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November 2, 2015
November 2, 2015

November 2, 2015

Now four weeks into Jane’s fourth lactation we’re settled into a routine.  I am forever grateful to Ruthless for stepping up and taking over the reins.  It wasn’t just the milking she had to do since I hurt my knee, it was taking a newly fresh, high production dairy cow who had a difficult calving through the first weeks of lactation.  Anyone who has a milk cow knows the first three weeks are the worst in the best of lactations.  Week one is hard, week two is less hard, and maybe by week three you feel like you know what you’re doing.  The udder swelling goes down, the lochia stops, you can relax about metabolic issues, the cow quits thinking everything is going to eat her calf, and your arms start to finally feel like arms instead of jelly.

My hat is off to her.  She never complained, and she never gave up. It’s hard work for a seasoned hand milker let alone a person who has never milked.  The slower you are the harder it is.  Kudos!  Best. Kid. Ever.

Yesterday was the first day I actually milked, moving from the role of micro-manager to actual milker.  Thank heavens for a bomb-proof cow.  She stands stock-still while you milk.  Jane is pure gold.



Jane also provides pure gold.  It’s kind of nice to be stocking back up on butter and ghee and having an unlimited supply of dairy to cook with and feed with.

chicken cheese - ricotta

chicken cheese – ricotta

A high producing dairy cow suits us just fine.  Jane is at about six gallons per day.  Jane needs to feed her calf first and foremost, and he can take about three gallons per day between two feedings which gives him a good start in life, and leaves us with three gallons for the house.  A cow will reach peak lactation at three months, and then some cows tend to taper off, or some are persistent producers.  Jane is a persistent gal, she reaches to about eight gallons per day and then tapers back off to six.  At least that is how all her previous lactations went.  Calving in fall this time, things may be different, without lush pastures available when she peaks, maybe she’ll hold at six.  Eight is too much and six is about Goldilocks for me.  Just right.  I want enough milk to be able to make all our butter, raise her calf, maybe two pigs and offset the cost of home-grown eggs.

Of course none of this is free, but I have to tell you folks, you can’t buy dairy products like this in the store.  That expensive Irish butter that everybody goes goo-goo for is nothing compared to Jane’s golden butter.  And there isn’t a whole lot of fossil fuel being burned up to make our butter at home.  Having cattle doesn’t pay unless you have good pasture.  Many people think that because they have grass growing they have quality pasture.  Ummm, I would have to say that’s not usually the case.  We have good pasture because we have had cows for many years, so our pasture is good.  You can’t have one without the other, and you can’t create a good pasture in a few scant months.  It takes a lot of time and care to make a palatable pasture.


Looking ahead, now that I have gotten over the initial stress of Jane’s eventful calving, I am trying to think positive thoughts that she may be able to have another calf, after a long rest.  Even then there are no guarantees that she will have a heifer, or that she won’t need help again.  Time will tell. But for now, I am glad to be back on the milking stool twice a day, and super glad to be making butter again.

40 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2015 4:22 pm

    So lovely to hear about the life I imagine but wouldn’t have the balls (or…….) to muster. At least not at this stage of the game. Glad your knee and Jane are doing well. Kisses to Ruthless.


  2. November 2, 2015 4:49 pm

    Oh that butter! and yes we are Grass Gardeners! I am still building my pastures after five years at it.. but it works! c

  3. Bee permalink
    November 2, 2015 4:53 pm

    Let’s hear it for Ruthless — hip, hip, hooray! I confess I’m surprised, though, Nita, that she’d never milked before. I learned the hard way in my nursing career to follow the IIGHBAT principle (If I Get Hit By a Truck); somebody else always had to know how to do the job. Whenever we started a new program, we always trained three people so we had backup. I keep nagging hubby that he needs to teach OGD (oldest granddaughter) how to mechanic on the backhoe; she’s learned to drive it fairly competently. Thank goodness, Jane is such a good cow. Glad to hear the knee is doing better; a laid-up farmer not only can’t do stuff, she gets testy (or I do, anyway!).

