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Three Months In

November 10, 2014

Jane’s at the critical 90 days in milk when a dairy cow should have reached peak lactation, be rebred and hopefully can add a little weight if needed.


Like a dog, sniffing everything

November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

Personally I would like to see a little more weight on her going into winter.  This is the part I really dislike about her calving in the August.  Just when she’s reached her peak we are heading into the dark days, the grass is waning, and she will use up a fair portion of her calories keeping warm.

Brought in the sheaves

Brought in the sheaves

At this point Jane is on pasture all hours except milking time.  But the time is nearing that I will start putting her in at night and gathering her manure for the garden.  With that in mind we picked up our first load of carbon this weekend.  Oat straw.  Gorgeous, golden oat straw from some farmer friends downriver.  Plus I need to get my garlic in too and I need some straw for mulch.  We have some straw on hand from last year, but it is buried underneath the haystack…

Jane also got her winter haircut this week too.  We usually trim her switch after fly season and before mud season…

I think in Hollywood this is called a “messy bob”.  Yeah, no kidding!

November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

Assessing condition on a dairy cow is a little different than the beef cows.  You check the rumen fill, but you also look at how much body fat the cow is carrying on her back and in the rib area.  In this photo, Jane has grazed all day and is waiting to be milked.  I can see the short grass isn’t filling her up, so I will add another flake of hay tonight to her ration when I put her back out the night.

Jane’s a workhorse.  She’s feeding these two and keeping us in dairy products, milk, butter, ghee, and a little cheese.  A good place to start assessing her condition is by looking at the calves.  They are doing great.  This is a good place to mention that we are feeding these calves and not allowing them to nurse.  By doing that we are in control of how much milk Jane produces, a single calf the age of these two can easily run a high producing cow in the ground by be allowed access 24/7.  I know it sounds unnatural to some to not let the calves nurse, but there is nothing natural about a modern-day dairy animal.  Some cows may not produce so much that they run their body into a rack of bones, but many do.  So by restricting the calf you are actually helping the cow maintain a healthy weight.  It becomes an endless cycle of feeding the thin cow more and more, and she will then in turn produce more and more and still be thin.  How to restrict a calf that is taking too much milk?  Either bottle feed, or only allow nursing twice a day on your schedule.  The calf will be fine and momma cow will thank you.

A smooth coat in November

A smooth coat in November

Another place to look is the cow’s coat.  No matter how long the hair it should lie flat, unless of course you have something that is a hairy beast like a Highland.  If the hair is fuzzy looking, or turning up, do more research on your cows mineral needs, you may not be supplying the right thing for your cow, or your land and feed.  It varies from breed to breed too.  I’ve found over the years that with Guernsey influence in my herd I need to offer more copper, or otherwise I see hoof problems.

Jane currently has access to Redmond trace mineral salt, kelp for many things especially iodine, Fertrell Nutribalancer, Azomite, and A Mix from ABC.  Depending on her feed, her intake of certain minerals changes.  The beef cows get the same, with a little copper sulfate added.

And the most visible thing to look at is the dairy cow’s ribs and topline.  Jane does not have much fat cushion on her short ribs.  She’s not thin, thin, but with winter coming I would like to see more fat on her and less milk in the bucket possibly.

So, more hay to supplement the washy fall pastures, sleeping in at night and maybe we’ll see a little improvement or at least no weight loss from here on out.

November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

Winter is coming.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2014 10:27 am

    winter is coming..yup.. I find when the cows out here get their winter coat they go a bit fluffy too, esp the calves..or do you think that is a mineral deficiency.. c

    • November 10, 2014 11:25 am

      C., they will fluff up, but it still should lie flattish, Herefords can be curly,other breeds can have long hair too, but the dairy breeds generally have fairly short hair. Longer hair too can be expected in areas like yours that is colder in the winter. Your stock always looks well cared for. I think some folks just think shaggy hair is the sign of winter and it’s not necessarily so.

