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December 28, 2012

An OCD cow mama can be a recipe for disaster.  I’m the OCD cow mama, not Jane, she’s the cool, calm and collected one.  Blake is now 7 months old, and for a month Jane has been “telling” me she wants to wean Blake.  However, Blake is my relief milker, so I need her.  Jane is a funny girl, to express her displeasure about Blake, she will throw her head in the air and jump away when I touch her to signal that she move over to allow Blake to nurse.  Roar Jane, you’re kind of cute when you’re mad.  I have shown Jane the almanac page that says you can’t wean when the signs are too high, they should be in the legs or lower, not in the heart or breast.  Do you know your baby will cry all night, even though she is hardly a baby anymore?  No dice.

Blake - 7 months

Blake – 7 months

I let the beef cows wean their calves, with the belief that if I keep heifers that weren’t weaned by their mothers, that I am moving my cow herd towards cows that need to have their calves weaned.  In theory that is mostly true, but Jane couldn’t be further from any natural in-the-wild cow.  Her dad showed up here in a straw, her mom died a week after she was born, yet Jane still knows what to do.  She is trying to wean her calf before she weans me, I just need to pay attention to Jane’s signals.

Let the "weaning" begin!

Let the “weaning” begin!

This is a good time to start the drying off process for Jane.  I can accelerate the process by going to once-a-day (OAD) milking and lessening the demand on her body.  I am not selling milk, so no need to push for the dollar, Blake is eating well and should consider herself lucky to be getting milk at all at her age.  Most beef farms automatically wean at 6 months and it’s usually earlier on a dairy (large or small) or you’re veal!

December 27, 2012

December 27, 2012

Jane’s condition is okay.  Nice full rumen, but I’d like to see more back fat and less short ribs showing, but she’s maintaining and her coat looks pretty good, lying flat and still some dapples visible.

December 27, 2012

December 27, 2012

December 27, 2012

December 27, 2012

Jane didn’t get to nurse like her mama, so if and when I can raise a replacement for Jane, I hope that generation will be taking me back to a dairy cow that holds condition like Della did.

Della - Jane's mama, winter 2010

Della – Jane’s mama, winter 2010

We’re on night two of Blake’s weaning and everyone is slipping into the routine quite quickly, despite the moon being almost full and possibly wrong for weaning.  I haven’t changed much in my routine, except not bringing Blake and Jane into the milking area at night.  I feed them both and do nothing to stimulate letdown in Jane.  She was fine this morning, Blake was a little more eager than usual and decided it would be better to just behave and let herself be led to the barn without any shenanigans.

Jane is due the first week of June, so my plan is to dry her off in early March.  Which is very nice, the nightmare of drying off a cow when the grass is lush is not anything I want to deal with anymore.  Just another reason to have a seasonal milk cow.  Much easier for everyone involved.  And I am liking the not milking at night!  That’s the OMG!

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen permalink
    December 28, 2012 4:02 am

    How would you raise a replacement heifer? I have a 5 mo. old Jersey calf and I want to do it right. ( We are separating her from her mom at night so we can get 2 gal. once a day. )

    And what is OCD?

    • December 28, 2012 5:51 am

      Karen, I would do like your doing, raising the calf on whole milk. Jane was raised on milk replacer 😦

      Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, now I am obsessing switching to once a day and watching for a possible mastitis flare-up, along with obsessing about Jane’s body condition score. I should have added BCS body condition score to that post title.

      • Kristin permalink
        December 28, 2012 7:25 am

        You are OCD…..Jane looks to be in excellent condition for this stage in her lactation. And you know, with OAD, she’s going to put weight on again before dry off & calving. A milk cow that weans her calf before you? You are one lucky lady. Nice job on the hay too!

        • December 28, 2012 8:30 am

          Kristin, I know she does look pretty good, it’s just I’ve not had a cow that milked off her back for some time. I do want her to put on some weight before she freshens so she has a better time this time and gets her immune system built up. Speaking of trade-offs, I ignored the dentition schedule on her, but waited on 2 heifers her age, they will calve this spring for the first time. They are beef with a little dairy blood, but definitely doing better to calve at 3 than 2. Incidentally that hay came from the pasture that is getting the repeat winter feeding treatment again this year. It turned out pretty nice. Her mom wanted to wean her babies before me, it took me awhile to figure that one out. Once I quit bringing in the calf she was a perfect dream to milk.

