When I went to check on my very pregnant family milk cow last Thursday morning, I saw a sweet little calf hiding in the grass beside her. The calf looked exactly like Sienna’s last calf, which makes sense since the two had the same sire.
After finding the calf, I managed to move mama and baby up to the barn. I wanted to separate them from Marabelle, drain a little milk from Sienna, put a halter on the calf, and spend some time petting the calf. Since Sienna had a heifer this time, I named her Clarabelle. The calf is half Jersey and half Red Angus. It’s possible that I may turn her into another milk cow like I’m trying to do with her half-sister, Marabelle.
Even when you’ve been dealing with a family milk cow for years, it seems there’s always unexpected things that pop up. This time around, Sienna decided to be stubborn. She hasn’t given me any issues with her usual milking routine, save one. She doesn’t want to let down her milk for me. She’s trying to keep it for the calf. My previous milk cow did this, too. However, I’ve not had this issue with Sienna before. It’s frustrating.
Some people deal with this problem by taking the calf away. I don’t want to do this, as it’s more work for me. Instead, I separate the calf overnight, then in the morning, when I put Sienna in the stanchion, I let the calf come up to nurse. Once Sienna lets her milk down for the calf, I either take the calf off and put it back in its pen, or I milk off the front while the calf nurses off the back. It may take a few days of doing this, but eventually, Sienna should let down her milk for me without the calf there. Once she’s back in the routine and realizes that I let her have her calf back after I milk, she won’t be so protective.
I let Clarabelle and Sienna stay together during the day and only separate them at night. I can do this, because I only need a gallon of milk a day. The calf is free to take the rest.
Another issue I’m dealing with currently is the excessive heat. East Texas summers can get extremely hot and humid. The temperatures have been in the upper 90s with a heat index in excess of 110. This has been hard on Sienna. During the heat of the day, she stands in the shade and pants. Aside from making sure she has adequate water and shade available, there’s not a lot more I can do. (Sorry, I’m not going to put a/c in the barn. Although, that would be nice for when I milk.)
I don’t want to allow Sienna access to our pond yet, so I’ve started turning on a sprinkler for her during the hottest part of the day. She lets the water spray her to help cool her off. This is possible, because we have a pump from our pond that runs pond water to our outside hoses. (Thus, it doesn’t affect our water bill.)
I’ve decided that next year, I’m going to make sure she doesn’t calf until September, so I can skip milking during the hottest part of the year.