  2. November 10, 2014 11:07 am

    We stopped milking near the end of October. Saying that still makes Julie smile. While we milked the calves could access mom from 7 in the morning after milking (we left one quarter in rotation) until 2 in the afternoon (when we were out gathering eggs for the second time). Then the calves went into a pen and the moms went back to pasture. Steve keeps calves on cows for the first week then reserves a quarter and allows the calves to clean up after OAD milking. Moms go back to the field, calves go to their own fresh green. Compare any of the above to the recent Acres article suggesting you should keep calf on cow 24/7 and just get whatever milk you get. I have to imagine that would result in thin Jerseys and Guernseys. But maybe I missed some key management concepts in the article.

    I miss our own milk. I miss our own thick cream. But without pigs on the farm…

    • November 10, 2014 11:38 am

      Bah humbug on that. Too much work for so little, if I want to see calves nursing on their momma’s I just go visit the beef cows. I always wonder why folks don’t make butter and make their farmstead more resilient, usually to only go buy some type of fat at the store for cooking. Even commodity butter here is $5.00 a pound at the warehouse grocery store. It’s local, produced at the biggest dairy in the state (25K milking cows), I have no idea what our butter or ghee is worth? Any ideas?

      Chickens lay well in winter with any extra protein…ours love their chicken cheese. My 20 pullets are laying 18 or 19 eggs a day, no lights. I have to give Jane some credit for that. Not missing pigs at all 🙂 Or the churned up mud they leave this time of year:p

      Could. Not. Quit. Milking. My. Cow.

      • November 10, 2014 11:44 am

        Well, youth has something to do with laying performance too. How big are those 19 eggs? Sold 52 dozen eggs today. 40 dozen were small.

        I do miss pigs. I don’t miss pig chores. Similarly, I do miss milking. I don’t miss milking chores.

        This morning I went out at 6:20, reeled up a fence to let the cows into fresh pasture, Made a new pasture segment to the west, opened the pullets, opened the remaining old birds, came home at 6:38. Done.

        • November 10, 2014 12:06 pm

          Yes, they are small, but I’m not selling them, and any cook worth their salt knows how to measure an egg, or not.

          When we sold eggs we had two bakeries that took the smalls because they dealt with cups of eggs per recipe instead of the per egg standard based on large eggs.

          Youth doesn’t always mean eggs, if you don’t feed your chickens enough energy and protein per day you won’t get an egg in the short day/cold weather time of year. The hen or pullet, unlike the cow won’t keep producing to her detriment. Yeah for youth – that’s why I don’t keep my hens more than about 17 months. The upkeep on the second year isn’t worth the larger eggs, less eggs, and diminished shell quality, to me anyway.

        • November 10, 2014 12:14 pm

          Right on. And my comment was not meant to detract from yours. I’m a fan of feeding non-chicken surpluses to chickens to facilitate a varied diet and overall health. Curdled milk, apple pomace, pig liver…

          Also I’m totally with you on the 17 month thing. At that age they still have value and we find success sending those birds to a new home…except the ones that go to freezer camp.

        • November 10, 2014 12:19 pm

          Well, and you can’t forget the pet food market…I have three wolves who are enjoying those last years hens very much, and I’m enjoying not feeding them as much kibble.

  3. November 10, 2014 12:00 pm

    what a beauty, and what an informative post!

  4. trish permalink
    November 10, 2014 12:16 pm

    MOH, what is Azomite? When I type that into Azure Standard’s page it brings up something called Zeolite. Are they the same thing? I saw Fedco carries Azomite but the shipping cost would be too high.

    Also, when you say Fertrell Nutribalancer- is that the kind for poultry or something else? All our animals get basically the same basic mix of feed, and then we add the Fertrell to the laying hen’s feed. I’ve been wondering if I could feed it to my goats but wasn’t sure it would be safe for them. They get a mineral mix designed for them free choice plus kelp in their feed.

    Is Jane on grass and hay only? Do you supplement with grain? She is a lovely cow. I just love seeing photos of her.

    • November 10, 2014 12:32 pm

      Trish, I’m able to get it at the feed store, shipping would be awful. I use it in the garden too, not the same as zeolite.
      I like the Poultry Nutribalancer the best for everything here, although it’s the most expensive in the Fertrell line 😦 You can look at the Fertrell website and get the analysis of all their products. I think the goats would need more copper…but I’m not sure on that at all.

