12 May 2018

Grass for Grazing

The queen of her shed.
If there's one thing I've learned as a hobby farmer is that you really can never have too much fenced pasture. Even if our animals couldn't possibly eat so much grass in the time it takes to grow, it can always be cut for hay. Plus, the more property that's fenced and is grazed, the less I have to mow. Mind you, I enjoy mowing, but anything more than an hour and it gets to be a bit much.
The horses so far have had more than their share--so much that occasionally, I have to put Dancer in a dry lot because she's getting so chubby from eating and eating and eating. The problem has come that as Dolly has gotten more pregnant and Parton has doubled in size, we needed more pasture for them.
Feeding Dolly her fill of green grass.
At first, we made the cows their own little cattle corral. It lasted a while but we knew it wasn't going to be enough to support them both long term. Then, we tried putting Parton in with the horses. Unfortunately, he's such a momma's boy that he clambered over the fence to get back to her. So, back to square one.
A good portion of our property is already fenced, though it's been a good 20 or more years since anyone has really taken care of it. The horse pasture was fairly easy--it just needed some weeding and tensioners. The rest of the property is kind of a mystery. We can tell there was fencing there at one time but it's so deep into the forest where no green grass is growing anyway that it didn't make sense to try and reclaim it.
Henry testing my fencing with his trusty hammer.
Fencing can be a "quick" job--a lot of area can be covered in a pretty short amount of time. It goes especially fast when you have help.

Hey! Henry! Hand me that t-post.

What t-post?

That one on the ground. It's green.

The grass?

No, the metal fence post.

I don't see it because the grass is green.
(Because is his new favorite word, FYI)
Look down. It's on the ground. Right behind you.

Oh! I see it!

Is it too heavy?

No. I'm a big boy.
A few cattle panels and a new gate and we had a nice sized mini pasture for Dolly to graze down, while we put the horses in the back pasture, and Parton in the front, so he could still see his momma but not get to her.
It was interesting watching Dolly live in such close proximity to the horses--she's not skittish about much of anything, something that comes from years of being a mother and a milk cow. However, Stoney grew up with a fear of cows. They kind of look like horses and kind of smell like horses, but they most definitely are not horses. His mind has been blown.
Dolly's second paddock gave us about a week between needing to work on more fencing. She contentedly munched on the grass until she'd nibbled down every last patch. I'll tell you, pregnant milk cows eat more than all the other animals combined.
The back fencing isn't exactly pretty, but we went with what the previous owner had started. Since the original fence was so close to the forest and the forest had basically swallowed it whole, they'd lined up gates to keep their cows in. Worked for ours. We just had to fill in a few patches, restring some wire fencing on the other side, and cut up a few fallen trees.
Whenever we work on something, we always oblige the kids to help us. I mean, they live here, too, and they don't get the benefit of living on the farm without some hard work between play. It's good for them to feel the satisfaction of a job well done.
Henry taking a break while we were working on securing t-posts and cattle panels.
Sometimes requiring them to help can be a bit perilous. There are ticks, poison ivy, thorns, and burrs.
Ugh. Anyone have some conditioner and a really good brush??
We do what we can to keep safe, though. The nice thing about kids is that they don't question the need for helmets, gloves, safety glasses, or goggles. They just put them on and giggle about how funny they look in them.
Henry takes safety very seriously.
Once the fence was secure, it was time to test it out with Dolly.
All that green grass for the grazing!
Once we opened the gate, Dolly immediately dropped her head and started grazing. There was no questioning or curiosity on her part, just how far back the fence would go. She was simply happy to stuff her face.
Once we decided the fence was cow proof, Parton was able to rejoin Dolly, on the condition that he didn't try to nurse off of her again. Thankfully, when he walked in, he greeted his mother, and headed straight for the grass, too. Seems he's all grown up now.
We are tired but the cows are happy, so all the hard work is worth it.

(You can have your calf now, Dolly!)

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