North Woods Homestead, Trained Registered Mini Jersey Family Milk Cows & Rare Salmon Faverolles Chickens, Priest River, Idaho
OUR HERD TESTS CLEAN AGAIN!
We test our herd annually for our own piece of mind to ensure we're free of BLV/BVD/Johne's/TB. In our older blog posts you'll find we covered these diseases at length in April of 2017.
Raw Milk has some risk involved so it's important that you only consume the milk of health screened cows. Tuberculosis (TB) is rare in cattle now but was a serious health concern historically. By federal law, any cow sold for transportation over state lines is tested for TB prior to a Health Certificate being issued. Our herd is vaccinated against Brucellosis, as is the law in Idaho. This is also required by most states for importing a dairy cow since Brucella bacteria can be transmitted from cattle to humans and causes Undulating Fever.
It's important to us that we're making every effort for the health of our herd and for the families who trust us enough to add one of our little Jerseys to their family. We understand that for many, their single milk cow is an investment and a beloved pet.
Ruby is about to be dried off for calving in late April, so we sent a milk sample to the lab to test for Bovine Leukosis Virus/BVD/Johnes. She's three months away from being three years old. Being over two, and born into our herd (in Kansas prior to relocating to Idaho), makes Ruby a very good candidate for proof of a clean herd. These diseases are highly contagious, so by spot testing older cows in the herd it's safe to say OUR HERD IS CLEAN. We've spoken with several veterinarians in Idaho and Kansas, including at KSU College of Veteranary Medicine, and we've been reassured over and over that this is a safe practice for judging overall herd health.
Brook was being tested for pregnancy so we tested her blood against BLV/BVD/Johnes too. She's 15 months old and was born into our herd here in Idaho.
Cows and heifers currently in our herd that have tested clean:
Betsy (5/16, 4/17)
Ruby (4/16, 2/18)
Only our youngest calves, nine month old Meadow and Fern, have not yet been tested for these diseases. They are both Negative for Achondroplasia, a genetic defect that causes Dwarfism. The others with Mini Jersey bloodlines, Snowflake, Munchkin and Buttercup, were also screened Negative for "Chondro".
Any cattle we've purchased have tested clean prior to arriving on our property and received a strict 30 day quarantine. During this time they're treated as a precaution for internal and external parasites. We use this time to get to know them, brushing them daily, and introducing them to our herbal deworming and mineral protocol. It's our intent to be a Closed Herd as of August 2017, only bringing in new genetic material by AI from tested bulls.
Our vets assures us we are indeed a clean herd. We will happily submit each cow we place for third party testing at the buyer's request, and refund any deposits if the tests aren't 100% clean.
Where has the time gone?! We've had a lot going on in 2017. Let's get caught up!
When we lived in Alaska early in Lance's military career we learned Spring there is called "Break Up" because the ice melts and breaks up on the rivers. Being in a river town again with a similar climate to Fairbanks we were excited to learn Spring here is called Break Up too. Well, excited until an unusual amount of Winter snowpack started to melt by March 2017 and our little creek overflowed its banks flooding our driveway. It wasn't pretty! The flooding lasted several months.
Did you hang in there to the end? There was a lot going on last year and I haven't even told you everything! In October Lance and I attended a week long course called Armed to Farm. That really deserves a Blog Post of it's own so stay tuned.
Lance and I had the opportunity to attend Armed to Farm: Sustainable Agriculture Training For Military Veterans in Charlo, MT, last Oct. The Mission Valley area was stunning and loaded with farmers. We stayed at NinePipes Lodge on the Flathead Indian Reservation. There's a coffee and gift shop, restaurant, dining hall and meeting room on site.
ATTRA is the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. They are the program implemented by NCAT in partnership with the USDA to reach rural communities with training materials, resources, and other programs.
NRCS, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, provides farmers and ranchers with financial and technical assistance to voluntary put conservation on the ground, not only helping the environment but agricultural operations, too. They have many cost-share programs and grants to help small farms.