  2. December 28, 2012 5:58 am

    It’s always a relief to go to OAD milking after milking for months. We’ll be milking through most of the next year even though our cow has been milking for about 6 months as we’ve moved, have yet to find a bull locally, no vets to do AI, and she’s our only source of milk for a family of 7. We won’t have her bred before summer as I don’t want a early or mid-winter calf. We don’t let our calves nurse unless we don’t plan on keeping them. One year we had to sell a beautiful heifer because even at 9 months we couldn’t wean her. They broke fences to get to each other. We bucket feed now.

    • December 28, 2012 6:31 am

      OLA, it is a relief for sure, I hate winter milking but don’t mind too much as long as the cow isn’t just fresh and giving a lot of milk. It’s pretty hard around here to keep them in good condition and milking heavily but lots of people do it trying to copy the big guys. It takes lots of inputs to produce winter milk, but so many want to emulate the store bought idea, and produce milk year round. Somehow that marketing catch phrase – seasonal – loses it’s real meaning when it comes to small farmers…

      On the weaning front, I never leave the calf with the cow, but take her to the cow to nurse after I milk. It works really well for us, we have a halter broke calf that gets to nurse, and still retains a good flight zone for being a future cow. Weaning is tough, you have to have good fences, and lots of patience. I am always in awe of the communication between our beef cows and their babies, since I never see any kicking (well not much) or really much indication that the cow is weaning the calf. But they do it and you never hear a peep.

    • Karen permalink
      December 28, 2012 6:39 am

      We were fortunate enough to milk our Jersey for 3 years while we learned how to catch her heat cycle for AI. (She was our first and only cow.) We learned that feeding alfalfa hay brought up her milk volume enough through the winter to meet our needs. But I really want to keep this girl calf so we don’t have to keep a cow alone. Is there a best way to wean an older calf off her mother?

      • December 28, 2012 6:51 am

        Karen, I would just separate with some stout fencing, (hot wire works wonders in addition to permanent fence) and supplemental feed for the calf, since you need to replace those milk calories and fat. It takes quite a while sometimes, the other option is a weaning ring in the calf’s nose, I have never used one but hear that they can be successful and a good option if you don’t have a way to separate the two until they are totally weaned.

  3. December 28, 2012 6:39 am

    March weaning is so much easier on Mom and baby and a little extra grain to the calf will keep him fuller longer.

    • December 28, 2012 6:47 am

      Country Girl, I agree, she is only missing one nursing a day, so she won’t be totally weaned until March.

  4. Bee permalink
    December 28, 2012 7:28 am

    We’ve had a tough time with weaning in our small herd since Maybelle is one of those cows that will let any calf nurse from her. Strawberry’s bull calf from two years ago figured out that he could nurse from both Mama and Maybelle by watching Hershey at the milk bar and eventually horning in on the other side; Maybelle would let her milk down for Hershey, so she couldn’t stop it on the other side for Thor. Since our spring/summer pasture is next to the milk barn and I used OAD milking with the calf taking the rest, I didn’t have a good way to shuffle the players and the little opportunist got away with it. Still, it’s nice to know I can foster calves on Maybelle if necessary.

    • December 28, 2012 8:41 am

      Bee, that certainly can be a nightmare, especially with a nurse cow candidate like Maybelle 😦 By keeping my calf separate I have it a little easier, she isn’t used to being with mom, except being nearby so she “asks” me to be fed instead of knowing she can help herself. The downside is a big baby on a lead can be a little trying at times especially when she plants her feet or wants to take off 😦

  5. December 28, 2012 11:17 am

    “I have shown Jane the almanac page that says you can’t wean when the signs are too high, they should be in the legs or lower, not in the heart or breast.” Maybe she needs glasses – have you tried reading it to her? :-)) :-)) Perhaps she doesn’t approve of the American Farmers’ Almanac?

    All the best for 2013 – and thanks for providing a ‘goldmine’ of information.

    • December 28, 2012 12:21 pm

      Carrie, too funny! She isn’t too interested in anything if she can’t eat it! 😀 She’s always sniffing to see if I have anything good to offer, like a carrot or something. I should have taught her to read 😉

  6. alan permalink
    December 28, 2012 5:58 pm

    Could be a bonding issue… Maybe you are the chosen calf.

  7. December 29, 2012 7:33 am

    MOH, now that you are only milking OAD… maybe time to listen to a 27 minute internet broadcast while doing stuff in the kitchen?

    Having followed Jane’s progress, this morning I found I was listening to Radio 4 Farming Today This Week as it did a round-up of the year it has spent following the life of a dairy cow (Bradley Cora 289) in a herd in Glastonbury, Somerset, UK. It makes an interesting ‘compare and contrast’; I would like to have listened to all the programmes that featured Bradley Cora 289.

    The programme is here: and likely to be available for streaming for 7 days; or it can be downloaded for free during that time.


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