Sunday, 13 September 2009

Our House Cow Journey Part 1

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

For awhile, we've been wanting a house cow. We have lots of grass and lots of water and we love fresh raw milk from Jersey cows. Recently I heard of a farmer who was changing to only bigger breeds of cattle and selling off his handful of Jersey milkers. I got a farmer friend to help me choose a sound animal and waited to find a foster calf for her.

This is Honey, the foster calf. She came from another dairy. She was excess to their needs because she isn't of the breeding they wish to pursue in their herd. She is a Jersey heifer calf and came here at just under 2 weeks of age.

This is Lucy the cow (formerly known as 3361) getting to know her foster calf. She has never raised her own calves before as they're separated on most farms. Lucy probably didn't know her own mother cow either, but fed from a nurse cow twice a day at the dairy.

This is probably one of the first times an actual calf has suckled on Lucy. We had to tie them up so we could more easily handle them (the photos don't show all the kicking and head-butting which went on!) Honey had been feeding from a cow, though, not a bottle, so she knew what to do!

Once Honey was full, we had to milk out what remained in the udder. Lucy is used to being machine-milked in a dairy, not hand-milked in a paddock by two inexperienced milkers! At first we just milked onto the ground to give her very full udder some relief.

And then we introduced the bucket and caught some milk to take up to the house. The children lined up with cups for warm creamy milk fresh from the cow!

This is Honey a week later. She's feeding twice a day from Lucy and trying little bits of other feed too. She might be feeding more often from Lucy, but I supervise two big feeds whilst Lucy has her grain mix in a bucket and stands still for longer.

Lucy can be led to the bails now, so we're milking her out in there each afternoon, once Honey has had her fill. They still sleep together a pen each night, but Lucy is free to come and go into a larger paddock throughout the day.

Lucy is in calf so will feed Honey until she weans, then probably have a couple of months' break before delivering her own calf (another heifer we hope), and so our little milking herd will grow...