Among the dozens of tasks I tackle each day, some tasks are certainly less fun than others.
And, I’ll be honest, I tend to put off what I don’t enjoy. Instead of “doing the worst first,” those jobs always seem to get pushed to the bottom of my list.
In an effort to get my chores done on a more appropriate timetable, I’m always looking for ways to make the less pleasant jobs more tolerable.
Usually, making a job more enjoyable means finding a way to do it faster or with less effort or discomfort.
I recently found that these three small changes added up to make some of my calf chores a lot more likable.
Dehorning paste and duct tape
I don’t know any dairy farmer who likes dehorning calves. But the job only gets worse the longer it gets put off.
After months of hearing other dairy farmers talk about using dehorning paste and duct tape to dehorn their calves, I finally made the switch here this summer. I initially tried the paste and tape with newborn calves, but after trying it on some older calves, I found that waiting until calves are 3 to 4 weeks old works better in our system.
So far, using the paste and covering it with tape has been just as effective as the disbudder approach. Plus, the process is much easier for me and much less stressful for the calves.
Our calves are housed in a group pen with an automatic calf feeder. We do a lot of scrubbing in there. I assign the job to my kids as much as possible. But I still find myself with a brush in hand, cleaning the feeding stall, the walls, the drinking cup and grain troughs, and every other surface the calves touch.
We participated in a calf water quality study with a local company this summer and received a new scrub brush as a thank you gift. At first I thought it was just another scrub brush. Then I used it and realized that the brush’s stiffer bristles cut my scrubbing time in half.
Who would have thought brush design could make such a difference?
Needless to say, I’m a lot more willing to do the scrubbing myself now that it doesn’t take so long.
We bed our calf pen with very fine shavings and straw. After we switched to feeding our calves 12 liters or roughly 3 gallons of milk a day, keeping the pen dry became more of a challenge. The shavings keep the pen significantly drier than just straw alone.
The only problem with the shavings is handling them. We store them in a repurposed grain bin and haul them into the calf pen with a cart, which means the shavings must be shoveled into the cart. I hated shoveling shavings because the air inside the bin fills up with dust. So I would put off bedding the calf pen.
I tried dust masks and bandanas and holding my breath, but none of them made the job tolerable.
Finally, I bought myself a respirator. Now I don’t avoid the job and the calf pen gets new shavings on schedule.
Are there better ways to do the less pleasant jobs on your farm?
The author is a dairy farmer and writer from central Minnesota. She farms with her husband, Glen, and their three children. Sadie grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural communications and marketing. She also blogs at Dairy Good Life.