Cattle upon a hill is bursting with new life
Spring on the farm is my favorite time of year. Here in the Upper Midwest, spring begins with the gradual change from a brown, dead landscape to a lush, green carpet full of new life! Today I am going to share pictures of our adorable spring animals on the farm that make you say, “AWWWW!” The robins and the killdeer returned. The earth springs with full of new life. Now it is time for new, baby farm animals.
I have loved animals my entire life. Especially baby animals. We have several new spring animals on the farm including chicks, jersey calves, a miniature donkey, goslings, turkey poults, and, of course, beef calves.
This year has been somewhat unique with many late snowfalls and wet, cold rains. The tulips and daffodils have come and gone. Morel mushroom season is over. The asparagus is in full season. But even today, it is cold, cloudy, and windy. Typically, we have the garden planted by now and most of the crops in, but not this year. The garden is a mud pit and the fields haven’t been prepared for planting yet.
My meat chicks showed up on April 25th. Sadly, this was shortly before a late winter storm. Even with the chicks tucked away in the barn with three heat lamps on them, they piled up due to being cold and several chicks suffocated. This was a heartbreaking and discouraging event this spring. Usually, meat chicks are very easy to raise and here are 5 tips for raising happy, healthy chicks. You can read about 14 reasons to raise meat chicks here. Here is what the chicks looked like when they arrived.
I recently moved the month-old meat chicks to the chickshaw that my dad and sons built for me last summer. This was a bittersweet move as my dad died unexpectedly in January. Looking at my chickshaw reminds me of him and makes me miss the times that we shared together. We had planned on building a second chickshaw this summer, but that is not to be. I am thankful for the memories, but it is still a very difficult reminder.
I really like my chickshaw. (If you are interested in building a chickshaw, you may find more information here. It is perfect for the hilly ground we live on. I put up electric netting around the chicks. We have the chicks following two jersey calves that my son and daughter are raising. Chickens do not like tall grass. The jersey calves have grazed the grass short which the chickens like. The chicks also clean up the grain the calves have wasted and scratch through manure for insect eggs.
Speaking of Jersey calves, my friend gave me a jersey calf on March 1st. I gave it to my son for his 8th birthday. You can read more about raising bottle calves here. My mother in law’s milk cow had a calf about two weeks later and then on April 18th, I purchased a jersey calf for my daughter. Last year, we raised almost 20 Holstein bottle calves throughout the summer. However, this year we decided to cut way back. We may purchase three more so each child has a calf, but it depends on our beef herd because there may be an orphan or two. These two calves have graduated from bottles to buckets and soon will be weaned altogether.
My oldest son also purchased an 8-month-old miniature jack donkey. He already owns an adult Jenny miniature donkey. He would like to raise a baby donkey, so of course, we need a Jack. We found one on craigslist that was over two hours away! My husband and sons went to purchase him. When they got there, the donkey was much smaller than advertised. However, he was so cute and they had traveled so far, they decided to purchase him. My son named him Jack and I think he wins the 2019 Adorable Spring Animal on the Farm Award.
We have the donkeys to protect our beef calves from coyotes. We have not lost a calf to coyotes as long as I can remember, but I have seen the donkeys chase coyotes out of the pasture.
My children bought me a pair of geese for a Mother’s Day gift. It was love at first sight. I have never had geese before and I plan on writing in more detail about raising them in a future post. We are not sure what breed they are because they bought them from the local farm store and they were labeled straight run hatchery choice. I am hoping to be able to identify their breed when they grow up. I am also hoping it is a male and a female. The geese are growing at an incredible pace. I would say they doubled in size the first week and then almost doubled in size the next week.
The goslings are quite tame. We are raising them in an old metal water tank in the barn, but we take them outside every day to swim and exercise. Today we allowed them to swim in our spring pond. They were scared of their new surroundings and proceeded to get very muddy.
Two of our turkey hens went to setting on a clutch of eggs this spring. We have three different breeds of turkeys. Our male turkey is a bronze turkey. We also have a white turkey and the hen pictured below is a royal palm turkey. She hatched out 7 poults. These are crossbred with the bronze and I think perhaps two of the eggs were from the white turkey. It will be interesting to see what they will grow up to look like. I wasn’t planning on raising any more turkeys because they eat so much and they become sick easily. We will either sell these chicks when they get a little older or we will raise them and butcher them in the fall.
Of course, one of my favorite baby animals is the new beef calves. Since we have crossbred cows, it is fun to see the different markings of the calves. I also like to have beef calves because the mothers do all of the work and usually do not need any assistance in birthing or raising the calves. We check our cows twice daily or more often if we see something unusual. Beef cows are excellent mothers.
Interestingly, we don’t have any baby chicks from our egg layers yet. There is usually a sneaky hen who finds a place to hide a nest and hatch out a clutch of eggs. Just this morning, I found this nest. It is a mixture of guinea eggs and chicken eggs. Since guinea eggs take a week longer to hatch, this will not be a viable nest unless I remove one kind of egg. It is in the middle of the hayfield so I will be collecting the eggs. We have our incubator going with chicken eggs and I think there is a guinea sitting on a nest in our woods. Stay tuned for future updates on our birds.
I hope you enjoyed the pictures of our adorable spring animals on the farm that make you say awwww. Did you say, “awwww?” Please tell me which animal you think is the cutest in the comment section below. Are you raising any animals this spring?