Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Velvet grass and orchardgrass and sweet vernal, oh my!

Yesterday, not a moment late, Jim from the Thurston Conservation District pulled up in our driveway, ready to provide his expertise to us, the new farmers/ranchers. It was a really good experience.

The synopsis is this: we're in great shape! Our barn, while not particularly attractive or well built, offers plenty of space for our needs and will easily hold the hay we'll need for our cows. Yes, we could stand to brace the corners, and whoever built it wasn't a carpenter by any stretch of the imagination, but no worries, it'll do. Our pastures are full of weeds, but mostly the edible kind, and there's quite a bit of healthy grass (orchardgrass, velvet grass, sweet vernal, light rye). We do have bracken ferns, a bit of lupine and a tiny bit of tansy-ragwort, all of which are harmful to livestock, so Paul and I will need to eliminate that stuff, walking the property with backpack or handheld sprayers filled with a 1% Crossbow solution, spraying every offending plant like the Ghostbusters eliminate ghosts.

Tyler, the breeder we purchased Sheila and Bridgit from, suggests we only keep Sheila in the pasture with the herd sire for 4-5 weeks instead of 6 like we'd originally planned, as she was also in with him accidentally for several days in February and could already be pregnant. This means we could bringing the girls home earlier than anticipated, provided we get our chores done by then.

So...among other things, we need to run a hot wire around the perimeter of our land (probably two, one lower to train the calves and keep them in when they start to ramble around), procure our hay, buy a new gate for the front pasture (or take it out of our Clampett-style fence and put it back where it belongs, which means we'd need another solution for said-Clampett-style fence), figure out our feeding and watering plan, brush hog and fertilize the pasture...whew, that's quite a list. I suspect we'll start with the Ghostbuster action this weekend and see how far we can get.

On another note, I was thinking about what our calves might look like and remembered a site Tyler of Rustler's Roost Ranch pointed us to: This site contains lots of highland cattle photos, including some of the different coat colors. I learned that the mahogany color, which Tabor the herd sire is, is a dominant color gene. This color ends up to be a dark red body with blond dossan (bangs on the head) and tail tip. Both Bridgit and Sheila, red cows, were bred to Tabor, a mahogany. It sounds like we have a 50-50 chance of getting a mahogany calf out of each girl, if I'm reading that correctly. Very interesting. There's a parti-colored coat, too, which apparently is rare and valuable, but our chances of seeing that in our herd - ever - are pretty slim. That's ok with me, as I don't find it particular me the parti-colored animals look like regular cows, albeit shaggy and with large horns. How boring. :)

Tabor, mahogany herd sire (a.k.a "boyfriend")
(dirtier and younger in this photo than normal; doesn't he look like he belongs in Duran Duran?)


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