    • November 2, 2015 5:40 pm

      Bee, well never more than a couple of gallons at a time, intermittently, here and there. When I worked at hospital we were all cross-trained, but you know how it goes the plumber has leaky plumbing at home. Before Jane freshened she cleaned out the deep bedding, built the compost piles, and then spread all the old compost on the fields. The utility workers at my husbands work could not have done the work she did, despite all their puffed up egos and false bravado. But she’s cross-trained now. I’m testy anyway… 😉

  4. November 2, 2015 5:56 pm

    Yup, I have to say, Ruthless deserves all the praise coming her way – the timing of your injury was terrible, and I’m so glad you had her around to take it all on. I too have amazingly capable daughters, and I’m humbled by their patience with my micro managing, and anxiety and fussing – they just get on and get it done in spite of me. :).

    • November 2, 2015 8:20 pm

      SSF, she excelled at pasture rotation too, the cows now look to her and they look at me as if to say, “Are you just along for the ride?” Love your last sentence, “…they just get on and get it done in spite of me.” So true!

  5. Allisa Imming permalink
    November 2, 2015 6:01 pm

    You’ve sure got a beautiful new calf. And I’m super jealous of your dairy products!

  6. Stumplifter permalink
    November 2, 2015 7:52 pm

    So very good to hear word about how things are at your place. MoH, you never cease to amaze me with your ability to weather the storm. I had a partial knee replacement (age 41), and I can recall how shitty it felt before surgery not being able to get stuff done- and then afterwords, too. Here’s lookin’ at your knee and hoping it keeps tickin’ along with the rest of ya. As for pastures, I am looking so forward to getting some animals on ours. . . On your recommendation, the mowing we have done so far has brought some beautiful looking stuff back and I’m certain the critters will speed that along. Speaking of critters, Jane looks good, I am sending some big lovin’ and wishes for thorough healing for her, too.

    • November 2, 2015 8:17 pm

      Ugh, that sounds awful. I’m hoping to avoid surgery, so far so good. Good to hear about your pastures! Jane is in fine fettle these days, she likes having a baby and a job.

  7. November 2, 2015 10:19 pm

    In some ways it makes me feel better that you find the first weeks hard too, that has certainly been our experience so far, but that means even with more experience its still going to be hard for me! We are now at the 3 month stage where the calf can take all the milk if we don’t want to milk. We are slowly realising that we don’t have good pasture and that is our biggest priority, poor cows, I hate seeing them eating hay or poor grass all year, but that’s our climate and our soil at the moment, we have work to do!

    • November 3, 2015 5:40 am

      farmer liz, it has always been a nerve-wracking time for me anyway, just so much to watch for, I am always so relieved when the bag softens and gets back to normal. It’s nice to get to that stage isn’t it? We have been trying to keep this calf both bottle and nurse, and just a few days ago he refused the bottle, stinker. Jane doesn’t care for the butting, and she starts to get kicky, and for her to kick means it hurts, she is a rock. So now the dilemma, make her get over it and let him nurse, or make him get over it and get him back where he getting his milk from us which then means I have to milk TAD. I swear I never really had dairy cow problems until I started blogging and it’s been all downhill since then, I am ready for a new trend :p I can’t rest on my laurels pasture-wise, we have had two dry years in a row and it’s telling on the forage, without irrigation the grass will just not grow as much no matter how you manage it, and we won’t be irrigating so we are going to have to make some changes.

  8. November 3, 2015 5:57 am

    So pleased you are feeling better! I was debating on emailing you to see how the knee and Jane were coming along, but knowing how busy I am figured you must be even more so! We are looking at a couple hogs, then decided without a milk cow nope not doing it til spring when we can pick up a nice bred heifer/younger cow to have milk for them. Just too costly otherwise!

