Here are a few photos of the latest addition to the Saenz family.
I’m told that this Holstein calf will remain nameless, to make things easier come butchering time. Right now he weighs something over 200lbs. Some folks let them grow to 1000lbs or larger before slaughter, but Jimmy Ellis (who sold us the calf) is more inclined to have them butchered at 700lbs or so, for more tender meat, and I’m inclined to agree. We may also have a line on a slaughterhouse that for a price will age the beef for a couple of weeks (harder and harder to find these days).
The fencing looks flimsy, but that’s the point—it is portable electric netting, lightweight and easy to gather up or spread out. It comes in 164 foot sections, and a rolled up section is light to carry. The poles are stiff enough to make it easy shoving their pointed ends into the ground, as long as the ground is moist and not too rocky.
Chris and Matthew used two sections to fence off an 80′ square. When we hooked up the fence energizer, the fence tester registered a strong voltage, but the diagnostic lights on the energizer said there was too much of a drain. We fussed and adjusted, and finally had Chris get the mower and clear a path so as little grass as possible was touching the fence; after that it worked fine.
When Jimmy delivered the calf this afternoon, he backed up the trailer to a corner where we pulled a portion of the fence aside, then shooed the calf right in to the enclosure. The calf wandered a little bit, munched some grass, then started to sniff at the fence—and suddenly jumped back. He’s stayed clear since then.
This picture gives you a better idea of how large the enclosure is. With one calf it’ll be awhile before we need to move to another section of ground. But there’s a strong chance that next week we’ll be getting a Guernsey cow that just freshened, along with the bull calf that was born to it, so the paddock will need moving more often if that happens.
I’ve said before that I’m a strong believer in starting down a path by doing something small and simple as soon as possible. This is a good example. Getting a calf to raise for beef is about the smallest step towards keeping cows that you can take—no big deal, except if you’ve never done it before. And once we decided to buy the calf, we had to address questions like fencing and feed and water and such.
I ordered the fencing equipment a couple of weeks ago, and the boys tested it late last week. Monday on our way home from Chris’s fiddle lesson in Lexington we stopped by a feed store that Roger Murrell recommended to get a 100lb bag of sweet feed. And this moning Chris and I took the pickup over to Goldenrod Feed in South Fork to pick up six small square bales of hay; at $4 a bale it was more expensive than we would like, but it gives us time to locate a farmer who will sell it to us cheaper.
On the recommendation of D.J. Hammond I ordered the fencing from Premier1, and the folks there were friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful to a first-time fencing user. They were running a special on their solar/battery energizer, and so that’s what I bought. It uses a small and fairly light sealed lead acid battery, with a solar panel to keep it charged; the manual claims that even during a cloudy winter the battery will only need to be charged externally once a month.
One very nice feature is that the package is is completely self-contained. To move it, you lift the box off the metal stake/stand that it sits on (which doubles as a grounding pin), pull out the stake and use your foot to drive it into its new location, then seat the box on the stake again. Then clip the negative clip to the grounding stake, clip the positive terminal to the fence, and turn the energizer on.
With its trailer attached, the BCS walk-behind tractor makes it easy to haul heavy or bulky stuff up or down the hill from our house to the garden. Jerry is eager to take his turn at the wheel, with Elizabeth and Benjamin along for the ride.