All of the farms we toured were part of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative. Fifty plus farms work together to market directly through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and share the risk of farming. This gives them control over their profits, keeping more cash in their pockets.
We visited Foothill Farm where they raised pastured beef and had high tunnels of market produce. We helped them plant a field of seed garlic bulbs to raise for more seed garlic. Several of the farms, Ginger Roots Farm included, were growing seed garlic. Many also had high tunnels of heirloom tomatoes.
Foothills Farm also had a small "A" Frame style apartment they used seasonally for farm hands. When not in use otherwise they rented it out as an Air B&B, charging about $100 a night. See it here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/355734
Ploughshare Farm had several high tunnels of tomatoes and produce and a giant commercial grocer-sized walk-in refrigerator cooled with a specially converted air conditioner unit called a CoolBot.
Another, Fresh Roots Farm, was growing seeds for watermelons, carrots, strawberries and herbs. They were wasting the flesh of the plants they were growing because they only needed the seeds. By developing unique fruit, herb, and vegetable popsicles from what they had been wasting they turned it into profit. They market the Flare Pops cool treats at grocers and community events.
One of the most fascinating things to us were the miles of canals. The farms have water rights to draw from ditches and the canals for irrigation. Several farms had underground and above ground irrigation pipes they had cost-shared with NRCS. Water is so critical for livestock and gardening. It can make or break an operation.
Debt was another big conversation we had with many of the farmers. The farmer that spoke of his large-scale chicken operation made it clear he couldn't operate without a heavy debt load. We were encouraged to avoid debt but to utilize it when necessary to expand. It's a calculated risk that they were all very familiar with.
Although a good portion of the materials were specific to Montana we did learn a lot about farming as a business. We left seriously discussing whether we wanted to take our homestead to the next level or take a step back to hobby status.
More to come soon!
We work hard to maintain biosecurity and are getting better at it all the time. As part of our measures we "spot test" annually. Most of the concerns are highly contagious so testing one cow is a good way to determine if all the cows are infected. This year we tested Betsy. She was a good candidate because she has been with us for a full year and she was in milk. It's easy to collect milk to mail to the lab. We're happy to announce Betsy, and therefore our herd, is Negative for BVD/Johne's/BLV.
Merck Vet Manual website explains them well. Click on the embedded links below to learn why we test for these diseases and work hard to maintain a clean herd.
BVD, Bovine viral diarrhea, is most common in young cattle (6–24 mo old). The clinical presentation can range from inapparent or subclinical infection to acute and severe enteric disease to the highly fatal mucosal disease complex characterized by profuse enteritis in association with typical mucosal lesions.
In pregnant cattle, BVDV may cross the placental barrier and infect the fetus. The consequences of fetal infection usually are seen several weeks to months after infection of the dam and depend on the stage of fetal development and on the strain of BVDV. Infection of the dam near the time of fertilization may result in reduced conception rates. Infection during the first 4 mo of fetal development may lead to embryonic resorption, abortion, growth retardation, or persistent infection. Congenital malformations of the eye and CNS result from fetal infections that occur between months 4–6 of development. Fetal mummification, premature birth, stillbirth, and birth of weak calves also are seen after fetal infection.
Persistent infection is an important sequela of fetal infection with noncytopathic BVDV. Persistently infected calves may appear healthy and normal in size, or they may show stunted growth and be prone to respiratory or enteric ailments. They often have a short life span, and death before 2 yr of age is common. Persistently infected cows always give birth to persistently infected calves, but most calves sired by a persistently infected bull will not be infected with virus in utero. Lesions attributable to BVDV often are not seen in persistently infected cattle at necropsy. Antibody against BVD seldom is detected in persistently infected cattle in the absence of vaccination or superinfection with an antigenically heterologous BVDV. Persistently infected cattle exposed to BVDV that is antigenically different from their resident noncytopathic virus can produce antiviral antibody. Therefore, screening for persistent infection using serologic tests to identify animals that lack antiviral antibody may not detect some persistently infected cattle.