      Jane is on pasture, our grass hay and she gets 4# of rolled barley a day with a 1/3 cup of molasses. Plus any apples etc right now that need using up, and in winter I add carrots and parsnips to her barley mix. She’s at about 6 gallons per day down from 8, so she’s mostly a grassfed cow, and just that little bit of grain keeps her in better condition.

      • November 13, 2014 11:11 am

        MOH, yes, I think the shipping puts it out of our reach. Our goats do get a mineral mix specifically for them- it just seems like it would be super convenient to make the same basic mix for everyone that has the fertrell in it, seems like it would save me a step. About Jane’s grain, it seems like you are not too fussed about the protein level. I always go back and forth on that because its is often stressed how important it is to have a 16% protein feed, but I have read about organic dairies that avoid grains and use molasses for the extra energy. They must be getting their protein from the forage. So it seems like if your forage is brome hay (like mine) it would be very difficult to meet their protein needs without supplementing some feed with peas or soybeans in it. But if your forage is naturally diverse that must not be such a big deal. What is your take on the protein component of what a dairy cow needs?

        • November 14, 2014 12:57 pm


          Protein is for milk production, which isn’t such a concern for me with a family cow. I’m after energy which is what the carbs provide. Our grass is pretty diverse, clovers, and other forbs plus several types of grasses. So no, not high protein like alfalfa or some others but it does the trick. We put the best hay aside for the milk cow and go from there. It helps to have good pasture too. I want her condition to be good, certainly she could be pushed with more protein to produce more, but I want her to make an adequate amount of milk and keep her condition too. More protein would just mean more more milk. I have supplemented with alfalfa hay on occasion, finding the good stuff is not that easy though.

          I only have a vague answer on the protein needed for a dairy cow, so much depends on the cow and what you have on hand. 16% grain fed at 3# per gallon produced is a solid plan for some cows. Finding a feedstuff that agrees with everyone’s ideals, no that is the hard part!

  5. November 10, 2014 1:06 pm

    Our Daisy Duke gets oats, beet pulp, flax, with some added dairy ration. We had very marginal grazing this year – and when she started turning her nose up at the round bale we put out, we switched to some premium square bales. Happy cow. Blue salt block, and up here I leave a selenium block along side as well – for all our livestock. The horses get loose salt as well.
    Our chickens are laying like crazy – they get all the whey from my cheese making – our protein source for them is mainly wheat.
    Your Jane always looks in top notch shape 😊

  6. Bee permalink
    November 10, 2014 3:29 pm

    Jane does look good. Much cleaner than Maybelle, who always has muddy feet because part of the pasture is swampy.
    All the little pieces fit together, don’t they? I milk Maybelle once a day. She calved in June, but as you know, a cougar got the calf. On mostly grass hay with a couple of flakes of alfalfa now that we’re going into winter, she gives between two and three gallons a day. We drink milk, I make butter, yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese (really want to have a go at mozzarella but haven’t gotten there yet). I make ghee occasionally, but we have plenty of tallow and lard. Excess skimmed milk is mixed with grain screenings (Maybelle, the beef cows and brood mares get about four pounds a day as well, minus the milk) and fed to the pigs and chickens. The dog gets a bit of whole milk, too. I’ve got a new batch of chickens this year, Barred Rocks in with a Cornish-Delaware rooster that I hope will produce some good meat birds come spring, and a bunch of Australorps. I’m only getting a few eggs from the older hens, but the Barred Rocks look as though they’ll join the production line any time now. The Australorps are growing more slowly, so I think they’ll be December at least. Extra eggs go to pigs, dogs and cats; offal and scraps from animals we butcher ditto. I use hard-boiled eggs for protein to feed baby chicks, and ground meat scraps/fat from butchering pigs, sheep and cows for the adult birds. And of course, everybody gets garden gleanings, bug-eaten veggies and fruits, acorns and whatever else is edible. Somebody’s always eating somebody else around here…