    • November 3, 2015 6:18 am

      Liz, ugh, what ever you do don’t get old 😉 I’m looking for another calf for the extra milk, I agree on the pigs, even with the milk it’s so hard to keep them warm enough in the winter. I’m waiting until spring.

    • November 4, 2015 7:45 am

      I am lucky in our having the barn, with everything in it, it would be warm enough, as that is when we always raised ours anyways, to keep the fly population down as much as possible. But well I REALLY like milk fed pork so I can be patient…

      In other news….THE TURKEYS LAID AN EGG!!! Whatever they are white turkey poults are on the horizon. Obviously need to wait til we have more than one egg, but Mr is definitely doing his job a half a dozen times a day so they should be good and fertile! We also bought another batch of rabbits. A young broken chestnut NZ cross type, 2 young bucks, and a litter of smaller kits. Our meat rabbit program is finally getting into gear!

      • November 4, 2015 7:51 am

        Yes, that would be nice, especially with the weather you guys get. I can’t even imagine, we’re weinies out here, it stays pretty warm really, just constant wet 😦

        Wow! That’s great news, home-raised turkeys and rabbits are the best!!

  9. Carrie permalink
    November 3, 2015 6:19 am

    So glad to hear that you’re still ‘testy’… Must mean you are reasonably well / coping OK. 🙂 🙂

    After ‘stepping up to the plate’ at short notice, I bet Ruthless is really glad of a breather from the milking.

    Could the ‘difficulties’ be that Jane, although a rock, is a very different temperament to Della? Is it all part of her maturing into her own character / nature? She’s still quite young in dairy terms isn’t she? I remain positive about Jane – that she can and will recover enough to calf. Raylan looks in fine fettle.

    Take care.

    • November 3, 2015 8:49 am

      Carrie, thanks, yes she’s glad for a break and I’m glad to be milking again. I like it.

      I think Jane’s problems probably have root in being raised on milk replacer, and partly genetics too. The AI guy usually has a limited array of Guernsey semen, so you either spend and arm and a leg for superior (lots of different criteria to look at for home vs dairy) bloodlines, or you take what you get. And like you say her nature is not very strong, Della was patient but a real ass when she was young, I had to send her to the beef herd for the treatment before she had her first calf. After her comeuppance she was much better behaved but all business. But she had the benefit of moms milk for 9 months, it makes a huge difference in overall health of a cow. If dairy heifers could be raised like beef heifers the dairy industry would look a whole lot different. I get the economic aspect of early weaning, but dairy calves get the short end of the stick many times. My mistake with Jane was letting my grief rule my head when Della died, I should have bought a cow and raised her on whole raw milk, but you know 20/20 hindsight.:(

      Raylan is adorable and very smart but I think he might develop a complex because every time I look at him I wish he was a heifer.

      • Carrie permalink
        November 3, 2015 2:43 pm

        “…but dairy calves get the short end of the stick many times” same here in most instances – for myself I don’t like the early weaning but maybe I would think differently if it was my livelihood?

        Yep, hindsight is great, but isn’t it interesting that so many people are learning from your experiences? Or at least having their awareness raised.

        Can you imagine what might have happened if our Grandparents had had the opportunity to explore each others’ ideas about dairying and stock-keeping… almost at the drop of a hat? No doubt been a lot of chat about the most effective ‘drenches’ for various ailments and, perennial topic, the quality of this year’s silage and hay. 🙂 🙂

        • November 3, 2015 4:23 pm

          Carrie, believe me I understand what the dairyman is up against. What I don’t understand is all the folks wanting to buy from small micro dairies because they don’t want to support industry practices, and they never seem to notice the micro dairy folks remove the calf, sell it or wean it early because well, heck I can sell that milk for $15 – $24 a gallon (in my area) who gives a rat’s ass about the calf, it has served it’s purpose getting the milk flowing. It’s easy for me to keep my calves on, I’m not selling my milk, and if it’s a heifer I want her to have at least the same start in life as my beef heifers, and if it’s a boy I will probably eat him or sell him, it makes no sense to short him on my scale.