Johne's, Paratuberculosis, is a chronic, contagious granulomatous enteritis characterized in cattle by persistent diarrhea, progressive weight loss, infertility, debilitation, and eventually death.
BLV, Bovine lymphosarcoma, Leukemia, Malignant lymphoma., animals commonly show lesions in the central or peripheral lymph nodes, leading to lymphadenopathy. Lesions of the abomasum may lead to signs of cranial abdominal pain, melena, or abomasal outflow obstruction. Pelvic limb paresis progressing to paralysis can occur in animals with extradural spinal lesions. Retrobulbar lesions cause protrusion of the globe, resulting in exposure keratitis and eventually proptosis. Lesions of the right atrium may be mild and undetectable clinically, or may cause arrhythmias, murmurs, or heart failure. Uterine lesions may lead to reproductive failure or abortion. Lesions of the internal organs typically involve the spleen, liver, or kidneys and ureters. Lesions of the spleen are often initially asymptomatic but may result in rupture of the spleen and exsanguination into the peritoneal cavity. Lymphosarcoma of the liver is often asymptomatic but may lead to jaundice and liver failure. Disease of the kidney and ureter can lead to abdominal pain and the subsequent development of hydroureter or hydronephrosis and clinical signs associated with renal failure.
Additionally, two of our Jersey family milk cows are going to homes out of state. They're required to have a veterinarian physical inspection and Health Certificate to cross state borders. Both Buttercup and Munchkin were tested Negative for TB, Tuberculosis.
Our entire herd is compliant with the Idaho required vaccination program for BANGS Disease, Brucellosis. They are vaccinated by a veterinarian between 4-12 months, ear tagged with a serial number, and tattooed in the right ear.
We're so happy to know our cows have the best chance at a long, productive life. Any new animals joining our herd are screened by a vet, tested, and quarantined for a month of observation. As we learn more, we implement additional protocols to protect our herd from these deadly infections.
All the best,
We recently joined the International Mini Cattle Breeders Society & Registry as Lifetime Members. This, to us, shows our long term commitment to breeding generations of Mini Jerseys that are each better than the one before. We've taken steps to establish quality stock and register all our herd. From here out all cattle we breed will be registered. We are listed now on the registry website.
We have procured several large pieces of equipment needed to harvest our own hay for the first time. After years of doing it on shares, 50/50 split with the harvesting farmer, we will be baling our own small square hay bales. We hope to have some extra to sell to cover costs and turn a little profit. Earning an income for our efforts, while providing for ourselves and neighbors, has always been the goal. We're SO close!
These new milestones excite us for the direction we're headed and the future of our homestead. For the past few years we've done so much dreaming. Then, it almost seems like overnight we're making huge strides to have a self-sustaining homestead!
Have a great Spring!
From the moment we arrived in Idaho we were in a race to meet Winter head on. We had footers for the foundation but needed a home with a heat source and insulation against the negative temperatures we'd face. We needed shelters for the animals, ways to keep their water thawed, and the feed dry.
Some of our lumber was milled by my husband's step-father on his personal mill. He also helped us frame the house. That's our daughter, Amber, on our beams with our house dog, Lacey.
The north 40 acres were cleared from the forest by the Shouns to create hay ground and grazing for the dairy. We don't have all the equipment needed to hay it so we did shares with a local farmer. That left us just enough for our cows for the Winter. We'll be working on acquiring the machinery to hay for ourselves and our neighbors. The first step was to get this big 55HP Belarus tractor.
We threw ourselves into more work, building a quick run-in shed, hoop shelter, and feed bunk. We put up some extra alfalfa and straw then fortified the 2-horse trailer to house the chickens. We moved into our new home on Nov 13, our 23rd Wedding Anniversary. This Winter is proving to be a challenge without a barn but we plan to fix that this Summer. Yes! We have another big building project planned for our homestead.
Praise God for His many blessings and thank you all for your prayers and support.
