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Friday, May 28, 2010

Our House Cow Journey Continues

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I'm cross-posting from Home Grown this week, because my cows are the most interesting thing happening on the farm right now!

I began milking Lucy when Wags was a few weeks old. Until then, he and Poppy the foster calf shared all the milk. As they began to eat a little grain and some hay and grass, I decided to separate Lucy and Honey from them during the day, giving her several hours to graze the grass in the orchard and house paddock, and then I brought her in to be fed, checked over and milked before releasing her back into the small paddock with the babies and Honey for the night. I did this around four times each week, taking around 3 to 4 litres each milking. The other days they all grazed together. This routine went well for a little while, and then Lucy was only giving 2 litres at each milking, and then just a litre for the final couple of milkings last week. And then I gave up. Why go to all the bother of mixing feed, setting up, milking, cleaning the dairy, the buckets and everything for a mere litre of milk? As I led Lucy back to the small paddock, her udder would swell and teats fill with the rest of the milk she had withheld from me, ready to feed her babies she'd been apart from all day.

Last week we let them all into a larger paddock to allow us to do some maintenance on their small paddock and the areas we graze them inside electric fence tape. I'm not milking Lucy for awhile. We've slashed their paddocks and we'll harvest some manure and hay from near their pens to use in some of the raised garden beds I've emptied out recently. Do I still have a House Cow? Or a dairy breed with her calves let loose in the paddock? I'm trying to convince them they're still our dairy herd by encouraging them back to the water troughs daily for their minerals, perhaps some hay or another treat, and some checking over and brushing. Poppy and Honey especially love to be brushed, I think because they've had less affection from Lucy, being foster calves. I use a horse brush on them and they mostly love careful strokes around their face and ears.

When it's time to wean the calves, I'll bring Lucy back to the small paddock. I'm not sure on the exact management of the herd from there, but I'll try to get her into once-a-day milking again. I don't think I'll bother with another foster calf for a little while.

We have just castrated Wags using the banding method, which seems to us to have been a humane way to carry out the process. His job now is to eat grass and grow big!

The next thing we need to think about is getting Lucy artificially inseminated (AIed), which is usually done three months after a dairy cow calves.

So much to consider... And to think that once I just thought that cows ate grass, drank water, made manure and existed with little human intervention!

5 comments: said...

Absolutely fascinating!!! Thanks for sucha great post!

Chookie said...

Where did the idea for this (ultimately unsuccessful) milking plan come from? I only know about human milk but I was reading this thinking, "That wouldn't work!" What would you do differently next time?

Anonymous said...

hi, i had a house cow, jersy x dexter who i milked succesfully b4 i had to sell her due to shortage of feed and finances.

i had this issue if mooly (mum cow) withholding all her milk from me for her calf and i agree with you it is the most frustrating thing so i went to the internet and found nothing, i was beginning to loose faith in my house cow success when my mum came up to visit, she had milked as a kid and had lost none of her ability's and agreed that mooly was definetaly holding back 90% of her milk - we went to visit her brother and his wife wendy had the most intreeging soulution! share milking!

her mum used to milk what she could from the cow then allow the calf to suck for a bit to bring on the letdown - pull her off and get the rest of the milk by tricking the mother!

so this i tried but pulling janjan (calf) off was not somthing i found easy expecialy once my mum went home and wasnt there to help, i also noticed that it hurt mooly to pull janjan off so i came up with my own version...

i would put out two feeds moolys in the bale and janjans of to the side, they both learnt quickly where they had to go, i gave janjan only enough feed to last her till i had my measely 1 ltr of milk out and mooly, sucking it all up away from me, i would then lead janjan to moolys other side where she would suckel her side while i quickly handled the huge letdown this action bought forward!

once again i was walking smiling away from my milking shed with 3-4 lrts of milk!

a huge success.

some things i will add, to share this did take a little as calf slobber is intensly lubing and makes it hard to milk once on your hands. so try not to get much on your side.
the calf will try to steal your nipples but with a scratch on the snout a few times she soon left me to mine. but as soon as she heard the scrape of the bucket out from under she new i had finished and would finish off what she could get.

though as she got older i found mooly redusing again and had to start milking 2 times a day and stripping mooly after jan jan had finished because as it got harder to get milk out jan jan would give up ad leave to much in there. mooly also by this time was weaning jan jan and wouldent let get suck unless she was in the bale. and even then let her have it a few times if she got rough.

dont give up keep on going!


ps as soon as we get our own place im so getting more cows! i miss it sooooooo much.

Anonymous said...

dont give up - try this it worked for me!

milk what you can out
get calf on one side with yourself on the other. she has one side while you milk the other, this brings on the let down! woohoo there it is all that milk she was holding back - it is awesome!

some things to add.
calf slobber is was lubrecating and makes the job hard if you get it on your habds so try not to.

when calf tries to steal your teats i found a tittle sratch on the snout to show her not yet, soon had her keeping to her own.

and as the calf gets older and looses intrest you may need to strip mum after she has finished because they get slack.


Bel said...

Chookie, I'm not sure what you mean by your question. I don't think how I managed my house cow and two calves is any different to many who own a house cow. I can't say I'd do anything differently again. It was just a season. I stopped milking for awhile and Lucy raised 2 lovely calves in the meantime. Now they're both weaned and I'm milking full-time, with no calves (same lactation).

Thanks, nftft and anon! :)