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Hind Sight, Hind Milk – Oh Janey

January 28, 2013
Miss Janeuary

Miss Janeuary

Is it any wonder your name rhymes with bane?  Keeping Jane going is wicked hard.  She is not the resilient cow I had hoped she would be.  She has had a winter filled with little mishaps that probably wouldn’t have amounted to anything if she was a whole milk-raised tank like her mom.  But she is a formula baby, and thus not quite the picture of resilience that her mom, Della was.  Hind sight is so clear 😦  Shoulda, woulda, coulda.  I shoulda bought a milk cow to replace Della and raise Jane on whole milk…and the sad thing was I found just such a cow for a friend of mine, I woulda bought her, and coulda bought her, but I didn’t want to spend the money.  Stooopid!  After finding the cow and vetting her for a friend, and now seeing said cow still living down the road, I wish I would have bought her.  The vision is so clear now, but then I thought it might be easier to use milk replacer instead of buying a used cow.  In retrospect, I see how much the milk replacer has changed in the last two decades, since I had last used it, and the results are not the same.  I shoulda seen that one coming, but I didn’t, so here we are now.



You never get the perfect husband, wife, kid, dog, or cow.  Jane has many things going for her.  Great feet, perfect disposition, rebred, and her hair is in good shape, but she has a weak constitution.  It only takes one little thing to throw her for a loop, so since mid-December resiliency in Jane has been elusive.  First, she slipped in the mud on the way to water, I saw mud on her hocks and wondered (she had to have sat down to get mud on her hocks) about that…it took me two days to figure out she wasn’t going to water, for fear of falling again.  So Ruthless and I started packing water to her in the barn.  So much for spring-fed fresh water for the house cow, now it has to be delivered?  My brother once told me that cows drink more when you carry a bucket to them, probably not true but it sure seems like it!

Next on the agenda was some kind of tooth problem with one of Jane’s deciduous teeth.  She was munching away on her chopped root ration one night, and I heard a big “craaaack” which sounded different than her crunching of the roots.  Cows don’t reach full dentition until age 4 – 5, and I have found lots of deciduous teeth around, actually we have quite a collection on the wood stove (which really makes people think you’re a redneck when they spy those.)  Needless to say, Jane had a toothache or sore gums or something – not good when your main job is chewing food to make into milk!  In the meantime getting her to take in enough food and chew her cud was a trial.  She lost weight.  Cud chewing was painful to watch.  And then we started getting an ice storm here and there.  Jane has fallen twice on the ice, once by herself, and the other because of where I chose to lead her.  Gahhh.  Three falls in the space of about five weeks – does anyone know if there is a medic alert halter for cows?  “Moo, I fallen and my bag is killing me!”  Oh wait, Jane doesn’t wear her halter except at milking… .

Then, since I felt so sorry for Jane and myself, I had the great idea to go to once a day milking, Blake was getting to be a major pain in the rear and it seemed easier at the time.  I did have enough sense to be monitoring for any signs of possible mastitis, since not all cows with a mastitis history do well with once a day milking.  One day the CMT test showed a slight change in one quarter, the CMT is an indicator of somatic cell counts, so that was enough to tell me to get off my duff and go back to twice-a-day milking.  The milk was fine, and nothing has come of that, and I’m still not sure if it was the trauma from falling or the once-a-day milking schedule that caused the elevated white blood cell count.  Note to self, Jane is probably not a candidate for OAD milking.

Which brings me to the hind milk part of the post.  Blake is fully weaned, and now I am getting all the milk and all the cream.  Jane was a good mama and held up the best (hind milk) for her baby.  But even she was getting perturbed with Blake, she was getting kicky and nervous at milking time and that’s not good either.  So now my big conundrum is what to do with all that cream.  Huge dilemma, I tell you. 😉

no caption required

no caption required

Butter is the most popular around here, it freezes well and is one of those things that you use daily and is expensive to buy.  So I’ve been making butter.  I dusted off the two gallon Dazey and put the one gallon Dazey away.  The extra milk is going to the hens in the form of clabber and sometimes cheese.  The whey is going in the garden.  So we are finding a use for the extra milk, Blake is doing great as a weanling, and Jane is on the mend with twice a day milking.

first washing

first washing

What would I do different next time with an orphan calf?