We left Kansas at the end of April in blistering hot weather. Both of us were sunburned by the time the animals and trucks were loaded. We drove until we reached Cheyenne, WY, and stopped to sleep in our trucks. We woke up to snow, sleet, and hail!
Unfortunately, my lack of experience towing a trailer in the snow landed me in the ditch. My insurance sent a tow truck and we recouped for the night in a hotel. The cows and Livestock Guardian Dogs were boarded at the Cheyenne Stockyard. JR and Alan checked on them through the night. They gave them individual attention and we felt very relieved to have professionals looking after our animals in our absence.
Everyone had a chance to dry off, fully rehydrate, and stretch their legs. They had gotten wet and started to shiver. That had us very worried! By morning they were ready to roll.
We spent a few more nights in our trucks. The drive wasn't only long, the road conditions were treacherous in spots. At one point a wasp crawled up my steering column and flew around in my face! I'm allergic so this experience had me hysterical. I drove for days assuming it flew out. Then, as we made the final turn onto our drive in Idaho, he buzzed me again! I haven't seen him since. Good riddance!
We were so relieved to have made it safely with all the animals. Several of the mountain passes were wet and steep, with dropping temperatures after dark making them slick. We're sure the prayers of our friends and family kept us well protected and we're forever grateful.
I'll catch you up soon on all that's been happening since we arrived.
She had already nursed and Buttercup was softly mooing at her. Snowflake is our sixth heifer in a row. Actually, we've only had heifers born on our farm since 2012!
She's the last calf to be born to us in the Midwest. We're doing a Wizard of Oz theme to honor the Kansas roots of our farm. Snowflake Flurry is named for the snow that falls on Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow as they cross the poppy field and approach the Emerald City in the movie. The snow breaks the sleeping curse by the Wicked Witch. A flurry of light snow was blowing around as Snowflake was born. She even has an delicate white star on her forehead shaped like a snowflake!
Her registered name will be North Woods Snowflake Flurry. We call her Snowflake. A registered name has a breeder signifier that tells the farm that pared the cattle for breeding. Our signifier in the registry is NW. This tells everyone we're responsible for the quality of that cow. Our reputation is on the line with every cow we breed.
Moving is hard! We've moved many times but this is the first time to move a herd of Jerseys, five dogs, seven cats, and us. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt! We're getting all the Health Certificates and shots needed to safely and legally import our animals into Idaho. Some of that is easier typed than actually done.
HOW does one transport all these animals? Well, we bought a livestock trailer with a center divider gate to move the cows and cats. It was pretty badly rusted and very, very ugly. We sanded, welded, primed, painted, replaced wiring, lights, hubs, bearings, brakes, and tires. Then, we had to get a title, register, and license it. But, it's legal and road worthy now. We're pretty proud of how it turned out. What do you think of the silver and black?
We bought a smaller two-horse trailer to transport the four big Livestock Guardian Dogs. It's possible that Buttercup's tiny calf will ride with the dogs so it's not squished by a bigger cow. She's calving much closer to moving than anticipated. We think this smaller trailer is the fix for that situation. (I'm checking Buttercup every two hours at this point. She's looking very ready to calve and I don't want to miss it!)
We have tried to reduce the numbers of animals moving with us. The chickens and a Standard size bull are traveling in a small upright freezer. (We processed them for meat, silly!) The cats are mousers and will be needed there as much as they have been here. The four LGDs were bought here in Kansas to give them time to grow big enough to go to work in Idaho protecting us all from bears, wolves, eagles, cougars... They are all going. The house dog, Lacey, is going for sure! We placed all the cows I can bear to part with. We're also downsizing our family by half, as our two adult children are moving out.
So many changes and still so much to move to the Homestead. Please say a prayer nothing major happens and everyone arrives safely. If you see us on the highway wave but please don't honk and scare the animals. Or, more likely, keep driving and pretend you don't know those crazy people moving an entire farm across country!!
Catch you soon!