          I’m sure our grandparents would have embraced any technology available to interact with their peers, we just now have to converse with our peers that are far away 🙂

  10. November 3, 2015 7:19 am

    It’s nice to see your pics on IG, but much better to get the full story on your blog. Farm kids, especially of the female variety, are the best (says I with three of them). We made sure to assign one of the milk cows to our youngest daughter so she’s now a milking champ. Those hands of hers are bionic, I swear. Your pastures look so green and lush. It’s my turn to be jealous of yours. We’re into the hay now.

    • November 3, 2015 8:41 am

      Tara, it’s been so uncomfortable to sit at the desktop, so in addition to being blog weary, it’s just been plain too hard to sit here and type. Good for you and her! I think it’s muscle memory too, it only takes me a few days to get in shape and her forearms were killing her at first, but mine have probably developed for milking. Jane is such an easy cow to milk too, she’s easy to place with a light touch and she very patient.

      Don’t even say the word HAY! I do not want to start feeding 😦

  11. Karen permalink
    November 3, 2015 8:01 am

    Big sigh of relief. Thanks for the update. Now if I could only send some of our rain your way. Sugar cane farmers are struggling, having gone from drought to flooding. Curious about feeding chickens milk products. Some say it’s a “no no”. Maybe it’s just a matter of feeding in moderation? For now, I don’t. Would appreciate your take on it.

    • November 3, 2015 8:24 am

      Ugh, we got 9 inches + in the last week! No more for a bit please 🙂 I think chickens have a hard time utilizing milk, but the cheese seems to have no effect, plus I want it gone right away, the last thing I need is a dish of milk sitting in the chicken house getting old and attracting skunks etc. So 3 gallons of milk, heated and about a one and half cups of vinegar and I have a big chunk of cheese for the hens. They aren’t getting that much, when you think its divided by 23 birds.

      • Carrie permalink
        November 3, 2015 2:11 pm

        For what it’s worth, pretty much daily my four hens enjoy a small bowl of strained Kefir. They don’t seem to digest straight Kefir well – it makes their droppings runny. However when the Kefir is strained of most of its whey / lactose (coffee paper filter method) they enjoy the resultant ‘yoghurt’ – well, it all gets eaten. Feathering is good, droppings firm, shell quality
        excellent… So I continue.

        • November 3, 2015 3:59 pm

          Carrie, yeah, no whey here, with three dogs with bushy pants, it’s not a pretty sight…if they get into it 😦 Same with the hens, I drain the cheese and use the whey for fertilizer.

  12. November 3, 2015 8:18 am

    So glad you are on the mend and “back in the saddle” I mean stool again! 🙂 Isn’t it just lovely that Jane’s lil guy has the same exact heart marking on his forehead that she does. She’s passed on the love!

  13. Carrie permalink
    November 4, 2015 4:10 am

    Gosh, if that’s a US gallons @ $15 – $24 per gallon that’s expensive milk at the top of the scale. £9-15 for 3.75 ltrs? Humm, tomorrow at local FM I shall pay about the equivalent of $15… so £2.10 per ltr for whole raw milk; I think I might cringe at double the price and decide my mild lactose intolerance ought to be respected!

    Absolutely agree about the right start in life whether said calf produces milk of meat, however, standard industry practice is the same here. The farmer from whom I shall buy raw milk makes quality cheese year round, thus the calves are taken away within a day or two. He can turn the milk into a product with a good market value, and in doing that he doesn’t have to contend with (for producers) the awful milk-marketing situation we have here.

    I not infrequently tell Simon I disapprove of his calf policy – he smiles and knows he’s the only supplier of raw milk for miles. 🙂 On the plus side, I have visited the farm and I know he runs a good, clean, humane operation and invests lots in cattle welfare / well-being (he’s actually quite a softie where ‘his girls’ are concerned!).