  7. November 11, 2014 6:11 am

    Oh, I wish you were my neighbor! I could learn A LOT from you. With Irma being my first ever milk cow or bovine for that matter, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I probably shouldn’t have kept her calf on her 24/7 for as long as I did especially since she was already in a deficit. I just really loved seeing them spend the day together in the pasture. Today he is five months old and has been on twice a day feedings for only a couple of weeks. I was planning on weaning him next month. Do you think I should wait that long or do it now? He’s a big boy and hasn’t seemed to be affected by the twice a day feeding. I don’t want to feed him any grain though, and my old man neighbors kind of give me the stink eye about that.

    • November 11, 2014 6:38 am

      I think if you wean him now he needs some kind of protein and fat to take the place of the grain. If it was a natural set up his mom wouldn’t wean him until he was 8 months old or so. Once we start intervening we need to make up the difference. Personally I think the no grain thing is kind of overrated. But it’s pretty popular these days, and more of an ideal than reality depending on the situation. He will need calories in the dead of the winter and milk or grain is the way to do that. Can he extract enough of what he needs from forage? Probably not? Will he survive? Yes. Will he thrive?… Early weaning works great if you have great pasture, it’s not cold, etc. It’s your call though, if you’re not drying up Irma, probably the best feed for Milton would be the milk. But really it is ultimately up to you.

      • November 11, 2014 8:14 am

        Thank you for your response! I will keep him on her then for twice a day feedings for a while longer. I guess I’m starting to panic with cold weather and wanting her to gain still. Maybe I should start taking less milk from her OAD from 1 3/4-2 gallons to 1 to also lessen the demand?

        • November 11, 2014 8:37 am

          Milk what you need for the house, let the calf clean her out TAD after you milk. She is pretty much programmed to produce X amount of gallons unless her quality of feed goes down which you don’t want to do. Giving him a little less at this age will start the gradual weaning process and still give you milk too. What you don’t want to do is leave milk in her udder after she lets down. She might not start gaining for a while now that it’s getting so cold 😦

  8. November 11, 2014 11:15 am

    Between the post and the comments, I’m learning a lot about milk cows! Thanks for that. 🙂
    Come the spring, I am thinking about looking for a milk cow. Our hay supplier offered me one of his cull girls, but coming into winter, I don’t want to add another mouth to feed. I’m already buying hay for 4 horses, and don’t want to have to buy for a cow too…plus, I’d like to have some more time to research nutrition needs before jumping in. Hopefully, he’ll have a girl for us come spring…or I’ll be better prepared next fall. lol!

  9. November 12, 2014 2:49 am

    Gosh, I think the last time I visited Jane was just a young thing. So glad she’s become such a great gal.

  10. Bev permalink
    November 12, 2014 12:51 pm

    I so much enjoy seeing how beautiful Jane looks with the care you givre her. It brings back so many memories of us as a young family in the 70’s with our beloved Jersey. I am interested in your comments about the feeding of your “wolves.” Made me laugh. At first I thought predator. I hate feeding kibble (can you trust what is in it?) It seems a year or two back you talked about this. Our dog loves vegetable, raw and cooked. I guess my question is making sure I get the vitamins and minerals balanced.

    • November 12, 2014 3:28 pm

      Bev, thank you!

      As for the dogs, ugh, they do get one meal a day of kibble, the rest is sort of what we eat, or actually the scraps, raw veggies, cooked veggies, sunny side up eggs, a little milk, I up their fat a little when it’s this cold since they are out at night. So far it seems to be working, they are all healthy and in good shape. Things they catch or scrounge for add in there too. Voles are a delicacy 🙂

  11. tara permalink
    November 19, 2014 9:49 am

    Is there a post somewhere that expands on how to assess any mineral/nutrient deficiencies? If not, could you do one? Please? Please, oh please, oh please? I know it’s a huge topic, but even pointing to some resources would be helpful and you’re a genius so you can take it on.

