Finally, the Big Day

I separated Big Mama from her calf yesterday afternoon.  She is NOT happy with me.  The calf didn’t seem to care yesterday but by this morning was downright annoyed with the whole situation.  They are separated by galvanized panels and nonclimb horse wire on all sides.  They can see each other which is alternately comforting and frustrating, but nursing through the fence is not possible. 


The constant bellowing has the neighbors’ livestock talking too.   Bellows of concern and sympathy from Miguel’s cows and brays of annoyance from Tomas’ donkey.   Things should quiet down in a few days.  Lucky for me, most of the racket is during the daylight hours and I am away from home for work most of those hours on weekdays. 

Big Mama has access to the big pasture now which is positively overgrown with winter grasses and the spring coastal.  I will be feeding her half rations of the pelleted feed for the next two or three weeks to help her dry up.  Less feed should give her even more incentive to wander down to the big pasture and the distance will help her wean emotionally from her calf.  She is bred back and should calve again next fall.  This will give her six months or so to rebuild physically.  As aggravated as she is with me right now, this is for her own good.  Even the pacing up and down between the pasture and the barn is good for her. Image

I had concerns about turning Big Mama out with the horses because of her horns and her cranky attitude but I found out this morning, those worries were unfounded.  Big Mama was the first to show up for breakfast this morning but when the horses came up behind her, they made one half-hearted charge in her direction and Big Mama ducked for the safety of her feed stall.  She might have ruled the front paddock these past several months but she definitely doesn’t rule the pasture! 

I ordered two of these from Jeffers online this morning.


Not the goat, just the halter.  Dexters are small cattle, regular calf halters fit most full grown cows.  But medium sized goat halters like these supposedly work great for the calves.  They should arrive by the end of the week and then it will be a rodeo to wrestle them onto the calves.  Big Mama’s milk supply should dry up in a month or so, but I will be keeping them separated until her calf and Lulubelle are gentle enough to halter and lead.   That’s what I’ll tell them when I’m wrestling the halters on them too …be good and learn your lessons, then you can graduate to the big pasture! 


Finished … mostly

From staking the stall barn on March 3rd to finally attaching the ridge vent on April 3rd, it took a month but I now have a two barns.  One for sheltering the livestock and storing feed, the other for storing extra round bales and equipment.


The total footprint of this barn is approximately 30×24, consisting of three 10×24 bays.  My galvanized panels pin together for easy configuration and I have used them to create a feed storage in the middle bay and a shared feed stall in the bay closest to me.  From this vantage point, there is a small spring-fed pond beyond the barn and the road is beyond that.  I left the third bay totally open to provide shelter for any stock confined to the front paddock.  The barn sits near the corner of my side fence and the fence that separates the front paddock from the big pasture.  So I used more panels to create a weaning pen in that corner.  The pen includes 20×12 feet underneath the barn roof which is the space to the right of the horses and the feed stall in this picture.  The whole pen is about 50×50 which is a good size for my purposes.  I needed an area large enough for them to move around a little, but small enough for me to corner them when it’s time to start halter and lead breaking.  They will have shelter from wind and rain under the barn and shade from several tall pine trees that line the fence behind the barn.   It should a low-stress arrangement since I will set up a round bale for Big Mama between the pond and the barn so she will be in their line of sight at all times.  There will be bawling and objections for a few days from both sides of the fence, but it’s coming time.

That dark object behind the horses is my new squeeze chute which sits at the front edge of that open bay.  Eventually, I will add panels to create an alley leading to either the chute or the feed area behind the barn …the cattle won’t know which until they get there which will hopefully make them calmer on days I need to run them through the chute.

The front half (left half in this picture) of the middle bay is my feed storage area.  Floyd built me a wood deck, approximately 6×8, in the center of that bay so my metal feed barrels will be up off the ground.  The deck is moveable so if I come up with a better configuration later on, I don’t have to dismantle anything.

I set up panels all around the feed stall that I can just wing open and back the truck in when I need to unload feed or hay.  I tested that little feature out this morning when I unloaded and stacked six square bales onto the deck.  Worked just like I hoped it would …love it when that happens!


I won’t be able to move my feed barrels for a couple of weeks.  Too much feed in them at the moment but by the end of the month, everything should be centralized at the barn.  Things are shaping up!