Farm life: herd pregnancy check

Yesterday the herd manger, who happens to be my good friend, was in the feed store and told me that the vet had blocked off the whole day Thursday (today) to be at the farm so that the entire herd could be preg checked (preg checked = the vet determining if the cow or heifer is bred or not and if she is, how many months along she is).  My head started spinning at the logistics of getting around 80 cows and heifers at 3 different farms checked.  Luckily it was my day in the extension office so I could juggle my day around – so I spent the morning at the farm.

In my previous blogs I have talked about ear tagging for herd identification – in between waiting on the vet and hauling cattle to the main farm I had a stack of ear tags to make for the cows that had lost their tag so we could put a new one in while we had them in the chute.

 lettering a new ear tag

 outlined and ready to be Dremeled

 coloring with power tools 🙂

True love is hand making an ear tag for each animal.  Who says farmers don’t care about their animals?!  There may be over 150 head of cattle on the farm, but we know all their names – and make all their ear tags!

Back to the task at hand…first we had to round them up at all 3 farms.  The guys had caught them while they were feeding this morning, but then we had to haul them to the main farm.

 sorting at the pond field

 Lim-Flex bull Challenge!

 caught in the hay feeder!

By 10:30am we had as many head at the main farm as we could handle by the time the vet showed up.  Not only were they getting preg checked and a new ear tag if they had lost theirs, but each was getting vaccinated and dewormed.

Above – Dale the vet getting the dewormer situated – the dewormer we used today is a drench that gets poured along the back of the animal.

The herd manager giving the vaccination shot.

Dale, the vet, up to his shoulder inside the cow feeling if she is pregnant or not, and if so, how many months along she is.  I was the secretary for the first 40 head until I had to go back to the office, keeping track of if they were pregnant or open (not pregnant) and how many months along they are.

The guys hauling another load of cattle and one of the girls waiting on the trailer.

 Dale didn’t care if we got them in the chute, as long as he could get close he would hustle over and check them as fast as he could to keep the day moving.

It was a long day for all the guys, but successful.  Just another day in the life.

One last parting shot of the cute bottle baby checking out all the action today:

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Happy Valentine’s Day y’all 🙂  To me, Valentine’s Day isn’t about just telling or showing one  person that you love them – it’s a day to celebrate and cherish all the people in your life.  With my hectic life, I felt terrible as I started receiving cards in the mail from my college friends and thought what a bad friend I am for not sending out any of my usual creative ones.  Being super lame this morning, I scrolled through the contacts in my cell phone and starting sending personalized Valentine’s Day greetings to my friends and family near and far – in hopes that I could put a smile on their faces this morning.

And after exchanging text with some good friends, it really hit me what today is about when one reply was “it just feels weird saying Happy Valentine’s Day to a girl with a boyfriend.”  To me, never for a second did I hesitate to wish my guy friends a Happy Valentine’s Day.

The moments that touched me the most today were having supper with my family and at 8:30pm after the 4-H Livestock Club meeting I received my first valentine of the day…a handmade card by one of my youngest 4-H members.

Over the past few days I have really been taken aback by all the fabulous people in my life and the opportunities I have had and I just wanted to say a small thank you by sending them a little extra love today.

I will leave you with a saying that I try to live by…spread your love around, cause you can’t take it with you when you go.

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2012 Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show

For 9 days, hunters and fisherman from across the country and the world traveled to Harrisburg, Pa for the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show…or the PA Sportsman Show.  From Feb 4-12th, the entire PA Farm Show Complex was packed to the gills with exhibitors waiting to meet and talk to fellow outdoor enthusiasts.  (I know, you must think I live at the Farm Show Complex.)

One entire hall was fishing and boating – with hands on events for kids of all ages.

Then there was one for archery, bowhunting, game calls, hunting trips and more.  There were seminars booked throughout each and everyday where you could sit down and relax from a long day trying to take everything in and get a chance to ask questions and learn from the professionals and celebrities of the hunting and fishing world.

Everyday you could see Chris Brackett do his archery trick shooting…from foam targets, to clays, to life savers and anything the crowd threw out to be shot – from behind his head.  Fear No Evil.

Brand new models of the latest ATV’s, off road machines, gators and more are there on display to check out.  And if you ever wanted to book a hunting trip, the world is at your finger tips…from PA to the west coast, to around the world.  There are show specials and of course you get to talk with the outfitters themselves to find out what their hunting adventure has to offer.  There is a lot to cover and to see – it is a good, long day of hunting, fishing, new equipment, new and old friends and of course a lot of camouflage.


I couldn’t talk about the sportsman show without a shout out to the guys at Goey Hunting Calls!

