So we’ve got cows!
I imagine, that from the Reader’s perspective, it would seem that we are just randomly adding animals to our repertoire here, but I promise you that is only sometimes the case. I mean, the ducks- random. The cows and the larger livestock- not random. Thomas has been diligently praying about whether or not to get cows, and if we do, what kind of cows to get, for some time now. Almost obsessively actually. If you know my husband, you know that he doesn’t do much flippantly. He thinks it through and thinks it through again. He second guesses everything, and changes his mind often. So when he is ready to act, I feel confident acting because I know, whether I’ve been included in the conversations or not, he’s been talking it over with God for a long while.
So I think we always knew we would have some kind of cows on the property. Okay, when I say ‘we,’ I only include myself in the symbolic way. ‘We’ know a lot of things about our farm future, and ‘I’ find myself very much along for the ride in a lot of cases. Not disagreeably so, but I definitely play a supporting role on the farm decisions. I have a voice, and I use it often, and I can veto anything at anytime, but my thought is if Thomas is willing to take care of it, who am I to say no to grass fed food?
I thought we were pretty decided on getting Brown Swiss, which is a bread of cow, for a number of well thought out reasons, but as it turns out, at the last minute Thomas decided on Wagyu cattle. We’ve learned in our pig adventures, that although Mule Foot is pretty awesome and super delicious and easy to raise on grass, the Mangalitsa’s make far more money per pound and are equally as healthy, and easy to raise. They are actually considered the kobe of pork. So since we will always be a ‘small potatoes’ operation here, we really need to get the biggest bang for our buck. And yes, we don’t plan to really be a huge money making farm here, but my goal is for the farm to at least pay for the farm. If we could be self sustaining, in that, we grow most of our own food- at least between us and the neighboring Amish- and whatever we grow that’s extra, we can sell or barter for the other things we need.
For example, early this morning, Thomas drove two hours each direction to trade one Mangalitsa girl piglet, for two Mangalitsa boy piglets. Why? Because we’d prefer it if brothers and sister weren’t mating- although it’s not the end of the world with animals. So, in my opinion, that’s a way that the farm is paying for itself. Barter and trade are wonderful things between farmers.
So if you’re keeping track, after the trade, we’re at 14 pigs all said an done. And Fern, our younger mule foot female, is currently pregnant, so we’re not done yet. I hear that pigs are pretty much like rabbits so I’m just hoping that we don’t get in over our head here, because I’ve heard that can happen with pigs. Pigs can put 30 piglets on the ground per year on average. I mean… whoa. The Mangalitsa’s go for about 35% more a pound than the mule foot, and the piglets can be sold for $400-1000 a piece! The mule foot piglets only go for about $75-150 a piece. So yea, we’re going to start doubling down on the sweet, curly headed, white haired pigs that look like sheep because I mean, we’re farmers now people!
Unfortunately, the introduction of the two new piglets into the herd isn’t going as well as we had planned. And we had planned for exactly zero problems, so it’s all relative, right? Thomas had to catch the little girl Mangalitsa with a fishing net. This was a tip given to him by the other pig farmer. And wouldn’t you know, it worked on the first try! He just leaned in through the gate paneling, as if nothing at all was amiss, and although the piglet was totally onto him, she still tried to make a run for the door of the shelter. Tom grabbed her without any issue. But not without effort. A trapped piglet, although small, is mighty. He tried to cover her with a blanket to calm her down, but basically he ended up running full speed, up a hill, with a viciously squirming pig trying to make her escape, held straight out in front of him. Needless to say, he was winded.
So the catching wasn’t a big deal, but once we got the boy piglets back to the farm, the first little boy we sent into the pasture basically ran straight into the woods and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. So that went well. Now, granted, this isn’t the first time we’ve lost pigs- you know if you’ve been following along on our adventure, we lose pigs often- so I’m willing to bet that he’s just scared and hiding for the moment. We pray he’ll return as the pigs have time and time again, despite our inexperience. So even though we were planning to keep the other boy pig and castrate him (yep, this is the dirty life) to raise for food, we ended up having to just keep him in tact incase he needs to be the boar. So I’ll spare you the adventures of pig castration for today, but if the other baby pig shows up, the blog will too. Fair warning.
Mom pig- Elsa- is not a fan of these imposter babies. We didn’t exactly see her chase off the first boy piglet into the woods, but after witnessing the second one get hucked into the air at the feeding trough, I’m going to go ahead and say she might have been the trouble maker. She isn’t exactly throwing them a ‘welcome home’ party, let’s just put it that way. So we shall see how this situation evolves. We’ve moved the other male pigs back into the pasture with the ladies- we separated them just until the babies got a little bigger- so as to give the new boys a few friends, who could really care less if they’re there or not. We’re hoping that the crowd mentality will lure them out of hiding and into the herd. Stay tuned on how nature plays out, because we’re officially out of the equation as humans now.
The cows… we found two Wagyu heifers on craigslist- not just for couches and personal ads!- and they were marketed as ‘pregnant.’ Although only one of them was confirmed to be pregnant by the vet, we still worked a deal- part barter and part cash- to get both heifers and a ‘straw of bull semen’- I did, I said semen- for a great deal. We chose to go in the Wagyu bread direction because, like I said, after our adventures with pigs, we’ve learned that we need to go high end if we’re going to go small scale. And Wagyu is kobe beef status. So we’ve got kobe pork and kobe beef now- it’s what’s for dinner.
The cows are adorable, super curious, and very sweet, and they have been named Clementine and Clover.
These will be our cow making cows, and not our dinner (or at least that’s not the plan for them) so we are allowed to name them. Clementine is the pregnant one, and she’s due in November. We have a core group of our people over for a week around Thanksgiving, and I’m so excited at the idea of either having a baby cow for them to get to see or maybe, just maybe, they’ll actually be here for the birth! Although we were a little disappointed at the news that Clover was not pregnant, despite their efforts, we see it as God’s provision. Because for one, now we will have the adventure, learning experience and blog content of artificially inseminating a cow; and two, we will be able to delay the insemination so this baby won’t be arriving in the dead of winter, and won’t be arriving when we’re out of town for the holidays. That’s a little much to ask our farm sitter, wouldn’t you think?
Apparently cows, when they’re transitioned from feed to grass (they were kept on feed while they awaited sale and A.I.), get terrible diarrhea. So there is that. And they can actually get tetanus from grass if they’re not supplemented with a mineral. Hey, look how much we’re learning already! So because of the gut disruption, we’re trying to give them 12 hours of grazing and then pen them up and give them a rest until they adjust. Let me tell you what, when the cows were let out to pasture yesterday morning, they leaped and jumped with joy. Yes, a pregnant cow leaped! I totally get it sister, I don’t like to be penned up either.
So needless to say, the adventure continues here at Shalom farm. Currently I’m sitting at our big farm table in the middle of my kitchen as the rain clouds settle in. I’m looking forward to our first big thunderstorm of the spring/summer. I enjoyed it so much last year. And perhaps my favorite thing about the weather here, is that the whether here is like whether no where. It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s humid, it’s dry, it’s rainy, it’s snowy, there are big storms and sun for days. It’s everything. And just when you feel like it really is getting a little too hot, the next day it’s overcast and rainy. God’s reprieve! I actually went running this morning with long sleeves on, if you can believe that. Those of you who fear the weather in the south… I was like you. But I was wrong. It’s actually so dynamic, you stay entertained. I promise.
Thanks for coming along on our adventures. We hope you’ll stay and invite your friends!