    Take care.

  14. CassieOz permalink
    November 4, 2015 7:15 pm

    So good to hear from you again Matron. Don’t lose all the testiness, all the bes farmers are testy 🙂 Keeping all appendiges crossed that the knee continues to improve and you can keep sitting under that pesky cow. I’m waiting for my new meat mincer before I wean Jenny’s 12 month old heifer (!) She’s well fed and due for freezer camp when the mincer arrives.

    That Ruthless is a keeper! So many thanks from all of us, that she was available when you needed her. Good ‘kid’.

    We’ve finally had an inch of rain over the past week after none for 6 weeks; a real problem at this stage of spring with only 6 weeks until the summer/heat dormancy hits us. No haying for us this year as we’ve leased the 26 acre paddock for potatoes in return for liming and complete reseeding with meadow/lucerne mix. There should be enough of last season’s to see us through.

    Now. Next challenge is to borrow a bull…

  15. November 5, 2015 5:16 am

    Good morning again. I have popped back in to ask a question of you as I have always found your advice to be cautious and sound. You remember my big cow Daisy died last year – 2 years of mastitis that got out of control finally pushed me to send her away. But this years cow Lady Astor, an older cow who has always raised her own calves and had never been milked has been a wonderful milk cow for me this summer. She fed her own calf until she was 5 months old with me milking her once a day throughout and once I weaned the calf I just continued milking once a day. She gave 30 – 35 lovely clean pounds a day. It is over eight months now so I am trying to dry her up. No grain at all and eating dry hay, no pasture. I have brought her down to 18 – 20 pounds a day but bless her she is not dropping any further and the bad winter is coming. We go from freezing to 0 very fast out here. And she is bred. My question is this – Can I take her to milking every 32 hours and dry her up by stretching her milking time? (Her previous owner just took the calf away at 7 months and left her in the field). I hope you don’t mind me picking your brains. Many thanks.. cecilia

    • November 5, 2015 5:57 am

      C, I sure miss Daisy, she was such a beautiful cow. Lady Astor sounds like a sweetie 🙂 I am not a fan of stretching out the milking. I quit cold turkey once the cow is down to a couple of gallons which Lady Astor is or close to. If she’s not showing any signs of mastitis that you need to treat I would stop milking. A cow stops producing milk when her udder gets full, she might be tight for a day or several but it will diminish. To stretch out the milking is just prolonging the drying off time and doesn’t really help. Hopefully you can get her dried off before the cold weather hits. Can’t wait to see the new baby when it arrives!

      • November 5, 2015 10:46 am

        Oh good – yes we are at just above 2 gallons. She has never shown any sign of mastitis and as you know I am paranoid about checking for it. She has always been clean. Thank you! I do appreciate the advice. Daisy was beautiful it was a Hard Hard day when the vet and I decided that she could not be saved. But Lady has settled in well a lovely cow. c

  16. November 5, 2015 7:26 am

    Glad to hear everyone is doing well. You raised a good one – I’ll have to go back through your blog to find out how she came by the nickname “Ruthless”!
    That Raylan is quite a “looker”. And that golden ghee – beautiful stuff.
    Once again I have to comment on how amazingly informative your posts and especially your sage advice in the comments section are. Talk about gold…

    • November 5, 2015 10:13 am

      Thanks so much for the kind words. “Ruthless” got her nickname from her mad vegetable thinning skills, she’s much better at it than I am and it’s so important.

      Oh man, we are seventh heaven with a calf to work with and get our hands on. In my next life I want oxen, I like to work with cattle.

  17. November 10, 2015 7:32 am

    He’s a beautiful calf, and here’s hoping Jane recovers fully and gives you many more years (and one or two little heifers!). She is a lovely cow.

  18. November 10, 2015 2:36 pm

    thanks MOH-it has been hard to find the time until now. Having fun out there and making progress, which is the main thing!

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