Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Preparing for cows

Ever since Don and I returned from our second honeymoon, we've been slamming for one single goal: The arrival of the cows we purchased. (If you recall, we bought a Jersey heifer and an Angus cow/calf pair a few weeks ago). We knew, as soon as we got home, that working on infrastructure would be at the top of our to-do list. The animals were set to arrive in the first couple days of June.

Frustratingly, a lot of the work fell on Don because I was busy with my online job. In addition to my usual three days a week, I'm also covering for a couple of coworkers who needed some time off, so I've been working more days than usual. Don's been a tremendously good sport about my lack of participation, but I still feel bad that he's doing the lion's share of labor.

The biggest thing we're focusing on is fencing. There isn't one spot on the property that has suitable fencing to keep cows in. Some places have three strands of wire (barbed or unbarbed); other places have field fence which has been compacted and crushed down over time; yet other places have no fencing at all.

We started with the lower driveway, which divides the property into the lower pasture and the house/yard. This was an area with three strands of unbarbed wire, entirely unsuited for keeping cows confined. Don began by weed-whacking along the fence line.


Then we rolled out some field fencing and got busy. (We had purchased ten rolls of field fence several years ago, when prices were lower. How glad we are to have it!)

We got it hooked roughly into place, but didn't tighten it.

That was as far as we got before we left on our trip. Now that we're back, we got busy! There was so much to do, we almost didn't know where to start.

We began by cleaning the area behind the barn, since this would become our "feed lot." It was mostly fine, except it held some debris from cleaning out the barn, notably some old particle-board cabinets that used to be in the kitchen. Years before we bought the place, someone had remodeled and installed new particle-board cabinets in the kitchen, and the old ones had been stored in the barn ever since. We moved them out back when we cleaned out the barn, and these had been sitting out in the rain and snow for a year. It was time to get rid of them.

At this stage, they were pretty rotted, and it wasn't hard to flatten them and load them in the bucket of the tractor. The pieces were heavy, though – they had absorbed lots of water!

Don dumped the debris into the back of the truck, and I drove it to a recycling facility in another town.

Next, Don used the tractor to scrape out the ground in front of the barn doors. Frustratingly, these doors open outward (rather than opening sideways on rollers), which means the ground has to be scraped out. Eventually we'll need to install a drain in front of the doors. We also have roller rails, so when time permits we can replace the door hinges with the rollers.

And wouldn't you know it, in the middle of all this industry, the tractor died! The culprit, though we didn't realize it at the time, was water in the diesel (the barrel of diesel is stored outside). Who knew diesel absorbed water so readily? It took a week to get a mobile diesel mechanic out here, so that delayed our work somewhat.

So, temporarily without the force-multiplying strength of the tractor, Don and I reverted to muscle power.

This is the area behind the barn destined to become the feed lot. (That's an upside-down water tank on the left.) This needed to be stoutly fenced.

Fortunately we had on hand a number of horse panels. We purchased these back in 2021 in what we called a "screamin' good deal." They were being sold by some wealthy horse breeders who were upgrading to the next best model. We walked away with seventeen 12-foot panels, twelve 10-foot panels, and two 10-foot panels with 6-foot built-in gates – all six feet in height and with a total run of 344 linear feet. We got them for an unbelievably low price.

We've used these panels for unrelated projects such as building a temporary woodshed. Now it was time to put these to the use for which they were intended. 

We first used up the panels that were leaning against the barn.

Then we needed to disassemble the temporary woodshed and harvest the rest of the panels.

Because the tractor was out of commission, we carried these panels one by one all the way from the front of the property to the back. It. Was. Not. Easy. (They're heavy and bulky.)

We fastened the panels together and made a sturdy corral. Surprisingly I didn't take a photo of the finished product. I think I was simply too exhausted to remember to take one.

One of the smarter things we did, however, was built a sort of "chute" arrangement along the side of the barn leading toward the feed lot in back. This, we hoped, would make it easy to unload incoming animals. (Spoiler alert: It did.)

Don made a gate to keep the cows on their side of the barn.

He also made the start of feed boxes (the slatted portion) and got it installed.

Because the feed box itself wasn't constructed yet, he installed a portion of hog panel over the front so the incoming calf couldn't slip through.

One thing we had concerns about was the concrete floor of the barn. In our last place, the floors were gravel, and we were worried that concrete would be hard and cold and uncomfortable for livestock. So we budgeted and saved up for rubber floor mats, and purchased those in late April. They sat in our driveway, awaiting installation.

We got the tractor fixed just in time to move the mats, which is a good thing. They're about 90 lbs. each and floppy, which would have made them – in Don's words – "a b*tch to move" had the tractor been unavailable. As it was, we were able to use the forks to hold the pallet they came on, load a few mats at a time on the pallet, then move them to the back side of the barn. Easy peasy.

I swept out the barn section...

...then Don brought in the mats.

It was definitely a two-person job getting them laid out.

The last immediate thing we needed to do before the arrival of the first animals was get the water tank installed. There is a convenient tap right outside the barn.

We brought in a load of gravel to level the area...

...then settled the tank on top. I installed a float valve, which means it will stay full.

Oh yeah, one final thing: a mineral block and a bloat block.

Next step: Cows!


  1. When does this continue?

  2. Your joy at the hard work is amazing. Good luck with the livestock!

  3. I'm sure you know of Diesel Kleen to preserve the fuel. It works.

    Also itd be a great idea for Don to write up how he is building that fence. Either a post here or some income from a backwoods home article (hint). I have to make one on a hill for goats we may get and have NO idea how yet.

    1. Goats! Ha, ha, ha ! They kind of think outside the box!
      I was going to a nearby town not long ago and somebody's goat was up on top of their big shed! Before that I had thought the privacy fence blocking the view to their yard was for privacy. Afterward I wondered if it was just a stepping stone to the roof.
      One of my neighbors has sheep, some unique kind, he said because goats can eventually chew through anything, including metal. But his sheep get in the road all the time. When a car come it's just up and over the fence, back into their place.
      Good luck with your goats.

  4. I want you to get prepared for your chickens soon too. Here's why.
    This has been kept from us supposedly, according to an article I just read, but egg yolks bind with spike proteins thus protecting us from troubles from certain viruses we prefer to avoid.
    Perhaps this is conspiracy theory, but the article cited this as fact contributing to the destruction of chickens , by , who knows.
    We are schooled on the hazards of eating eggs, but health advocates proclaim their benefits to liver function in promoting bile flow, and brain function as well.
    I just like eggs almost as much as dairy and beef.
    The health hazard from eating beef is actually some sugar in it that's hard to digest, but which is neutralized by eating fermented dairy, like yogurt. So pass the greek yogurt for your baked potato!