Shards, chips

Week 1, 2013

Real cold this week for the first time in two years. The thermometer at the house read negative 8 just before dawn yesterday morning. I kept the woodstove jacked all day on dry split wood. I don’t know if I will always love winter but I know I do now. Especially these clear frozen nights, with shards of moonlight, chips of starlight, glinting off fresh snow. Hooray for the frost free waterers serving all the cattle and the horses. I’m happy to report they worked. The only real difficulty was the pulsators for the milking machines, which froze during yesterday’s milking. Amy heated up first-aid gel packs and laid them on top of the pulsators and that got her through it. Speaking of heat, Amy is off on a trip to Thailand next week, so Kelsie will be distribution coordinator in her absence. Happy travels, Amy!

The dairy cows had a rousing New Year’s Eve. They broke out of the covered barnyard through a weak gate and caroused all over the farm. We found tracks in every part of the barnyard, and at the house, where they explored our woodshed. By dawn, though, they’d had enough of the fast lane, and put themselves back into the covered barnyard, where Amy found them, chewing their cud.

We had our annual meeting yesterday with Dr. Goldwasser and the state vet, Dr. Ellis. We purchased a cow about three years ago who turned out to have Johne’s disease. She was quickly culled, but we couldn’t be sure that other cows and calves hadn’t picked it up from her. Johne’s is difficult to detect before it spreads. While a calf can be infected by its dam the day it is born, via milk or manure, the test is ineffective before that calf turns 2. Carriers can be asymptomatic. And the best test is only 50% accurate. There is no cure. Dr. Ellis says that 70% of dairy herds in New York State have some Johne’s cows. We would like to be in the other 30%, so we joined a state program to make sure we are clear of it, and to prevent it from entering our herd. Last year, all our samples tested negative, and we will test again this year and probably for several more years to make sure we’re free. What a bad deal that one cow was!

How do you like the cozy pavilion, members? I think we are becoming masters of repurposed, recycled, free materials.  Those tarps came thanks to my father, who knows a guy who owns a billboard company. Tarps are also helping keep the horses and dairy cows warm in the new covered barnyard, which, I have to say, is a smashing success. It is such a pleasure to milk dry, clean, happy cows! Go take a look, and if you feel like a long walk, visit the beef cattle in their new barn. Members are always welcome to walk or ski the farm roads. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this shiny new 1st week of 2013.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball

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