♥  Find a suitable replacement cow and milk her.  Tractable nurse cows are few and far between, and require a lot of management.  Milking and bottle feeding would be my first choice.

♥  Barring finding the right cow, I would possibly consider a higher quality milk replacer like this product.

Jane will be my challenge, I guess, until she isn’t a challenge anymore.  She may go along for many years always on the edge, or she may not.  She is the best cow anyone could ask for as far as handling and milking.  My hopes are that she lives a long and productive life.

42 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2013 11:47 am

    I appreciate you sharing these issues and will share with our dairy Producers.

    • January 28, 2013 2:01 pm

      WR, you’re welcome. I hope it helps, others may have better luck with formula calves than I have.

  2. Dana S permalink
    January 28, 2013 12:09 pm

    What does the whey do for the garden?

  3. January 28, 2013 12:12 pm

    Janey is one lucky cow to have you for her farmer. Loved the story and since I am trying to learn all I can about milk cows, it is great info as well.

  4. January 28, 2013 12:32 pm

    Oh all the best with Jane. As for all that whey, I’m jealous. I don’t have a cow and not likely to, so I buy in my milk from the local farmers. When I do get more than I need then I make cheese and use the whey in bread making, as it makes a lovely soft loaf.

    • January 28, 2013 2:04 pm

      Joanna, a dairy cow is a huge boost for an entire farm, dairy products and fertilizer, if one has the space they can be quite economical. I’m enjoying the extra milk for cheese making too, yummy!

      • January 29, 2013 10:52 pm

        My trouble is persuading my hubby and if I end up with a consultancy job, it is he who has to see to them. We will have alpacas though, he loves working with them and their manure can be put straight onto the garden, like fertiliser pellets 😀

  5. Paula permalink
    January 28, 2013 1:38 pm

    Are there probiotics for cows? Seems like Jane is in need of plenty.

  6. Bee permalink
    January 28, 2013 1:39 pm

    If hindsight was foresight, we’d never make mistakes. Of course, we’d never learn anything either. All my major howlers resulted in good life lessons; it might have been twenty years later that I got to act on the lesson, but eventually it was useful information. Give yourself a break, Nita, you did the best you could with the information you had. Della was such a great cow, I probably would have tried to keep her calf going any way I could, just as you did. I think sometimes a critter or a person gets stuck in a negative health groove for a while, but then recovers and goes on to be strong for many years — it may just be Jane’s turn in the barrel temporarily!

    • January 28, 2013 1:47 pm

      Bee, thanks, I agree, I’ve seen lots of cows with a worse start and they go on to live a long, albeit somewhat rocky life. I just got pretty complacent with Della, she was a little frisky in the kicking department, but overall pretty healthy really until she got older. I guess there is no easy button this go round 😦 Now that her teeth aren’t bothering her, she is eating so much better, and on the upswing. I think it’s worse too, since I am around her so much, some of those things you never see and they don’t loom so large in your imagination.

      Thanks again for the encouragement!

  7. January 28, 2013 1:53 pm

    poor Jane! We have bottle-reared calves and milk-reared calves now and we can see the difference very clearly. The milk powder keeps them alive, but they don’t thrive like on their mother’s milk. Bella the Jersey took her Fresian foster calf and now he is nearly as big as her at 4 months old, and we don’t get any hind milk! But is just so convenient to have a share milker!

