Friday, June 24, 2011

Cows, Calves, and Meetings

I found a solution to the bad weather vs working out dilemma: I can work out where they house the cows! Of course, it’s where only people and tractors go- aka on the opposite side of the cows. This way, if it rains, I can still exercise. I ended up working out Monday and Tuesday, but not yesterday. I had pushed it a bit too much and so Wednesday I was way too sore. In fact, for the morning, I would compare myself to a zombie robot: I was doing what was necessary for the farm with a dead on straight stare as if I was sleep walking. Therefore, after breakfast, I took a 1.5-2 hour nap AGAIN. (This was my 3rd day in a row of taking a 1.5-2 hour nap, which is very unlike me.)

Tuesday was a day of cleaning up the farm. Isabelle and I got to ride on the front of the tractor as if it was a ride at the fair! Once we rounded up all of the empty bags, mini rope, and so on, we hopped in the tractor with Michel(grandfather) and drove to the area where they burn their garbage. It’s not very good for the environment, but it’s better than taking up more dumpster space on this Earth. (We don’t want Earth to turn into WALLEE’s Earth after all!) That night, we all enjoyed Croque Madames for dinner; bread stuffed with eggs, ham, and tomatoes all baked in the oven with Swiss cheese sprinkled on top.

Wednesday was … well let’s say there have been better days. For one, the wind was very angry, making everything much more difficult outside. Isabelle, Esteban, and I did some weeding in the garden and eventually moved on to filling another sack full of some sort of fodder for the cows. In the middle of our work, Isabelle’s friend stopped by and they went inside to have a chat over some OJ. (They don’t drink too much coffee or tea) I decided to stay outside and continue with the work. Not even 2 minutes later, Michel showed up and helped me fill the rest of the sack, wherein we then hitched it onto the tractor and brought it over to the cows. Following, we commenced the milking of the cows and then all went out to rally up some heifers from another pasture. It was really annoying because the heifers kept breaking the electric barrier as well as turning back around to the original pasture. We ended up only taking one back because she was giving birth! During our walk back to the barn, an intern, Marlen, from a local goat farm joined us in helping with the birth. The problem was, the labor had started days ago and they were some complications. As a result, the calf was somewhat dry, making the birth very difficult. It took many hands, many ropes, and lots of lubricating oil to get this calf out of the poor cow. If you haven’t guessed yet, the calf had died days ago. The next morning, someone came to retrieve the calf for proper incineration and disposal. It was sad: it was the first birth of the heifer, but the calf didn’t make it. In the end, she turned around to see what had caused her so much difficulty and pain; I don’t know if she realized what it was, but it was nevertheless a sad sight.

 For yesterday, Jean-Michel and I went to a meeting for the Normande cattle breed. It turns out Nicolas, Sebastian, David, and a few other people that I knew had come to the meeting! I also met some more French interns as well as one from the Netherlands(He didn’t speak very much French – English was much preferred)! The meeting was all about the Normande cattle breed from milk production to fertility to everything else really. Normande heifers(36 months I believe) are inseminated later than are Holstein heifers(24-28 months). I believe the reason being is the size of the cows; Holstein cattle are larger than are Normande and so grow larger sooner. Also, Holstein cattle(which by the way are the black and white cows) produce more milk. However, Normande cattle(white, brown, black, brown-red – in my opinion prettier J ) produce milk with a higher concentration of proteins and lipids. Therefore, Normande milk is more often used for the production of cheese, yogurt, etc. The meeting ended up lasting 3 hours, but since I had friends sitting by me it wasn’t so bad … I was also reading my French expressions book since “French cow talk” is really hard to follow. Afterward, we had lunch and then all left for the farm. At the farm, several presentations were taking place: cows, heifers, calves, fodder/food, and tractor technology for feeding the cattle.  I didn’t get through all of the presentations because we left to milk the cows back at home. Nevertheless, I still got some pictures!

This morning I helped again with the milking, had breakfast, and then was given time off for myself. So now I’m sitting at my computer relaxing with my pillow and blanket, searching for recipes (for France and home<3), listening to Sarah McLachlan, and who knows what else. Tonight we’re all going to see the fireworks for the celebration of the town. Here in France, there are many celebrations: each individual town, music, school, etc. Do we have days like these back in the U.S.?

Isabelle bottle feeding the day old calf (now about 5-6 days old)

Jean-Michel feeding the cows silage(contains corn, hay, alfalfa, and more?) with the tractor. Afterward, he gives the cows their minerals (salt and a mixture of calcium, phosphorus, etc)

Jean-Michel, Michel, Mary-Lyon, me, and Marlen helping with a birth

Father and son with the stronger, more durable rope. In this picture, you can see the calf's two legs and head, with its tongue sticking out.

Presentation #1 - Nicolas at the right

David presenting a Normande cow

Normande heifer calves

Somehow these picture didn't make it in my past blogs: (now you can see me on the horse as well as me with Nicolas and Anais at the beach!) 

*Life is good* ... J’aime bien la vie (I love life)

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