It seems like farming should be simple. The cows eat grass, come in to be milked, the milk gets sold, and life is good, right? The more I learn about farming the more I understand how complicated, and how expensive it is.
I hadn’t been to Cedo’s farm for a while, so last Friday we headed up there together. First we had to stop in Conception to pay for the cattle food that would be delivered later. Then we had to stop at Cooleche (the farmer’s cooperative) where she paid what was owed there for various supplies, bought medicine, salt, and minerals which were loaded up into the back of my car.
Recently also, she has had to replace a water heater so the water would be hot enough to disinfect the pipes that carry the milk to the storage tank. Then, something shorted out the electric line that runs to the electric fences so she had to buy wire, and pay and electrician to install it to restore power to the farm. Meanwhile the caretaker was living in the dark and milking by hand. She has had to buy special food and medicine for the calf who had diarrhea and wasn’t doing well. She has had to buy seed and pay someone to plant it to grow more grass for the cows. The vet has to check one of the cows who has a sore foot, probably a stone in the hoof. The list just goes on, and it seems like every week there is something else that needs to be attended to. Don’t even ask how complicated it was to get two 55 gallon drums of molasses filled and delivered to the farm! At least I can help a bit now and then by driving so she doesn’t have to do it all by bus.
So anyway, we arrive at the farm in the late morning.
Every other day the caretaker cuts tall grass for the cows, hauls it back to the milking building, runs it through the chopper, and serves it to them for lunch and dinner. The molasses is diluted with water and sprinkled over the grass. It adds nutrition and since they like the taste, they eat better and produce more milk.
The bull does not like visitors. Do not touch my women. Do not look at my women. Don’t even think of being on the same farm as my women! This bull apparently has no respect for human women and respect only for a couple guys who he knows, like the caretaker. We are very careful to know where the bull is at all times, and to not go into the pasture where he is. But, to his credit, he has been doing his job and most of the cows are pregnant.
The farm also has chickens and pigs. In the past it produced vegetables for sale to restaurants, but that would take more work and manpower than is available now. It currently does produce squash, chayote, bananas, plantains, and citrus fruits though, and I am often the recipient of some very nice gifts from the farm.
One of the pasture areas was recently planted with grass for the cows. It is a bit far from the milking and feeding area but Cedo explained that it will be included in the pasture rotation. The cows will be allowed to graze one day, some fertilizer will be applied, the grass will be allowed to grow for a few days, and then the cycle will be repeated.
Cedo asked me to take some photos of the corner of the wooded area to remind her about something, maybe checking the condition of the fence?
I love how so many of the trees are almost their own forests, covered with a variety of other plants.
Cedo has had a lot of trouble with calves, and has lost three of the last four ones born. She got this one medicine, special food, and a very specific list of instructions for the caretaker that must be carefully followed. This calf looked like skin and bones when I saw it last, but thankfully she is thriving now and looks so much better!
I don’t know much about farming and taking care of animals, but the more I learn the more I am sure I am not getting involved! It gives one new respect for where your milk, meat, and produce come from. She sells to Nevada, so when you buy milk be sure you buy Nevada and think about all the work that goes into the bottle of milk in your hand.