    • January 28, 2013 2:00 pm

      Liz, oh my goodness, when I think of the bottle calves Della raised, and how well they did, it makes me sad I didn’t buy that Jersey cow, I could have sold her calf for meat and made my money back. She’s not an easy keeper, we found a blanket for her from New Zealand 😉 so now my girlfriend feels a little better about her in winter. But still, Jane would be a different cow I think if she had real milk.

      As for the share milking, I was pretty spoiled letting Blake help me, but milking twice a day is better for all concerned. And I can’t complain about all the luscious cream!

  8. Debbie R permalink
    January 28, 2013 3:26 pm

    That is the most beautiful butter I have ever seen.

  9. January 28, 2013 3:49 pm

    MoH, I absolutely LOVE your blog posts! I am so grateful to have found you! I read them as I can, spending time in the bunk of a semi truck, living vicariously through you, dreaming of the day when I get to begin my own homesteading journey. Now having said that, know that although hubby and I team drive an OTR rig, I plan to retire this year between August and Dec. This is my second retirement. I will be 60 this year and have always dreamed of homesteading. Hubby and I have always had property, currently have 5+ acres in California. But although I have had chickens, pigs, a goat and horses, they were seldom at the same time. I think I was always afraid to jump in with both feet and learn to live off the land. But family is raised, jobs are done and have given me a bit of security via retirement and with yours’ and others blogging about their experiences, I AM READY! Gonna jump in with both feet! Well after I retire, that is, lol. Thank you!

  10. Elizabeth permalink
    January 28, 2013 4:00 pm

    I am so frustrated…..we found a most wonderful Guernsey girl for our family: 8 years old, bomb proof, has raised orphaned cow babies as well as give milk for people babies, bred back for a summer (red Angus) delivery, no history of illness of any kind…..but I can’t afford her. Even at a fair price…..we just can’t lay out that kind of $ all at once. It makes me sad.

    • January 28, 2013 7:47 pm

      Elizabeth, I think I saw that same cow if you’re in my area. Or one like her anyway, although now that I think about it, the ad I saw said bred to a Jersey. Anyway FWIW if you’re looking for a dairy cow I would look for one under 5 just because lots happens in 8 years. There might be some good older cows out there, but they are hard to find.

  11. January 28, 2013 6:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing the things you’ve learned the hard way, Matron. We appreciate you letting us learn vicariously. I do hope that Jane will hit her stride healthwise!

  12. January 28, 2013 6:39 pm

    “…buying a used cow…”

    LOL. This here’s a 2008 Guernsey. Yup. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore. Low mileage, runs good on regular grass and just look at that bag. Tell you what, buddy, you seem like a good guy. I’ll cut you a deal on this beauty…

    Jane is in good hands.

    • January 28, 2013 7:52 pm

      HFS, yeah, I don’t mind finding cows for others but I stayed away from that Jersey. She’s a funny cow, but hard to keep in condition even when open. Just like buying a used car only worse, no real records or reasons why they are in the family cow stream. I actually think she is older than her seller stated, but maybe they didn’t know how old she was either. But she’s all Jersey for sure, and a crazy girl to boot.

      I’ll tell Jane what you said tonight when I tuck her in 😉

  13. Mark permalink
    January 28, 2013 7:14 pm

    If you were running a dairy operation, she would be a cull, but she is what I call a “home” cow. “home” cows are much more than their output. They become trusted companions and friends, and you take care of friends.

    • January 28, 2013 7:55 pm

      Mark, I agree, and with her timidness she would have a hard time in a herd situation too. Just her being scared to go to water is telling. She’s a keeper for this homestead.

      • January 28, 2013 10:50 pm

        This is where the homestead differs from the farm-as-business. I think it’s a totally acceptable and appropriate line to draw — the critters on our homesteads have been invited to share our lives for the medium term at least. That’s a different relationship than the ones we KNOW are finite who are on the farm-as-business.

        Just signed up for cow school with you, Nita, and SUPER looking forward to it!

