January 6, 2015

Morning Chores

Sometimes the only way to convince a three year old to do chores is to pull him on the sled. We have quite a few morning chores to do around here and he gets tired of it, but when there's snow I usually pull him on the sled and that makes it fun for him. Takes me a little longer, but at least I've got some cooperation from a strong willed child!

First thing is to grain the replacement heifers. There are 20 right now, soon to be 30. Five poundsa piece equals 100 pounds. This is the time of year I get buff  from all the feeding chores I guess!

Here is the insides of the bale processor. I will try to explain to you how it works. The big auger type mechanism in the middle has some tines on it that rip into the bale. Right now there is all this twine wrapped around it because its been too hard to remove as a result of the icy, snowy, windy conditions. The Ranch Hand takes a blow torch to it and melts it all off. It still works fine with the twine until it really builds up. Not quite there yet.

 Next I drive into the stack yard and back up to the row of bales I am feeding. There are two spears on the back of the processor that move up and down. Lower them all the way to the ground, back up under the bale, then lift it up into the hopper of the processor.

 It took a while to learn how to do this, but then you let the spears down again making sure they are all the way to the ground. This is more of a timing and "feel" type of thing, so you don't have to keep getting out of the tractor to see if they are on the ground yet. Now back straight up into the row again. When the tractor starts to struggle you know you've reached the bale and it is in the position to be raised. Sometimes you have to pull forward because the bales get stuck on each other. Once again this is a "feel" type of thing. If you watch in your side mirror you can see when it is raised up sufficiently and directly behind the one in the hopper.

 Quite a bit of snow in these hardened drifts surrounding our stack yard.

 I also needed a bale of alfalfa for the replacement heifers, so I picked one up with the pallet forks.

 After some practice you learn how to get it right in the center of the bale ring. Lifting the loader up high and then tilting the forks down it will slide off into position of your tractor is in the right location. There's something about bales of hay that makes kids want to climb on them.

 After feeding the barn cats, and chopping some ice on the bulls' water tank it is off to the west pasture to check water and feed the main herd. The wind has really been whipping, this is what it did to the wires above the stock tank. Luckily the overflow was still working, no chopping ice over here!

 Time to feed the bales. Here are the tractor controls. I will attempt to explain to you how the feeding goes. The big shifter on the left is the speed ranges; low, medium, and high. For feeding it is in medium. On the orange button there are plus and minus signs. 1 being the slowest and 8 being the fastest- in each speed range. The lever with the blue outline controls those two spears on the back of the processor, up and down. The green one spins two arms inside the hopper, they feed the bale into those tines I mentioned earlier. That auger looking part with the tines is run off of the PTO, which is turned on by that yellow knob. RPM's are controlled by the small orange lever at the bottom of the photo. So... medium range, speed 2 or 3. RPM's all the way down, turn on PTO, raise RPM's to about 2300. Use the green lever to feed the hay into the tines and it shoots out the side of the processor, I guess I don't have a photo of that.... sorry! Kinda hard to take photos and feed at the same time. When you finish the first bale turn off the PTO, lower RPM's, dump the second bale into the hopper and repeat. That's all there is to it.

 This is the PTO under the yellow protector. It turns the mechanism inside that rips up the hay.

 Processed hay seems to feed better than just laying it out for them. It's more palatable and they seem to waste less. We are about 60 days away from calving, it's the last chance to put some condition on these cows before they are supporting their calves. After that it will all go to milk production. If the snow would melt, there is still plenty of feed in this pasture as it wasn't grazed all year. Still, there's something about feeding your cows that makes you feel good.

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