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Lo Fat

August 9, 2014

There goes my butter…

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?”

Reese and Lo Fat

Reese and Lo Fat

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.


25 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2014 4:16 pm

    hmmm…perhaps Lo Fat will make some delicious Chinese Beef and Broccoli someday. Buh dumpah.

  2. Fid permalink
    August 9, 2014 5:17 pm

    Just need clarification: she didn’t wean her calf from last year, but this isn’t him. This is her new calf, right? Did he have colostrum? Would it have made a difference to you if he had been a she? Did you keep last year’s calf? Or did you cull him/her? Keep the knowledge flowing…. I’m trying to produce dairy animals (although I realize not the daily quantity of milk you’re getting) on grass, hay and minerals. Lucy’s raising 2 boys for me this year and still giving me plenty of milk (and still looks plump)! Thanks so much!

    • August 9, 2014 7:55 pm

      Fid, no this little guy is the new calf born Thursday morning. His big brother got the colostrum I believe, so we used Jane’s. It took from mid-day Thursday until Friday afternoon to get a good suck reflex on him. The big calf had a milk mustache so I think I made the right call. Do you mean would I have left him if he was a her? No. He was cougar food if I didn’t nab him. Her older steer will be meat next year, he’s going to be crying when we sell her, it’s hard to be weaned at 14 months 😉 I forget…is Lucy 1/8 Dexter 7/8 Jersey? Lucy should be a good cow she was raised on whole milk for at least 9 months, that’s what makes the difference, the whole milk for the entire lactation whether it’s beef or dairy. How I wish Jane had been raised on whole milk.

      So how much milk is plenty for you? Enough to keep you in butter, cream and milk plus calves or less?

      • Fid permalink
        August 10, 2014 6:49 am

        I wasn’t clear: would you keep a heifer out of that cow? Yes on Lucy’s bloodlines. Being dam raised is important to me too. Lucy gives me almost 2 gallons plus feeding 2 growing boys, although one of them is nursing off Opal too. And, there’s not enough cream this way. I lucked out: Lorenzo is A2A2 and 15/16 MJ. I need to find him a grass dairy. I feed sprouted grain, but no dry grain. Barely any alfalfa as she just gets too fat. Thanks!

        • August 10, 2014 7:08 am

          No, that would be even worse, a heifer would be expected to live a long time, much longer than a steer. Lucy must be giving as much as Jane…6 gallons you suppose?

  3. Barb in CA permalink
    August 9, 2014 7:03 pm

    So when you cull, how do you sell your beef? Curious if someone local could buy from you. Your fourth “O” is brilliant. Obtuse. Perfect. I know Lo Fat means far less butter for the family, but he is adorable. Jane really is a gem!

    • August 9, 2014 7:48 pm

      She’s going to the auction, I’m done, check will be here in two days. Or I have an old one that we’re going to butcher for dog food, she’s too sweet to send off to the sale barn. This other cow is young, someone may want to take a chance on her. I have friends that do that, haunt the sale barn looking for deal. I would not sell her to someone who was looking for a cow to add to their herd.

  4. Bee permalink
    August 9, 2014 8:08 pm

    Culling is the toughest part, because you get invested in them, either in the sense of affection or in the sense of all that time and energy and you don’t want it to go down the drain. We’ve got a cow going in the freezer this year because she’s had plenty of chances with different bulls and still no calf. She’s a funny, gentle thing, but I kept her to have babies for beef, not to be a pet. I know I’ll tear up when we do the deed, but it has to be done. Whenever I hesitate over culling, I remind myself about Impressive.He was an extremely popular Quarter Horse stallion back in the days when we were breeding Quarter Horses. Everybody wanted Impressive blood in their herds, except me, because I had learned the horse developed congenital ringbone as a two-year-old, so they stopped trying to train him as a performance horse and made him a halter horse instead. Oh, he was gorgeous, all right, but I was breeding performance horses — why would I want to introduce a bloodline that had congenital problems into my herd? Turned out I had the last laugh, because Impressive contaminated thousands of Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas with HYPP, a genetic disease spread by a stallion that should have been culled.

    • August 9, 2014 8:19 pm

      Bee, ugh we had a Belgian with that, and lo and behold we were at the Roundup tying up the team and a Belgian mule caught my eye, and then I looked at his feet…he was get from the same sire as our mare. Smart you!

      They are too expensive to feed if they aren’t doing the job that the others can do on the same program, no rescue mentality here. I simply can’t afford to carry them, and actually the other cows can’t either.

  5. Sassafras permalink
    August 10, 2014 3:32 am

    …and that is a great part of why your herd looks so healthy.

  6. Elizabeth permalink
    August 10, 2014 5:50 am

    I know you are going to bottle feed that little guy based on our previous days conversation, but would/ could he be grafted onto Jane? What are your thoughts on milk cows taking on other calves than their own?

    • August 10, 2014 6:24 am

      Some will, some won’t, as gentle as Jane is she’s not too happy with that guy. She would protect him, but feed him… . I’ll just milk her without the rodeo. Some cows make great nurse cows, and I’ve grafted a dairy calf on a beef cow with her dead calf’s skin on it.

