Carpe diem, or actually, seize the calf. I’m working on a post about the state of grass in August, culling, stocking rate etc., and this opportunity to write about culling presented itself. Culling is hard to do, but necessary. If I don’t mind the store, the store won’t take care of me. This little cutie’s mom is a problem cow. She’s a poor doer, and to make matters worse she didn’t wean her calf from last year. While I suppose some may find that endearing, or an expression of her mothering skills, I find it problematic. If her big fourteen month old calf is nursing, is he going to stop in time to save for colostrum for his new sibling? NO. There is no Disney world when it comes to animals and what they do or don’t do. It’s pretty simple. Cow weans calf, or doesn’t. Almost all our cows wean their calves, almost. I don’t keep the ones that won’t. Weaning is one of those tasks that I don’t care to get started on, about like turning the compost pile. Nature can take its course sometimes if we let it. Or we can pick and choose when to intervene.
So this is an opportunity for me to sell this cow before winter and keep her calf, and possibly raise it better than she could. Sometimes you just need to take a different road than the one you intended. Having purebred dairy cow affords me a little wiggle room when it comes to raising an extra calf. Weighing my options, I have to choose between having enough cream to make a year’s worth of butter, which then leaves me with a lot of skim milk. Or I can feed an extra calf and forgo the ample butter supply. Feeding cow’s milk to a calf is really a no brainer, it’s their perfect food. Sure I could get some pigs, or feed it to the chickens, but all those things require some processing on my part.
I choose less butter, selling the cow, and raising the calf that I have already invested a year’s worth of feed and worry on. If the cow could properly raise her calf, I might think differently but she’s proven me right on a few counts. All my other cows are doing well and weaning their calves, to keep her is to short them. Our hay stockpile doesn’t look like it’s hard winter worthy. And who can predict the weather? One thing for certain a cow (or hen or any other farm animal) that doesn’t produce well, eats just as much as the ones who do. Sharpened pencil at the ready.
All this comes home to roost on my bad decisions. I have found with my cows that every single bad thing that happens to them is a chink in the armor, er, leather I guess. This cow disappeared for three days when she was a baby, she had some first milk, but every day without food is multiplied one hundred fold when a calf is a newborn. Her mom broke off a horn when she was a yearling…lost this calf for three days, had a still-born the next year. I should have, SHOULD HAVE, culled the broken horn heifer before she became a cow. Hindsight is always so clear, every little thing adds up to one big thing. This baby’s mama most likely doesn’t have tip-top rumen function, hence the weakness in the “doing well in the program” department. It’s not to say that I couldn’t salvage her by bringing her home, feeding her who knows what concoction of feedstuffs to help her do as well as the other cows that do well on grass, water, and minerals. I need cows that do well on the grass, our hay in winter, minerals and water. I know you readers know that I do make exceptions for Jane, but dairy cows are different. For this cow I have to add another “O” to the three “O’s” already used in culling. I’m adding Obtuse to the Old, Open and Ornery. she’s not old, she bred back easily, and she’s definitely not ornery, but she is a little slow on the uptake. She didn’t care that I took her calf, a couple of obligatory moos and that was that. Jane is more concerned about this new baby than his own mother. Just ask Grady, it’s hard enough learning about milk cow stuff, now Jane has two calves to protect from the “wolf?”
So here we go, the newest beastie boys. We’re calling the new charge Lo Fat because we are shorting ourselves of butter. Stay tuned for the August pasture walk post.
Finally milk for the house.
Five minutes old – amazing.
Jane so far has blessed us with early evening births. No middle the night stuff for her, yet.
The barnyard was busy last night, barn cat eye shine in the distance. The milk cow freshening is a great thing for everyone. People, calf, dogs, cats, chickens. And wow, did I say humans? That’s life people. In the last fifteen hours, Jane has eaten her afterbirth, her calf’s first poop and she has swigged from the milk bucket full of colostrum.
If you’ve never handled a baby calf, they are wet, slippery and surprisingly weak and strong all at the same time. A friend called last night to check on Jane just as she was calving, so she came on up the hill and we helped this guy find his legs and first meal under the stars.
I fell into bed last night, I had been so worried, it’s hard to describe. The relief of seeing that calf on the ground washed over me like a flood. You don’t know how stressed you are until you’re not. It was obvious since afternoon that Jane was in labor. Seeing rear feet finally presented didn’t help my worry at all. As long as there is progression you’re okay, but if the calf gets stalled, you don’t have much time to waste, if the umbilical tears or is compressed the calf will start to breathe and take in amniotic fluid and die. Deep breath, for me. It was fast, but Reese was little rattly. My friend, (and Jane’s) a homeopath was quick on the draw, “Ant Tart” she says, for drowning. Nothing like a good friend who knows her shit and a cow homeopathic kit.
The first week is the hardest, you watch for milk fever, or a million other things that can go wrong. Observe, observe, observe and get to work. No more leaving dirty dishes in the sink. My dish load just quadrupled.