We have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season. One thing is that we aren't milking cows during this ice storm. In the past, we've hooked up the generator when the power was out and gotten the cows milked even in weather like this. The worst part of it is the danger, to us and to the cows, of trying to walk on the ice. It's not so bad out in the pastures where the blades of grass are coated, but once the cows have to travel along the paths and into the holding pen, it's really treacherous. So this weekend, the cows have plenty of hay and can just stay put out in the pasture--and we can spend more time indoors! We're liking this seasonal milking better all the time!
We did our last milking of the season on Monday, so now we are able to focus on some other projects while the cows are on maternity leave. Ron will continues to study and experiment with a variety of permaculture projects and garden plans.
He'll continue to work on building hugelkulturs (mound gardens), learning to grow mushrooms, and experimenting with a variety of methods for starting fruit trees. Eventually, we'd like to see this farm produce even more "calories per acre" than it does now. There's a lot of potential here, but it takes a lot of time and labor.
Of course, the cows still need daily care. Here they are following Ron to a fresh pasture of standing hay.
Grasses are fading and milk production is waning. After several years of moving this direction, we will officially make the transition to becoming a seasonal dairy this week. All of the cows are now bred to calve in the spring, so the entire herd will be on "maternity leave" for the winter. This will allow us to make better use of the forages available during the growing season. Cows need a lot more grass when they are producing milk than when they are dry, so it only makes sense for a grass fed dairy to milk cows when the most forage is available. Of course, cows and calves still need to eat whether they are milking or not, so they will continue to rotate through the farm to eat cool season grasses, such as rye, and standing hay. We will supplement with alfalfa hay, too.
So, come this weekend, for the first time in about a quarter century, there will be no cows entering the barn at Crain Dairy. But, no worries, they'll be back in the spring. And we have stocked up on lots of raw milk cheeses and ricotta and we'll still have our grass fed beef and kitchen products available year round.
Last spring, a neighbor accidentally ran over a wild turkey nest with a tractor mower and killed the hen.. He called us to see if we had an incubator so we could try to hatch out the eggs. We have no incubator, but had a couple of broody hens, so, with the permission of the local game ranger, we collected the eggs and put them under the hens. After several weeks, 2 poults hatched. Once they got old enough, we turned them loose. We thought they'd disappear, but, so far, they are hanging around here. We're really enjoying having the opportunity to watch these beautiful birds up close. I had no idea turkey feathers had such lovely irridescent colors in them. They generally roost on the clothesline posts at night. I expect they will look for a more sheltered spot once the weather gets colder!
As we make the transition from summer to fall, our busiest season is winding down. As of this year, all of the cows are due to dry up (go on maternity leave) for the winter. Although we've been moving this direction for several years, this will be our first winter to actually take the plunge. Since we are a grass fed dairy, it only makes sense to milk during the times of year when we are likely to have abundant forage. Depending on the weather and the cows' production, we'll stop milking sometime in the late fall or early winter and begin again when cows begin to calve in the spring.
This summer we've stocked up on raw milk grass fed cheeses and ricotta, so we will still have dairy products available year round.
It has been a beautiful spring here on the farm. We’ve had more than ten inches of rain over the past month, and the pasture is as green as it gets. The swales, the creek, and the pond are full, and they’re busy spreading moisture to the surrounding soil. We’re thankful that the rain has been spread out evenly, and that we’ve been spared the heavy flood rains that have hit OKC recently.
Springtime is calving season. We milked very few cows over the winter (we’re transitioning to a seasonal milking model), but we’re back in full swing now. We’ve had sixteen calves already, with eight more on the way. The new mothers are milking well, especially given the cool weather and abundant pasture. Springtime is a great time to be a cow!
More milk means more grassfed yogurt, butter, cream, and cheese. Stop by the farm, visit one of the Enid, Tulsa, Edmond and OKC locations listed on our site, or order our products online at http://www.oklahomafood.coop/.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the chickens! We have around one hundred layers and sixty broilers ranging around the farm right now, and we’re planning to add even more. They’re a relatively new addition to the farm, and we’re amazed at the positive impact they’ve made over the past few years. They provide excellent weed and insect control around our dairy barn and hugelkultures, and their manure gives a nice boost to our pasture fertility, as well. Plus, their entertainment and aesthetic value is off the charts!
We’ve been working hard to develop some drought mitigation measures here on the farm over the past few years, and one of our main strategies is improved water catchment. Here in Northwest Oklahoma, it’s not uncommon to get four inches of rain in a single night, followed by a month and a half of hot and dry weather. This means that we want to keep as much of that four-inch rain as possible on our land and soaking into our soil.
Last spring, with the help of some good friends, we used a backhoe and a road grader to beef up our pond and dig out a few of the swales that stretch across the farm. Both have filled up very nicely this spring, and have been doing wonders for the surrounding grass as the water seeps downhill through the soil.
If you’d like to learn more about what we have going on here at the creamery, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by! We enjoy visitors, and like all small farms and local producers, thrive on community interest and support.