    Regarding the rough coat, I’m a bit concerned. Is it possible that extreme cold brings on that coat? Our dairy herd all suddenly look have hair that’s sticking out. They get this every winter, but now I’m thinking it’s more than just the cold. How do I know? And our beef are Highlands so I can’t use them to gage much. We have a couple of Devons and they have developed rough coats in the last few weeks as well.

    Everyone is on chelated mineral (our Canadian version of what you’re using), kelp, Redmond salt, and cow probiotics.

    What do you use for parasites? Have you ever tried the H2 soap a la Joel Salatin? We did and it seemed to really clean things up in the business end. Is that how you gage for parasites as well (dirty rear ends)?

    Thank you!

    • November 25, 2014 6:46 am

      You’re killing me!

      Your cows should develop a winter coat, especially where you are at, and it varies by breed, but it should still have a silky feel to it, and lie flattish. Hard to explain really, but if you know what an unthrifty animal’s coat looks like, and if compare the normal winter coat you should be able to tell the difference. Usually you’ll have some good looking animals and some rough ones. There is always one in the crowd 😦

      You know we have tried the basic H, but I didn’t see any difference one way or another, except it sure caught flies in the trough when the suds were present. Rotational grazing taller grass and good hay feeding practices have helped us immensely.

      • Tara permalink
        November 25, 2014 7:36 am

        🙂 I’ll take that as a “yes”!

        We do rotational grazing and feed good hay and all that jazz, but we still have a bunch of poopy butts by mid summer. Me thinks this falls under the category of an ugly cast of characters in our soil. We’ve lost two young calves to Black Leg. We bought this farm three years ago and we love it, but it needs TLC and good, healthy animals on it.

  12. Tara permalink
    December 29, 2014 8:01 am

    As usual, when we can’t figure something out, I scan your posts looking for answers. We have a calf that was rejected by his mama at birth. We put him on our ever-loving Jersey that has nursed him for the last three and a half months. The problem is, she needs to dry off now as her calf will be here in a couple of months.

    We split them up three days ago and he’s still refusing milk in the bucket (from a different cow). This has been a problem for us before. Obviously, we’re missing the get-yer-calf-drinkin’-out-of-a-bucket skillset. How do you do it?

    Also, how much are you feeding the calves? Do you adjust over time or let them make up the difference in grass/hay?

    Happy New Year!

    • December 29, 2014 9:46 am

      Tara, they need to be trained to both at the get-go if you’re going to stop one method or the other. It’s pretty hard to get them to switch. For the record I have never done the calf drink out of the bucket thing either, some swear by it, but I think (IMHO) that the nipple buckets do a better job since they have to nurse (more saliva) instead of drink. If they won’t drink the milk and you have to stop for drying off, you’ll “have” to substitute a higher protein grain of some sort, a calf’s rumen isn’t developed enough at even 6 months to get by on forage or hay alone, they just can’t extract enough nutrients. Not that the calf will die or something, just that they will be shorted nutrients, which will end up as gristle at butchering time. Protein isn’t really the best substitute either, since it’s the fat in the milk that the calf really needs.

      The calves are now getting about two gallons a day in two feedings, plus all the hay they can stand. The morning meal is fresh from Jane, and they get partially skimmed reheated milk in the evening. They also get to sleep in at night.

      • Tara permalink
        December 29, 2014 1:37 pm

        Thanks so much for the reply. How do you train them from the get go? Ours refuse the nipple. I have a bucket with a nipple on it. I’ve chased him around with that thing but he’s having none of it. Poor little guy, just don’t know how to appeal to his good senses.

        • December 29, 2014 2:18 pm

          Tara, they have to be tiny, like the first few days, and since I separate, I can get a handle on things, literally. The best way, straddle the calf facing the same way as the calf, and holding the bottle or bucket in front, put the nipple in their mouth. The key is fighting them when they can’t really fight back, and having them hungry too helps. They act like your killing them, and sometimes believe me you might want to after a milk bath or two, but eventually they give up. Or they say, you can get a calf sucking on your fingers and guide their head down into a bucket of milk so they learn to drink their milk, not my method, but many swear by it. If only they would listen to us when we tell them all this is for their own good!

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