  14. Nick permalink
    January 28, 2013 7:42 pm

    More questions – could you sell her and get a new cow? Or maybe get a different breed of dairy cow?

    • January 28, 2013 7:58 pm

      Nick, no I would never sell her, and I don’t want to start over with another problem cow. As for breed, I like the Guernsey so for me, getting a heifer out of Jane that she can raise will be good enough for me. You can find something “wrong” with every dairy breed and I’m not interested in a dual-purpose type breed so I’ll stick with what I know.

  15. January 28, 2013 8:15 pm

    I have a “milks her back off Jersey,” and she isn’t an easy keeper. Right now she is feeding her 2 mo. old very growthy heifer calf and us… well, we really only take what the calf leaves behind. But it is hard to keep weight on momma cow. One thing I have decided is NO more late summer/fall calves. Theres no grass and making milk and keeping warm (it’s been bitter cold here in VA this winter) it’s just too hard on a cow.

    I always learn so much from your posts and appreciate your transparency when it comes to your farm and critters. Can you tell me what minerals you use that have the probios in them?

    • January 28, 2013 9:00 pm

      Lynelle, I hear you on late summer calves, I like late spring calves, the cows are healthier and detoxed after a winter of hay, and the calves just take right off. I found a blanket for my friends Jersey to help her with her body condition. She was able to purchase from a US distributor and got it right away.

      I use Fertrell Nutribalancer for my cows and it has probiotics similar to Fastrack which I like too, but the Nutribalancer comes with it, and they eat it readily so it’s more convenient.

      • January 29, 2013 6:50 am

        We feed PNB to our cows because we have 2 bags left over from poultry production last fall. But the Dairy Nutri Balancer is cheaper and would make more sense. Most folks feed PNB for no reason other than that’s what Salatin does.

        Which do you feed and why?

        • January 29, 2013 1:35 pm

          HFS, they’re all pretty much the same, if I have Poultry I feed that, second choice is Beef 12-12. I just need Calcium and Phosphorous in balance. The dairy mixes makes sense if you’re feeding like a dairy, or if you have alfalfa available. 😉 Fertrell also sells their microbials in small packages.

  16. A.A. permalink
    January 28, 2013 11:56 pm

    Remember not to look at her funny and keep her and your mood high 🙂

  17. January 29, 2013 5:13 am

    I can certainly think of times when a “do-over” in animal decisions would have made the next decade easier…the training of one particular dog comes to mind. Oh well. We make the best decision we can at the time, and then we live and learn. Jane has so much going for her, and I hope as she continue to mature she will develop a core strength she may not entirely possess at the moment.
    And personally, I think a cow that is reluctant to go back to a spot where she slid onto her hocks is a smart cow, as long as she has an alternative water-delivery system in place 😉 I’ve known of cattle (and I’ll bet you have, too) that went right down on ice and got back up but never recovered from spinal or pelvic injuries and were sadly done.

    • January 29, 2013 5:50 am

      Quinn, thanks for that 🙂 I think I was the dummy assuming she was going to water because she has access to the trough with the ram overflow, so it is constantly refreshed. Which also makes it hard for the human to see how much a cow is drinking, until she quits eating her hay :p Luckily the water trough is close to the barn and I can lead her to it on the personnel (human) or fill her buckets there and put them in the barn for her. Our last cow that fell on the ice made it one more season, but she splayed out and hit pretty hard, so yes I know that is true and I’m glad the ice is gone now!

      • January 29, 2013 1:12 pm

        Oh I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize you had had that experience with your own cow! Oh dear.

        • January 29, 2013 1:33 pm

          Quinn, no worries, we ate one that tree fell on too in an ice storm. If you’ve lived on a farm with animals long enough or near one, you see all manner of mishaps 😦

  18. January 30, 2013 2:19 am

    Poor Jane, but she is blessed to have an owner like you 🙂

  19. January 30, 2013 7:22 pm

    Thanks MOH.. I’ll look for the minerals…

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