Baby Daisy

Due to a WordPress glitch, the first part of this post went out prematurely and only half written.  I apologize for any inconvenience!

Our second (and last for the year) calf came into the world this week.  It has been, well, HOT lately (it is July after all) and the heat indices have been 100+ (38+ in Celsius) for several weeks.  A storm every 10 days or so assures that the humidity stays high and the poor heifer – enormously pregnant for the last few weeks – has looked quite miserable as she waddled back and forth between the barn and the pasture.

So when she went into labor 10 days early, we were happy for her pregnancy to come to an end.  We knew the calf was going to be a big one – this heifer looked bigger a month ago than the one giving birth then – so we assumed it would be a bull calf.  Watching her labor and attempt to push the calf out, we realized she wasn’t far from distress, made worse by the high temperatures.  She was laboring at the hottest part of the afternoon and though she was in a stand of trees, we knew she couldn’t labor ineffectively for long before it would become a problem, so we made the decision to move in and help her.

Here is where working with the cattle on a daily basis, handling them, scratching their polls, putting halters and lead ropes on and moving them around, really helped us.  Some animals in labor want nothing to do with humans but this heifer, Star, seemed happy to have our help.  We each grabbed a leg, and also used a hand to ease the head out of the vulva.  it took the combined efforts – a cow and two people – four contractions to pull the calf free.  Once the head and shoulders had cleared the birth canal, the rest of the calf came out in a rush of amniotic fluid.

Seconds after birth

Seconds after birth

The heifer took a short time to catch her breath before turning to see her calf for the first time.

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Labor forgotten, she was ready to start cleaning off the baby.

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Throughout this time she was relaxed having us there, but became anxious about the presence of the dogs – dogs she has known for six months and never worried about before!

Until now we had assumed the calf was a bull due to its size – it was a much bigger calf than Baby Rose, born a month ago.  So it was with astonishment that we finally checked gender and discovered the calf is another little heifer!  We couldn’t be more thrilled as, being Jerseys, a heifer is far more valuable to us than a bull calf.

Baby Daisy knew she had to get on her feet as soon as possible and it wasn’t long until she had gained enough control of those long, gangly limbs, to stand – somewhat shakily – and then take her first few steps.  She started looking for the udder immediately and found it soon after.

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We are thrilled that Star stood still to allow Daisy to get the hang of nursing.  Sometimes first-time mothers are not as tolerant and try to move away any time the baby latches on.  She is also being very protective.  We are simply happy to have a healthy heifer calf, even though it means yet another cow to add to the milking rotation.

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When the Cows Come Home….

Anyone who knows HWA and me at all will remember hearing us repeat often and loudly that we are not interested in raising dairy animals.  Period.  End of subject.

A month ago our neighbor mentioned that she was planning to get a Jersey cow and her calf.  Congratulating her (and at the same time inwardly thinking “Are you nuts?”) I told her I’d be happy to buy some excess milk at some point.  I’d never had raw milk and would be interested in trying it.  Over the next few weeks, her plan evolved from a cow/calf to two bred heifers, until a week ago when I got a phone call from her.  “Would you be interested in buying a cow?”  “Um, NOOOOO!”

You’ve already guessed how this ends so I’ll just jump straight to two days ago, when our cowherd arrived.

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The herd consists of a cow with her 2-week-old calf, two bred heifers and a steer who will be sent to butcher once he is big enough.  All are Jerseys (dairy breed).

So how did we allow ourselves to be talked into it?  We’re still trying to figure that out ourselves.  Well, obviously the lure of milk and its associated products – cream, cheese, yogurt and ice-cream – had some effect.  Also, the fact that the milk is raw and organic, and that it will be one step closer to controlling our food supply.  But the main factor that swayed us is that we are doing this as a cooperative with our neighbors, who have also become our good friends in the years we’ve lived next door.  Like us, they have an interest in eating better food in order to maintain health.  And, like us they have land available and buildings that are easily adapted to accommodate cows (who will live next door most of the time).  Rather than each of us owning a couple of cows, we co-own all of them and will share both the responsibilities of caring for them and the milk and meat they provide.  And it is a win-win for all of us for this reason.  HWA and I had always been adamant we didn’t want dairy animals because we didn’t want to be tied to twice-a-day – or even once-a-day – milking.  But by co-sharing none of us will be tied down as much, and each family will be free to travel, knowing the other will take care of things.

Cows – and dairy animals – will be a totally new learning curve for us, but we will share the journey as we take it.