They unveiled a brand new call at the show this year called the Trainwreck!

And it wouldn’t be the sportsman show without celebrity appearances!

If you are a serious waterfowler, or just out for a fun day in the blind with your buddies, check out their new video –


Be sure to mark your calendar for the 2013 show – Feb 2-10th!

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Weaning Calves

Most of you have heard the saying “make hay while the sun shines”, so what do you do when it rains?  Catch up on tasks around the farm that have been put off trying to get hay made, such as today’s task of weaning calves.  On the farm we wean calves at 6 months of age.  Their mothers have either just been bred or will be shortly and so they need to be able to support a new calf growing inside of them.  The 6 month old calf is already eating feed and does not get much milk from the mother, plus they are getting a little big to be nursing!

First thing in the morning, the cattle are caught in the barn or in the feed bunk at the 3 farms when they are fed.  Then we take the truck and trailer to the lower and the upper farms and separate the calves that are old enough to be weaned and load them on the trailer and take them back to the main farm.


After we got them all gathered together at the main farm, one by one we brought them into the barn and into the chute.

I should backtrack a step – when they first step into the chute, there is a scale on the floor and we weigh them.  Then they take a step or two forward and we catch their head in the squeeze chute.  It does not hurt them, it just simply holds their head still – or as still as possible, as they can still move it up and down and front to back a little.

While in the chute today, each calf got a tattoo in each ear, 3 shots and some had a blood card taken for DNA testing.


Each calf born on the farm gets an ear tag put in it’s ear as soon as we find the newborn calf.  Each year (Jan 1st – Dec 31st) gets the next consecutive letter of the alphabet – so this year we are on “Y”.  Then we start at the first calf “1Y” and then next being “2Y” and so on.  I believe we are at about “62Y” for this year.

So what does the ear tag have to go with getting a tattoo?  We register the calves with their ear tag number, so therefore their registration number has to match their tattoo number!  There is a method to the madness!

In one ear, they get the farm or herd tattoo “AHMO” in one ear – so that if can be identified back to our herd, and in the other ear they get their number (the “1Y”, “2Y”, etc).

Above is a picture of the herd manager tattooing “21Y”.

The best way to show you the equipment used is a picture.  Here you can see the little needles that form the outlines of the letters or numbers.  Then when you squeeze it together, the little needles poke little holes in the ear.  Then we rub tattooing ink on top of the newly formed little pinpricks so there is some color in the ear to make it easier to read the tattoos later on.  There is no blood spurting out and it’s over in 3 seconds.

Here is the tattooer, the ink and some of the numbers.


Shots:   Each calf got 3 shots today.  The first one they got was their Triangle 9 vaccination.  The second was their wormer medicine.  The third was a vitamin/mineral supplement.  These were done to keep our cattle as healthy as possible.

DNblood test:  They have a DNA blood test in which they look for the polled gene in cattle.  (Polled = hornless)  The farm has spent a lot of time to make the herd as homozygous polled as possible.  However, due to the monetary cost for this DNA test (it makes the cattle more marketable to other farms if they know the are polled, or double polled, or homozygous polled), the farm only tests the ones that have the best chance of being homozygous polled.

Above are the DNA blood cards we drew for today.  We just prick the ear and get a couple drops onto the card.  It’s amazing what we can do with technology today!

So after their tattoos, shots and some blood tests, they went back onto the trailer and went up to the upper farm to pens inside the bank barn, where they were separated into a pen of bull calves and a pen of heifer calves.

 some heifers checking out their new barn!

It was an eventful morning for them and a long night ahead of being separated from their mothers, but they will quickly forget all about it!  It was a long morning, but the calves are processed and weaned and soon it will be time to do it again!

Did I mention it was raining today?!  One of the momma cows soaking wet in the rain this morning!


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Autism, Animals & Sensory Based Thinking – Temple Grandin speaks at Penn State

When I heard Temple Grandin was coming back to Penn State to speak, I knew I had to go!  My brother got me the sold out tickets and I made the trek to Happy Valley in the rain yesterday afternoon (October 13th).  During my freshman year at Penn State, Temple had spoken at a Block and Bridle meeting and over the years I have studied her work on livestock handling facilities.  Of course, Temple Gradin the Movie, on HBO last year was an instant favorite.

