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Plan L

May 31, 2010

Thanks so much for your thoughts and kind words.  It is kinda empty around the barnyard without Della.  But it is also a relief to not have to worry what I would find when I walked around the end of the barn.  Bruce asked in the comments if I would do anything different after this outcome.  I don’t have a simple answer.  Except I would say No, I would have still bred her since she didn’t seem to have any fertility problems.  Usually if I cull a cow, she has lost her calf and doesn’t re-breed and therefore  is open even after being exposed to a bull.  Sometimes we eat them ourselves, sometimes they are sold as dog food and sometimes they just go to the sale barn.  And as you all know I think of my milk cows differently than I do my beef cows.  For me it has to do with the numbers I guess.  I only have one milk cow, not wanting two, but we have several beef cows and I am pretty hands off with them.  So I don’t get that attached.  Milk cows are also more productive.  My beef cows are expected to produce a calf each year, re-breed within 60- 90 days and raise that calf.  My milk cow is expected to produce a calf, re-breed within 60- 90 days, and provide us with dairy products.  Della living a productive 12 years is pretty good for a dairy cow.  And pretty good for a beef cow too.  It’s my personal rule to not eat my milk cows.  Purely emotional, not economical at all.  I just haven’t been that hungry yet, and am willing to take the loss.  I don’t feel Della owes me to the last penny.  Maybe some Disney creeping in there, but while I couldn’t eat Della, I didn’t have any problem eating steak for dinner Sunday night, and neither did anyone else here, even Hangdog who had to do my bidding and put Della out of her misery, and bury her.  I doubt he will regale the fellows at work with his holiday weekend stories on Tuesday.  It would probably horrify them since it involves guns, heavy equipment, and killing & compassion.  Meanwhile they buy their meat and dairy at Walmart…and complain about how big corporations are ruining everything… .

But back to Bruce’s question, if the numbers were reversed and I had lots of dairy cows, I would have to sharpen the pencil a little harder to make it pencil out.  But here the beef, chickens, and pigs get the sharp pencil, the dairy cow doesn’t.

So what is Plan L?

Last year I planned on maybe milking Lula (Plan L.)  Saturday we caught Lula, loaded her in the trailer and brought her to the house.  She is already demanding full attention and is due any day.  Funny how I don’t worry about the beef cows and their due dates.  I keep a wall calendar in the kitchen with important dates.  Important dates mean butcher dates, cow breeding and cow due dates, and pasture notes.  Crude cave drawing-like notes, but it works for me.  We have so few cows now, that a calendar works just fine.  Today when I went to move the cows, there were two new calves.  While building fence and moving the water trough and minerals, the calves got up and nursed (not for the first time either, judging from the vigorous butting of the udders), the cows had cleaned and all was well.  That has always been my calving experiences for the most part.  We have rarely ever had many troubles.  That is why I don’t worry too much about the beef cows.  Now if they can escape cougar predation we are good to go.

So Plan L?  I don’t really think Lula has enough milk to raise her calf and Jane, but she does have enough for us to have our raw milk and raise her calf.  I think if she raised both her calf and Jane, both would get shorted, so I am thinking that is not wise.  Jane is acclimated to milk replacer now, and is drinking two gallons a day in 4 feedings.   I will have good fresh milk, but no butter, but Della had me pretty stocked up, we have some left in the freezer, which I will dole out and we will wait.  At the rate things are going, Jane will have her first calf before we know it.


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23 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2010 10:22 pm

    Thanks for responding positively to my blunt question; I thought a while about how to phrase it, but finally decided that straigtht to the point was appropriate. I appreciate your thoughts.

    The last batch of holstein bull calves i raised I was advised to feed them 2 quarts of milk replacer twice a day, which I dutifully did, mostly for fear of scours. You’re feeding 4x a day and twice the milk replacer; scours possible? The little steers did just fine; transitioned them to a little alfalfa and calf manna, and then to pasture at about 6 months. Think I would have had a larger calf if I’d fed them twice as much?

    The market on holstein bull calves is improving. In the 24 months since I purchased mine at $5 they’re now going for $25 each. Not much improvement, but a little better.

    • June 1, 2010 5:31 am

      Bruce, most questions are blunt anyway – no problem. I don’t pay much attention to the directions on the bag of milk replacer, which does recommend 2 qts – 2 x a day. I am trying to duplicate with lesser foodstuffs what Jane would be getting if she was nursing. The milk replacer bag directions have to be “idiot proof” (like McDonalds’s hot coffee warning) for all the calves that don’t get adequate colostrum at birth, and mostly to satisfy the labor constraints of a dairy. I’m working on a post about my feeding practices, I’ll address scours there.

