Farm life certainly has its share of ups and downs, unexpected twists, joys and hardships. My family milk cow’s cycle this year has been one of difficulties. As I’ve explained previously, (here and here), I’ve had some issues with calves.
To briefly summarize, I originally put two calves on my milk cow, so the two of them would be able to keep up with Sienna’s milk supply while I was away on a trip. When I returned, Sienna’s udder was in bad shape (and she’d developed mastitis), so I had to take both calves off. I found a temporary home for her adopted calf, Breezy, and, once Sienna had healed, I put her own calf back on her. However, it turned out that it was her calf, Curdle, that was causing the “unnecessary roughness.”
Until I could wean Curdle at three months of age, I had to take him on and off of his mama to keep him from injuring her udder. I’ve never had this happen before this year. It was quite strange.
Breezy came back to our farm at the same time I took Curdle off for good. Since the two calves are the same age, they were weaned together. Breezy bawled so much that she lost her voice. I actually ended up moving both of the calves to a pasture about a mile down the road, so that I would have better success in getting Sienna to accept a new calf. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
I brought Calf #3 home from a local dairy on Dec. 10. I paid $25 for the days-old, Jersey bull I named Gusty.
The last time I introduced a new calf* to Sienna, it took her about three weeks to fully accept it. That was way too long and quite frustrating. However, this time she allowed the new baby to nurse on its own in six days. I feel we’ve made great progress there.
When I say “fully accept,” I mean that the calf stays with her in the field, and Sienna will allow it to nurse whenever it chooses to do so. However, Gusty was still a bit timid, not nearly as aggressive as some of the other calves I’ve had in the past. It took him a couple more days until I could trust that he would consistently approach Sienna to nurse on his own.
At first, I only allow the calf to nurse Sienna when she’s in the stanchion eating feed. After a couple days of that, I tie her to a post in the pasture and give her a bowl of feed while the calf nurses. At this point, just the two of them are in a separate pasture, so they will bond. Eventually, the calf tries to eat on his own, and she allows it.
My goal has been to get to the point I call my “easy milking routine.” This is where I only have to milk when I choose to do so. (When we are ready for more milk to drink.) So, if I want three gallons of milk a week, I simply have to milk three times a week instead of 14. The calf will do my milking for me most of the time. When I want milk, I separate the calf overnight, get my gallon of milk, and then put him back in with Sienna.
In this way, I can still have fresh, raw milk, but I don’t have the huge time commitment of milking twice a day.
Now that I’m homeschooling during the week and about to have a greenhouse to work this spring, I’m trying to manage my time more carefully. Thankfully, I believe Sienna’s third calf will finally allow me to have my “easy milking routine” that I had planned on… I hope. For now, I’m still milking every morning, because he can’t quite keep up with her production. But, calves get greedier as they grow. Go, Gusty, go!
*I’m not counting the time with Breezy where I tried to convince Sienna she had twins.