enormous bag full of milk.

Winnie calved, too, on Thursday, a pretty little heifer. Jane got the naming rights, so say hello to Winter. Juniper calved the same day, another heifer, Jiya. Winter and Jiya look so alike in the pen we had to put colored collars on them right away, so we could tell them apart.

Frieda was close to calving, and was also badly lame. Her back left foot was swollen just above the hoof. She got progressively worse all week until she could barely put weight on it. Yesterday, when I brought the herd up for milking, I let her come alone at her own pace. She limped so slowly on the hill, it took her over an hour. We put her in a stall in the east barn so she wouldn’t have to repeat that arduous journey. Last night, Ben came over to look at her with me. He thought she had an abscess inside the hoof, which can happen when they get a scratch or some mud stuck between the claws. Ashley and Lindsey had been soaking the hoof, but there was no obvious place to relieve the pressure and her pain. Ben and I decided to give her an antibiotic last night, to work on the abscess from the inside. When I checked on her this morning, she had delivered a nice bull calf, and the lameness that was so profound yesterday was entirely gone. That is the miracle of antibiotics.

We also gave antibiotics to the two-week-old calf, Crayfish, who had pneumonia and would not eat. Crayfish was bright and perky the next morning, and drank her milk eagerly. She will be moving out of the sick pen and back to her group this weekend.

While it is unprecedented for us to use antibiotics twice in one week, I felt both instances were justified. Antibiotics are not allowed under the organic standard. We use them only when an animal is very sick with something that antibiotics work on, or to relieve unwarranted suffering; we always tell our members when we use one, and we double the recommended holdback time for milk and for meat.

If we decide to become certified organic, we won’t be able to do that — or rather, if we do treat an animal with antibiotics, we’d have to sell the animal off the farm. It’s a question we are kicking around the farmhouse this fall, weighing pros and cons. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this first-snow-on-the-mountains 43rd week of 2015.

–Kristin & Mark Kimball

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