      Would your calves be bigger? Probably not, but they might have been healthier and would live longer, but since you will butcher them you will never really know. Where it may be telling is your heifer, a cow’s digestive tract is their lifeblood, and is important to their longevity, just like any other species. If she lives to at least 10, births 8 calves successfully and has no metabolic upsets along the way, you will know that feeding a gallon of milk replacer per day was good enough. I keep meaning to ask you do you know if she was a free martin or not? Just asking because not too many dairies cull heifers at birth.

  2. June 1, 2010 6:17 am

    Good luck with Lula!

  3. June 1, 2010 9:11 am

    I’m glad you have a resource (Lula) to go to! I’m also looking forward to watching Jane grow up and take her place in the order of things….

    • June 1, 2010 11:56 am

      Paula, Lula is doing great, she is timid in the herd anyway, so this suits her just fine, as for Jane she is doing great 🙂

  4. June 1, 2010 11:49 am

    Sorry to hear about Della’s passing 😦 We milk our beef x Jersey cow called Mocha and we get cream on her milk but not as much as a Jersey. Why is it that you think you will not have butter from Lula?
    ~David

    • June 1, 2010 11:58 am

      David, I probably will can get some butter, but not near the quantity I could with Della, Lula’s udder is so much smaller – but you never know she might surprise me 🙂

      • June 2, 2010 3:27 am

        Thats what we thought when we decided to milk Mocha but she surprised us too. The udder on beef cows is more inside their body then a dairy breed.
        ~David

  5. June 1, 2010 11:51 am

    Sorry to hear about Della. Really. I understand your beef=table dairy=funeral. My wife would be the same way.

  6. June 1, 2010 11:59 am

    photobby, I guess it is the chicken way out, but I would have to be pretty hungry to eat one the milk cows. Haven’t had to cross that bridge yet.

  7. June 1, 2010 12:33 pm

    I was wondering about Lula, and if she would help fill in for Della. Hope her calving goes well. Are we hoping for a girl there, too? So glad that Jane is doing well. Sweet little Jane. Is she following you around? Is there a story around how you picked her name? Would love to hear it.

    Still feeling for you, hubby, and ruthless. I support your decisions 100%.

    Also, I have a novice milk question … hopefully it’s one that someone else is wondering as well. Is there a big taste difference (or cooking/baking performance difference) in milk from different breeds? Meaning, does Lula’s milk taste different than Della’s? I know that different breeds produce different output levels/quantities, but I’m not sure about the milk itself. Does my question make sense?

    Stay dry over there. There is a storm advisory out for my neck of the woods … heavy rain and wind expected tonight and tomorrow. I need a container for my joy. 🙂 My garden isn’t in yet.

    • June 1, 2010 3:14 pm

      Paula, I don’t care either way if Lula has a heifer or bull, just a healthy calf 🙂 Jane is following us around but she is also getting halter broke, lead trained and learning to be tethered. It’s easier to do it when they are little and we can still be the stronger part of the equation.

      LOL about the name, it’s silly really. Della was named for Della Street. Hangdog is a Perry Mason fan… So when we were thinking of baby names, we of course looked to TV. We decided on Jane for a boy or girl from The Mentalist… I wish I had some lofty, literary reason behind her name – but alas, I am a child of the boob tube 🙂 We wrote out a list of Della’s calves names last week and we were all over the map on those. Neighbors, roads, a friends brothers name, a large corporation, and country singers – you would think we would have a system by now 😉

      Lula’s milk should be rich, most beef breeds have a fairly high butterfat (4%or so) and Guernsey is around 4.8 – 5%, it’s just the quantity that is lacking in the beef breeds. I don’t expect it will taste much different, besides minor breed differences, feed has a huge impact on the flavor of milk.

      It’s raining already right now – not much garden here either!! 😦 Stay dry if possible!

  8. Marcia/WY permalink
    June 1, 2010 12:45 pm

    Lulu sounds like a good plan. Folks around here, if they milk at all, usually have a dairy/beef cross. As for eating dairy – at least a past milker – I don’t think I could do that either. The relationship that develops, especially when hand milking, is very close and personal. We have made choices in the past to eat older ewes who have turned out to be bad moms…but we do have a couple old ladies who have “earned their keep” and get to live out their life here. On a different note – question for you…have you ever used weaning rings on calves?

    • June 1, 2010 3:20 pm

      Marcia, I think that is pretty common around here too – my first milk cow that was my own, was a Holstein/Hereford X and she was a great milk cow. The butter never had the gold color of the Guernsey even on full grass, but it was no big deal it was still good.

      I never have used a weaning ring, our cows wean their calves on their own. I cull if they don’t. The last cow I culled for that actually one of Della’s daughters – Delta. She was the spitting image of Lula, but she didn’t have her resolve I guess. And Della would always wean her calf before me. Of course she had to kick me off first so I would get the idea of what she was trying to tell me… dumb human 🙂

      I have 3 old ewews that are doing a bang up job of mowing around the buildings. Cheaper to move their fence than it is to mow the grass myself.

