When you have the only working farm in your whole neighborhood, which otherwise consists primarily of retired “city-folk” couples looking for the quiet country life, I suspect it isn’t too hard to get on their bad side. One way to really make them hate you for disturbing their peace and quiet is to wean calves.
I hadn’t originally planned to wean the calves at all. Unfortunately, drought has caused our pastures to dry up, the cows are both bred (we hope), and the additional stress of these big boys nursing seemed to be putting added stress on the cows. With a potentially bitter winter on it’s way, I would rather them put a little extra weight on, rather than lose it to heavy milk production and stress load. Thus, the decision was made to wean the calves.
I tried to keep things as quiet as possible. I put the calves in the big barn stall, so they could keep each other company, couldn’t escape, and some of their noise would be absorbed by the barn walls–especially when I closed up the barn at night. Then, I opened the barn up so the cows could walk right up to the stall and check on the calves, they just couldn’t nurse them. Furthermore, I planned to lock the cows in the middle area of the barn, right beside the calves’ stall, for the night to hopefully hide as much noise as possible.
The first evening was noisy, and the plan to lock everybody in the barn for the night mostly worked. I couldn’t hear the noise from inside the house, which was good. Unfortunately, at some point in the night, Holly, the black cow, broke through the barn doors, and wound up separated not only from her calf, but also from her buddy, Tiffany. She still had Abbigail, the jersey, and the goats to keep her company outside, but it wasn’t the same. Thankfully, she isn’t much of a talker, so it wasn’t too bad.
With the somewhat pressurized udders, the next day was exceptionally noisy, so I decided I needed to make ammends with neighbors to stay on their good side. I went to the garden, gathered some veggies and herbs, made several pretty arrangements, and we went door-to-door to our closest neighbors to apologize, explain what the noise was all about, promise it would be temporary, and leave them with the edible gifts. It seemed to work well, and we left everyone with a smile on their faces.
Whew! I’m starting to learn that farming can also require skills in using reverse psychology on the neighbors. Whenever something comes up, as long as we provide a dozen eggs, fresh-baked bread, some fresh veggies, or some other gift as a peace offering, we don’t get moved to the “bad neighbor” list. If it goes as planned, maybe the neighbors will start to actually look forward to any strange noise or disruptions to their peace and quiet. You think?
Anyway, we’ve just finished day 3. I let the calves into the barn paddock today so they could get some fresh air and sunshine, and so I could clean out their stall. I don’t like a smelly barn. I’m also using this time to try to friendly them up a bit so they are more easily handled. That will come in handy when it comes time for slaughter next summer. The cows are also housed outside as usual now, and only the calves are in the barn at night. The bawling has mostly subsided now, which is nice. They still great each other in the morning, and talk a little in the day, but it isn’t disruptive any longer.
I guess I can check another “First” off my list: “Learn to wean calves.”