We started the year 2015 off on calving watch. Buttercup was bred to a Mini bull named Todd. We didn't have to wait long! On a clear warm Winter day she decided to calve in the back run-in barn. We were all present, including Spartan, our Livestock Guardian Dog. Lance was the first to touch the calf and Buttercup, this being her first calf, was eager for the help. It's a girl! We named her Munchkin in honor of our herd's roots in KS. Lorinda is also a huge Wizard of Oz fan and managed the OZ Museum's Gift Shop when we lived near Wamego, KS.
The next cow we eagerly awaited to calve was our Lead Cow, Buttermilk. She was bred to Toro, the first little bull she adopted to nurse. They produced a gorgeous, tiny, fawn heifer. Yes! Another girl! In keeping with the Oz theme, Lorinda named her Emerald. It was perfect since she was born on lush Spring green pasture behind the back barn on April 29th.
Creme Caramel was the second calf ever born on our farm. She was also expecting a Toro calf. The vet said she wasn't due until late July. Lance and I took the opportunity in late May to go to Idaho until late June. You can read about that trip in an earlier Newsletter.
While we were away Caramel surprised our kids by showing up with a tiny wet calf about 30 minutes after they had done an afternoon check on water troughs. Another heifer!!
(Do you see the theme? I hate to mention it or we might jinx ourselves as we wait for one last calf before we make the BIG move to Idaho.)
We named this sweet auburn and fawn colored girl Ruby. She was born on June 16th on the side of the front barn. The side that isn't visible from the farmhouse or troughs!
We'll talk soon!
While Lance was still in the Army we daydreamed of the place we would settle when he retired. Being from Washington State originally we both wanted green trees and four seasons. He dreamed of land to raise a couple cows. I wanted to be hidden in the trees where I couldn't see a single neighbor and they couldn't see us. These were lofty dreams from our small government apartment on a military installation!
We considered several areas, looking at land prices, homeschooling laws, gun laws, property and income taxes, and benefits for retired military like VA offices and Commissary shopping. Western Texas and northern Idaho were at the top of our list. Idaho was closer to our families so my in-laws started looking for us. They had never lived outside of Washington. They fell in love with Idaho and we both put in offers of adjoining large country acreage lots.
We chose a lot with almost half tall pines and half acreage, a year-around stream, and mountain views. They chose a stream and a creek and nestled at the foothills of a mountain. At the time there were no roads in but it had been logged a bit previously so there were some clearings. We're building our home inside one of those logged clearings.
We've been working for nearly six years to obtain permits, install a long compacted gravel driveway, run power from the road, install a well with sand trap and pump, put the septic tank and drainage in place, pour foundation footers and fill it with densely compressed small gravel. I'm sure I'm forgetting something. It's been a long few years to get this far but we've done it without any debt and I'm really proud of that.
See ya soon!
idaho in june
We needed to fence the perimeter of our acreage to contain our cows when we arrive next Spring. Our county is Open Range so the neighbors can turn out their herd to graze wherever they like, including our property. Our cows are much smaller than average and a breeding to a beef breed bull would likely kill them. A strong fence is very important for our herd! While we were there, Lance and my father-in-law put in the footers for the foundation of the house. We also needed to run water and power to the future farmhouse and barn locations. My dad and Lance installed a huge mailbox way up on the road before the gate to our looong gravel driveway.
I actually thought installing the fencing was pretty fun! Don't the round corner posts just scream "homestead"? We laughed and worked so hard that we slept like logs all night. Nothing brings a couple closer than working on a common goal.
My in-laws have a nice barn with a stall I can use next Summer to milk and for the calves to be locked in at night. We also plan to install a couple quick three-sided pole barns as shelter from sun, wind, rain, and snow. Jerseys grow a thick coat in Winter and shed for the hot Summer temps. But, even with my best coat on cold can cut to the bone. We want them to be happy so shelters will go up, meanwhile, they have the tall pines to rest under.
Now, to get a slab poured and house built before Winter 2016 or else we'll be sleeping in the barn too!