    • Bee permalink
      August 10, 2014 6:58 am

      My Maybelle is so easygoing, she’ll take on all comers and nurse them. I fully expect to go out some morning and see the lambs or a colt latched on to her. And some calves are more aggressive in that respect than others. We had a beef calf watch Maybelle’s calf, who was slightly older than he was. Guess he figured it was monkey see, monkey do, as he started sneaking up on her off side while Maybelle’s calf was nursing and taking a few sips. It certainly wasn’t because he was hungry — his mama has a bag nearly as big as a dairy cow’s and produces plenty of milk — maybe he just wanted variety!

  7. M in NC permalink
    August 10, 2014 6:47 am

    Maybe Lo Fat and Reese will be able to keep each other company and Jane won’t mind so much once she adjusts to the new routine. She can eat and the boys can wear each other out with their antics. Though I guess that means you have to train two bull calves to halter, stand and lead. Do they get fixed/cut sooner rather than later, or does Reese get a chance to stand as a dairy bull?

    Another thought, will the boys be weaned earlier (so you can get your cream) then if they had both been heifer calves?

    Getting your herd balanced for the coming winter is a good idea. My mother and I only raise some vegetables for seasonal eating (some goes in the freezer), and the way the cold fronts keep rolling in from Canada are making us wonder if the South East is going to have another long cold winter . We are hoping for a ‘normal’ winter.

    Keep the updates coming … they are really interesting.

    M in NC

    • August 10, 2014 8:01 am

      M, they seem to be getting a long pretty well, Jane likes the two boys and gets her calf fix bathing them. They stand fairly quiet now tied, but we’ll probably wait til the hot spell is over to start leading them around. They’ll get fixed in a few months, no bull duties for them 😉

      It’s looking like we’ll get some cream here at first, and I’m thinking their lunches are going to be skim milk, which hand skimmed still has some cream. I won’t wean them earlier because Jane is a persistent producer so I’ll have milk right along, so they may as well have it.

      I hope we have a mild winter, no matter how big the wood and hay stacks are!

  8. Beth in Ky permalink
    August 10, 2014 10:26 am

    I was wondering since your beef cattle are on pasture, how will you go about separating this cull cow from the herd and loading her?? A post with pictures would be nice….. what few we have sold in recent years have been a headache to say the least!

  9. August 10, 2014 7:20 pm

    When it comes to culling I describe myself as hard nosed – not hard hearted. Every animal here gets ample opportunity to conform to the program….. Those that don’t MUST go – a decision I usually get to make as the hubby will continue to hug and love and pet and feed every animal regardless. 😊

  10. August 11, 2014 6:51 am

    We do make exceptions for home dairy cows. They are like part of the family and would be hard to replace. I think we got the girls to the bull on time. We’ll try again in about 10 days just to be sure. But if one of the dairy cows comes up open because we didn’t get them to the bull on time? Well? I guess we just deal with it.

    I know who is high on my cull list. And for what reasons. But I can’t start with group of feedlot heifers and hold them to the highest possible standard. They just aren’t built for what I am expecting. We will be decades selecting first for the most important traits, then breeding them more toward the ideal over time. First they just have to stay alive. Then they have to wean a calf. Then we’ll continue down the Lasater checklist.

    Congrats on grafting the calf.

    • August 11, 2014 7:17 am

      It’s interesting with this cow, she isn’t too worried about her baby being gone, and Jane is beside herself with two babies to guard…and she never had the benefit of mothering, just a bottle baby all by her lonesome. She needs to go to some farm that will wean her calves for her. Just more intervention that I’m not willing to do.

  11. Wendy permalink
    August 11, 2014 12:39 pm

    at what age do you cows normally wean their calves?

    • August 11, 2014 12:50 pm

      Usually at about 9 months, maybe 10 at the most. It’s cheaper to calve in late spring, and let the cow take the calf through winter than it is to wean the calves before winter and try to feed a calf that really needs supplementing.

  12. tara permalink
    August 13, 2014 5:44 am

    That’s a tough one for the butter factor alone. I have to have my summer butter made and frozen or there’s trouble. We’re having an issue with a couple of calves figuring out that the cow we’re presently milking is ‘open for business’. Literally, she would let anything milk off her. So, now it’s back to the drawing board. It means splitting herds. Again. I get tired of filling up multiple troughs of water and rotationally grazing multiple herds. We were down to two, the dairy and the beef, but now it’s back to three.

    What do you do in those situations? I’m wondering if I should just split off the calves, but that’s a whole other set of problems.

    I love the name, by the way.

    • August 13, 2014 7:02 am

      Ugh, I’ve got two “herds” Jane and co., and the beef, both are too far from each other to matter. The little ones are on the nipple buckets exclusively so I won’t have any trouble with nursing. Too make it simple here, Jane is free-ranging, the beef are on a rotation. I would be rotationally grazing her if I had grass close by but she’s already made two passes, plus one with the horse so all that area we have around the greenhouses, gardens etc, is resting now. I need her somewhat close by and within earshot at milking she has the run of the closeup hayfield and the overflow from the spring. I’ve got a somewhat secure little pasture for the calves too when they are ready to be out more in a week or so. This is actually the first time in my milking career that I have exclusively milked TAD, but I’m finding it’s faster in the long run, because I can just put Jane back out as soon as I am done milking. Not sure if this will last or not but so far one week in, I’m liking it.

      As far as the butter goes, I still had some in reserve, so I made ghee last night, (makes good eggs and potatoes even better.) I’m going to try to feed skim milk to the boys for lunch, I’m hand skimming so they’ll be getting a little and it gives me a little more cream to work with.

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