  9. June 1, 2010 5:22 pm

    I guess I’m confused how you see a difference between the dairy cow and the beef cattle and then look down on people who buy their food from Wal-Mart. There is no difference between Della and the beef cattle you eat. They are all ruminants. They all belong to the family of bovidae. They all produce milk to raise their calves. The only difference is that you don’t take the time to develop the personal relationship with the beef cattle. It’s a defense mechanism, and that is fine if you need to shield yourself from that reality, but I don’t think it is right to look down on others who buy meat from the store.

    There is another option to breeding the cow back when you have concerns. I have four goats that will retire and live their lives out as pets. It might not be feasible on a large scale, but you said yourself you don’t have the large number of milking cows. There is no rule that you have to cull or kill an animal. This is simply how you have been socialized to believe that animals are not worthy of being a pet if they were “intended” for food.

    • Doris Maertz permalink
      June 2, 2010 12:12 pm

      Nita is not criticizing folks that buy their meat from Wal-mart, she is commenting on those whom don’t walk the walk after they talk the talk. To criticize big corporations and then buy their meat from Walmart is a HUGE oxymoron, if that’s even the right word. From what I read, Nita walks the talk. You are right when you say you are confused.

  10. June 1, 2010 8:48 pm

    Teresa, the only difference between Della and my beef cattle is that yes, I do shield myself from having too personal of a relationship with them, because I do have to sell them to justify keeping them. It is my choice. My former boss was from the Philippines and he served dog curry at his barbecues, but he kindly made the distinction for his co-workers/guests and his children which dish contained what. His children were born and raised in the States and were “socialized” that dogs were pets. He did not expect them to follow the old ways. So there can always be a give and take of customs or “sensitivities.” There should be some middle ground, where a person can fall in between the choice to salvage every possible scrap to satisfy the economic driven culture mindset we are raised with and the let every animal live out it’s life until it dies a natural life. At least that is what I am going for. I guess the deal with the dairy cows too is that usually they are sick when they die – I had given Della medications that needed a withdrawal time before slaughter – with her being down for a week and not well, plus the medications in her system wouldn’t make for the best meat. If she would have been able to stand I would not have rebred her, or ate her and she would have probably lived out the rest of her life here if I could afford it…

    As for my husband’s co-workers, I have written about them before. They rail daily about Christians ruining the world, yet they attend Christian churches, they rant about farmers tearing up the earth, using water and precious peak oil to grow vegetables, meat and dairy, yet the group of them buys a pork shoulder roast at Walmart almost weekly for the weekend poker game. They want the dams on the Columbia River torn out to save the salmon yet they all have high speed internet, 52″ TV’s, and huge yard lights because they are scared of the dark. And my personal favorite head shaker is the railroad vandalism because after all big corporations are the other cause of the world coming to an end. And as soon as they catch their breath from ranting they head off to Walmart to buy something…so yes I do look down on them being hypocrites. The sad thing is that they are all almost 60. I guess I should have clarified I was talking about people I knew personally who bought from Walmart while complaining in the next breath. I understand that many people have to buy from Walmart because they don’t have a choice or don’t see anything wrong with the business – two different things.

  11. June 1, 2010 8:54 pm

    Hmmm. I never seem to remember you stating it as “looking down” on someone, Nita. Perhaps I missed something there. Ah, confusion, it happens to the best of us…

    I myself have hopes of raising Devons on grass for beef, and am intrigued by the possibility of tapping into their multi-purpose genetics and gentling one of them enough to share a single serving of milk with me and her calf. I like your plan L.

    Looking foward to that post you’re working on, about feeding calves. I’d like to know, particularly, if the angle/height you bottle feed at in any way simulates the calf’s natural upward bend of throat, that supposedly intiates the bypass effect, contributing to optimum early gut development. I’ve probably got all the jargon mixed up but you surely know what I’m referring to…?

    • June 2, 2010 4:55 am

      TD, I didn’t remember saying it either…but it is pretty easy to offend someone when you blog.

      Your Devon plan sounds like a great idea – pick your gentlest cow, many are more than happy to share. I am lucky in that Lula is one of those bomb proof cows, she is even gentler than Della.

  12. Kay permalink
    June 2, 2010 2:00 am

    Lula is a pretty girl too, and Jane, well baby calves are just adorable. We have finally gotten all our fencing materials purchased. We will work on the fence and barn this Fall and next Spring we will get our little beef cow and our dairy cow. I am excited but scared all at the same time. We can do it though. Our home/farm is our life so there is no worry about dedicating our time to our animals. 🙂

    • June 2, 2010 4:57 am

      Kay that is exciting – and being scared just shows that you’re thinking. Sometimes over-confidence is worse and brings on more problems. 🙂

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