In winter, things seem quiet on the farm. The grass did finally turn tan-colored, the ground and streams are frozen. This seemed a good time of the year to invite you to a tour of the “animal facilities” and to introduce the different groups of farm animals…
Approaching the farm from the north-west (i.e., Creekhouse), we see a variety of structures that all have to do with the farm animals. From left to right, there are the old milking barn, the new loafing barn, the manure shed, the hay-storage “bubble” and the animal “bubble”.
The round bales in the foreground are bedding hay.
The image below shows the barn yard with the animal and hay-storage “bubbles” and the west end of the brand-new loafing barn.
The animal “bubble” houses several animal species and sex/age groups.
These are the bull and heifer calves less than 4 months old, who still get to spend part of the day with their mothers and to nurse from them. They are in the “bubble” for the night and during milking and feeding time of the dairy herd. In the summer, calves of this age group follow their mothers out onto the day pasture and spend 6-7 hours a day with the herd. In the winter, time with mom is reduced to 3-4 hours during mid day.
In the pen next to the small calves are the older heifer (female) calves that have been weaned and are anywhere between 4 months to more than a year old. The Farm & Arts Program is working with the 4th graders at Hawthorne Valley School to allow the children to spend time with the calves of the dairy herd.
The “boys” of that same age group are in the next pen. They include the bulls Max and Bullwinkle (the black one on the right) who are raised as future sires of the dairy herd and the heifers (first time moms). In this pen are also two oxen (one of them is on the left of this group) who are in training as draft animals.
Three sheep live in the pen across the “hallway”. These sheep belong to the Farm & Arts Program at Hawthorne Valley Farm and play a central role in the on-farm experiences offered for children and families. They arrived here last spring as lambs, have been bottle-raised, and during the summer spend their days in a pasture next to the corner garden. They are very socialized, and like to be walked on leashes for daily exercise in the wintertime. The sheep will be shorn in the spring, and their fleece will become an integral part of the fiber arts work in the Farm & Arts Program.This is Stella… and this is Luna. The third one is Lila, whose name means “nightfall” in Hebrew.
Next to the sheep lives the small flock of Farm & Arts chickens in their chicken house that was built last year by the 3rd grade of Hawthorne Valley School.
These chickens have been raised from eggs last spring. One batch hatched in the 3rd grade classroom and the other in the Learning Center and have been loved, held and cared for by many many children. The activity was so successful that it looks as though it might become an annual tradition for the 3rd grades.Our hens are a variety of breeds that give us a variety of delicious eggs. On a really cold and windy day, you’ll see them all huddled together next to the hay bales (and the heated waterer).
At the west end of the animal “bubble” are the pig pens, one for each of the three sows and one for the larger piglets (feeder pigs).
The last pig pen holds the older piglets, the “feeder pigs” who really seem to be eating most of the time…
These are the older heifers and some steers, who are around 1 1/2 years old. These heifers are not quite old enough to be bred. They have a section of the loafing barn where they can freely move around under the roof and even go out into a fenced-in section of the barn yard to catch some sunshine.
Another section of the loafing barn houses the older heifers (close to 2 years old and old enough to be bred), their bull, and the dry cows (which are dairy cows who are currently not being milked because they are close enough to calving that all their energy is allowed to go towards the developing calf).
During the time when the dairy herd is confined for milking or feeding, the heifers and dry cows get a chance for a stroll in the large barn yard.
But when they get hungry or cold, they’ll come back under the roof and to the nice clean hay offered in the barn.
The animal in the center (below) is Midget, the bull who fathers the heifers.
On the other side of the loafing barn is the section where the cows in the dairy herd do most of their eating in winter. Locking their heads in during feeding time allows each cow, independent of its status within the herd hierarchy, to have access to adequate amounts of hay.
But there is plenty of time during the winter’s days and nights, when the cows can walk around freely within and outside the barn or just rest and ruminate on a thick layer of bedding.
Stay tuned for the next blog on “A Day in the Life of the Dairy Herd” to learn more about the rhythms and movements that rule the winter days for the dairy cows and the farmers and apprentices who take care of them.
Finally, somewhat separated from the bulk of the farm animals, are the three horses of the Visiting Students Program, which play a center piece in the farm experience of school classes spending a week at Hawthorne Valley Farm. The children get to feed, groom, and ride the horses and help with the mucking out of their little stable and corral.The Visiting Students Program also is in charge of a large flock of laying hens, which are housed separately.