Questions in my head
- How many cows do I aim for in 2011?
Standard southwest stocking rate is about one cow a hectare, which usually gives you plenty of land for hay and silage as well as other things like corn or wheat. For us that would be around 70 mother cows and heifers, although we’d be more pasture-oriented and could eventually run higher. One local farmer runs about 90 on the same size farm.
I’m thinking the number of mother cows and heifers in the first year should be around 25-30. That would be big enough to do some work around the pasture but small enough as to not be overwhelming. I need to think about this further, I may choose to go smaller and increase later in the year when prices are cheap and I have a barn full of hay.
- When do I invest the effort in converting the big barn into a cow barn?
I think long term the best cow barn would be the big old wine chai. It is a big square and has easy access for tractors. I could open up the East wall to give it plenty of air. The length of that wall needs to be sufficient to handle feed access for the mother cows, and I’m not sure we have enough length there to run a full herd.
- What in the world do I do first?
There’s so much I could be doing. Here’s what’s on my mind:
- Project Warm – get the house warm for winter and the newborn.
- Project Clean – get the house organized, boxes unpacked, furniture bought, kitchen functional, everything good enough for the next couple of years.
- Project Tidy – clean up all the junk on the farm. Start by putting the mess into piles, the work on transporting the piles to the local dump (dechetterie). There are broken tiles, wood scraps, scrap metal, doors, windows, containers, accumulated old and broken pieces, …
- Project Pasture – plan and start seeding the land to get it ready for spring growth, both pastures and any winter or summer annuals we choose to grow.
- Project Cow – visit cow sellers and select the first animals for spring delivery.
- Project Pig – get a couple of pigs to use as tractors to clean up some of the messy parts of the farm.
- Project Fence – choose a perimeter fence design and install it. Go light, simple and cheap for this. Assume cows only and if we want to do sheep later we’ll have to upgrade the fence so use posts that could accept more wires in the future.
- Project Cowshed – get the 2011 cowshed site chosen and design how it will work. Get the building ready.
- Project Fodder – plan the winter food harvesting.
- Project Grazing – figure out the grazing plan. I won’t have enough animals to eat or even just tread in all the green stuff so I’ll be harvesting a lot of hay and mowing a lot of other material down to keep in under control.
And the list goes on. I didn’t mention any of the barns that need work or anything on the sales side.
Michael moved out of the salle de degustation into the villa. This makes the farm a lot more friendly since we can see him from the front of our house instead of having him around the corner.
One of the two remaining locataires moved his cows off today, leaving just the one tardy farmer. The SAFER called me to check on his status, so I told them his hay was still in the barn, his silage was still in the field and his cows were still on my pasture. They’ll be giving him a call.
Amazon is sending us a book on welding, so Jean can channel her inner Flashdance and start welding the broken things of the farm. I need to figure out an actual welder. Perhaps once we have read the book?
The major business of buying tractors is still held up by the lack of official recognition from the MSA, the farmers’social security agency. That is arriving any day now. Once that is here I can apply for bank loans and get a tractor.
We were visited bu two local Blonde breeders, Dutchmen who always seem to be winning prizes for their amazing cows. I took them on a tour of the farm and bounced ideas off them, especially about cow races, barns and numbers. They were in a similar position to me a decade ago when they moved out from Holland and they advised to start slowly. They also liked the big wine chai as a cowshed.
I know that a lot of farming is moving material, but I had an illustration today when talking with the Dutchmen about converting the wine barn into a cowshed. I pointed out the underground tanks and trenches that had to be filled and he pointed at the wall I had to demolish and told me to use the material from that to fill the gaps then top with concrete. In hindsight this is obvious, but knocking down walls and filling large holes is something I haven’t done before.