Good Dog

Essex Farm Note

Week 23, 2013

Rain, rain, it’s quite enough already. The undrained fields remained too wet to plant this week. Just before this latest rain started we were so optimistic! Cory checked the fields every 6 hours, hoping for a small window, which never opened. But let’s focus on the positive. The drained fields are planted from hedgerow to hedgerow. The last crops to go in were popcorn, soybeans, field corn and mangel beets.

I think it’s safe to say that Jet enjoyed this week more than anyone else on the farm. He had a two-day courting visit from a lovely and accomplished English Shepherd named Rosie, who came from Pennsylvania with her owner and handler, Heather Houlahan. Rosie lives on a farm with chickens, turkeys, and goats, but she has an off-farm job as a search and rescue dog.  (You can read about her and her work on Heather’s blog, Heather, who trains dogs professionally, describes Rosie like a canine Ferrari – an awesome animal to own and work, but too much dog for most people. She thinks Jet will add some size to the pups (he’s big for an English Shepherd, with heavy bone) and make them more user-friendly.

We had a bout with bloat in the dairy herd this week. They were grazing the clover/rye field, and clover, like some other legumes, can cause this potentially fatal condition. When the feed hits the rumen, it begins to ferment, and gas is produced. Normally, the gas is released through burping, but in bloat conditions, the gas is trapped and pressure builds up in the rumen. It can happen very quickly. The left side puffs up, the cow looks uncomfortable, and if it progresses, she dies. Luckily Amy and Kelsie were keeping a close eye on the girls, and caught it quickly. We drenched them with vegetable oil, which helps settle the foam in the rumen so the air can come out in the form of large, stinky burps. It goes away as quickly as it comes on, and within an hour everyone looked comfortable again. We’ll have to be careful to get the cows full of grass or grass hay before putting them on the clover field. It is also more dangerous in the morning, and when the weather is cool and wet, like it is now.

We bought the skid steer I wrote about last week. Travis has already used it to turn all the compost, and to clean the winter’s bedding out of the heifer barn. That’s a job that would have taken a crew of humans with shovels most of the week. Thanks to Jonathan Pribble for selling it to us, and to Peter Gucker for loaning us his gravel bucket, which made the compost turning so much easier.  Welcome to Isabelle, who is back with us for another summer, and to Scott, who worked with us this week, as he made his way between farm jobs in central New York and Vermont. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this drippy 23rd week of 2013. -Kristin & Mark Kimball

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