Temple Grandin was diagnosed autistic in 1950 and has overcome a lot over the years and is an inspiration to not only the animal science industry, but the autism community as well.  She has designed the handling facilities used on half the cattle in the United States – for ranch work as well as slaughterhouses.  As a person with Autism, she was one of the first to speak about it from first hand experience and is a sought out speaker in the Autism community as well as the livestock industry.  For more background on Temple, you can check out her 2 websites,

her animal one:

her autism website:

Earlier in the day, Temple had talked to the animal science clubs on campus and she packed the Schwab Auditorium at night to a very mixed crowd – all ages, those with autism and a wide variety of abilities as well as family members, the animal science crowd and many more.  For an entertaining hour, she had the audience laughing and applauding her as she captivated everyone – and then she answered questions for about another hour.  She talked a lot about the way she sees things – in pictures- and her mind was amazing; the way she could recall facts and figures and yet explain things so everyone could understand.  From Steve Jobs, to wanting someone to make new computer software, to how she would have designed the nuclear power plants in Japan, to why she doesn’t wear Levi’s now that she discovered Old Navy’s soft jeans, to why she doesn’t allow pictures being taken while she is talking (she gets distracted and cannot switch back to speaking quickly enough) – we all could have listened to her for another 3 hours.

Then she opened the floor to questions and threatened to pick on people if no one asked any (I guess that comes from being a professor at Colorado State University), but she ended up having to cut off the line after almost an hour.  Parents seeking advice for dealing with their kids, asking more questions about the way she learned to do things or desensitized herself, questions about animal handling – and Temple deals with details, and does not tolerate vague questions and she sure let you know if you didn’t ask her a specific question!

If you have not seen Temple Grandin the Movie – I strongly recommend it (as does Temple!) or just look her up on YouTube or google to learn more about the amazing woman.  She wouldn’t change her Autism for anything and she loves the way she thinks.

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PA Cattlewomen Beef Up Our Troops at KILE 2011

For almost a year Pennsylvania Cattlewomen Inc (PCW) have been collecting monetary donations (to purchase beef products) as well as beef products for a project coined “Beef Up Our Troops” by Genny Christ.

Through the efforts of Kristi Kassimer and Emily Landis, PCW teamed up with SOAR (Support Our American Recruits) and with many thanks to the KILE committee, we were able to make our donation presentation during the Champion Showcase at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition on Sunday afternoon.  A big thanks to Penn State Collegiate Cattlewomen for their support in this effort as well!

Getting the beef products assembled for our presentation!

Waiting on the floor of the large arena to make our presentation.

Thanks to the PDA and KILE media crew for putting this picture up on the KILE website!

L to R:  Ann Nogan (PCW Past President), Shirley Wilt (SOAR), Becky Bair (Executive Director of SOAR) PA Secretary of Agriculture George Grieg, Amy Shollenberger (PCW President), Valerie Trowbridge (PCW Treasurer) and Emily Landis (PCW President Elect/Secretary).

A big thanks to everyone who donated to this great cause!  SOAR is a non profit group located in Lancaster, Pa that ships care packages overseas to the men and women fighting for our country.  For more information check out the SOAR website:

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KILE 2011 – Part 2 – Life at a Cattle Show

My previous post was an overview of my 5 days at the Keystone International Livestock Expo held in Harrisburg, Pa last week, and as promised, I will take you through a day at a beef cattle show.  The 5 days we were there were all different, but there were many things that were done every day.

 loaded trailer Wednesday morning

Every morning the cattle would get washed at the wash racks – either inside or outside depending on the day.


Then they would be blown dry – almost like going to the hair dresser (shampoo, rinse and then blown dry!)

Then they would get fed and watered and then they could relax they rest of the day.  The cattle had to be inside the barns by 8:00am and they were not allowed to be tied outside until 6:00pm.  So around 5:00pm we would feed them again, water them and blow the dirt off them and put some conditioner in their hair and then walk them outside to tieouts for the night.


On Thursday, in the afternoon, Justin (the herd manager) reclipped the cattle for the show Friday morning.  I scratched a lot of bellies with the showstick to keep them calm and relaxed in the chute while he clipped them.

Friday morning came early, as we woke up at 3:00am because the show started at 8:00am.  The cattle were washed, blown dry, ate, drank and then we let them lay down for a little before Justin started fitting them for the show.  He pulled the hair up on the legs and then essentially used hair spray to keep it standing up to make the legs look bigger.  While he finished up fitting the bulls, I showed Plum the heifer in her class and then held and grabbed bulls for Justin to show as they were in back to back to back classes.

After the show, we let them lay down and relax – then we put some products on them to breakdown the adhesive for the show and then they got another bath and blown dry and then it was time to feed, water and off to tie outs!

Needless to say, the cattle were ready to go home Sunday afternoon, especially since it was their first show and it was a whole new experience for them.

Ready to go home Sunday afternoon!  Next stop, the PA Farm Show in January!

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