Earlier this morning my grandfather was getting ready to go and inspect our crops. Because of the large amount of rain after we seeded some of our barley, combined with the cold weather, the seeds rotted. When the seeds rot, it means no crop for us, so my dad is hard at work this afternoon trying to re-seed the crops that were ruined by the weather. This is just one of those everyday challenges that farmers face. Re-seeding a patch of land means we have to pay for more seed, more fuel in the tractors, and we have to wait for an even later harvest. Lucky for my dad and grandpa, our little Border Collie, Lady, loves the opportunity to ride in the tractor, so they always have company.
Anyways, back to the moose. My grandpa jumped in his truck and as he was driving towards the pasture he spotted what he thought was a large horse in the small pasture separating our houses. Wrong. That was no horse.
Fact: moose are the largest members of the deer family and they often stand taller than a large saddle horse (they don't compare to the heavy horses).
So.. When most people think of a moose they compare them to a horse. BUT did you know that moose have cloven feet (a split down the front) just like a COW!! Horses on the other hand have hooves that do not have splits but are one piece.
Fact: A male moose is called a Bull Moose, and a female moose is called a Cow Moose. It seems as though they are getting more and more like the cattle we farm, and less like horses as I once suspected.
|Cow and calf|
My grandpa was shocked to see the moose that close to buildings, just strolling around. My grandma was so excited as she told me this story. She had asked Grandpa if the moose had any antlers. None that he had seen. Grandma stated that it must be a girl then, if it didn't have antlers. That isn't always true!
Fact: A moose begins growing antlers in spring or midsummer, and it isn't until the late summer and autumn that a mature bull carries its rack of antlers. So, being that it is only mid June, the moose may not have started growing them yet. Bull moose shed their antlers each winter, just to grow a new set in the spring. Antlers and horns are two very different things. Horns stay on an animal their entire life, like on a cow. Antlers regrow each year, like on the moose, elk and deer!
Fact: Since the antlers are shed each year, the size of the antlers has nothing to do wiht the age of the animal, it does however have something to do with the health of the animal. In order have to have great antlers the animal needs to have a large source of calcium to grow these antlers. Where does this calcium come from when they have a strict diet of veggies?? Their own BONES, primarily their rib cage! So, these animals need to be pretty healthy to be able to afford to give so much calcium from their own bones!
Fact: When it is time for baby making, the bulls with the largest antlers usually get the hottest cows. Of course they have to compete with other bulls. All the competing eventually uses up energy and strength that the bulls have saved for the long winter which can sometimes cause them to be very rundown before winter and possibly mean death during the cold. It is a sad ending for many of the handsome, big racked male moose, but at the time of mating, those bulls are getting the most tail! The moose population is one population where saying "nice rack" is highly accepted!
Fact: Moose are ruminants just like our cattle! They spend much of their life chewing their cud. For all those who don't know, ruminant means that their stomach is divided into four discrete sections, in other words, four different stomachs. For a moose, their diet can often contain fibrous plants, as well as branches and leaves from trees. Just like cows, moose regurgitate and rechew their food after it has spent sometime fermenting in one of their four stomachs. So if you ever see a cow chewing while lying down with their eyes closed, that is a good sign that they are relaxed and enjoying the meal that they literally "saved for later". With our show cows, we can always tell when they are calm when they start chewing their cud in the show ring, or while their tied up getting brushed.
|The four parts of the ruminant stomach, a moose has this too!|
Fact: Moose can pretty well dwell in any terrain. With their long, stilt-like legs, they are powerful swimmers and can easily walk across fallen trees. They have large hoobes which help them to wade through snow, and the spongy muskeg on which they love grabbing a bite. You would think that with their large size and big antlers (spanning anywhere from 120-150 cm) that they would make a great deal of noise walking through trees, crashing into things and such. However, they are well adapted to pretty well any surrounding and are silent as they move through the trees. I have enough problems sneaking up on people with size 3 feet, and a small mass of 120 pounds, I can't imagine weighing over 1000 pounds, with a huge set of antlers, and large feet, and still being able to silently move somewhere.
|This caption shows where four different types of moose live in North America. These four breeds have a pretty good span of the continent!|
This isn't the first time that we have had interesting wildlife on our farm! Since I have been alive we have had badgers, a cougar by the barn and a black bear in the pasture, as well as countless deer, coyotes, foxes, and the friendly old beavers and porcupines!