Friday, 2 April 2010

Our House Cow Journey Part 3

From Spiral Garden

Honey, at six months, is now almost as tall as Lucy, her foster mother

Continued from Our House Cow Journey Part One and Our House Cow Journey Part Two.

Since I last wrote a cow update, Honey was gently weaned by mid-January and Lucy had nearly 10 weeks holiday from milking. So did we! The milk in the freezer lasted awhile, then we had to go back to buying local milk again from here.

Last week, Lucy's calf arrived. After spending many late night studying books and websites about calving, we woke around 6am to find a wet little bull calf at Lucy's feet in the paddock. We removed Honey to another paddock and stood back and watched. It was amazing seeing him take his first steps, and drink colostrum from Lucy.

Lucy with newborn Wags - having her mineral-fix to help prevent milk fever and mastitis

We watched them keenly for two days, and arranged to have a Jersey heifer calf, almost three weeks old, delivered from a nearby dairy on Day 3. The calf had already been named Sweetheart, though after a week I'm still finding it confusing as I use it as a term of endearment when speaking to the other cattle, and possibly even the hubby and kids! I hadn't noticed before she arrived, but I'm mentioning her name a lot more often than I'm actually speaking to or about her... So if another character enters this tale along the way, perhaps it'll just be that I will have changed Sweetheart's name.

Wags (top) 3 days old and 'Sweetheart' 3 weeks old

At first Lucy was not interested in her new charge at all. So a couple of hours later my daughter Abby and I led the calf to the milking shed and washed her off with warm water and rags. We dried her with an old towel, as it was a cool, rainy day. Then we led Lucy in to milk out some of the excess colostrum (just as we had the day before). When she was in place having her snack of grain, hay, minerals and molasses we encouraged Sweetheart forward to feed from Lucy's udder. She fed with gusto, having been kept away from the nurse cows at the dairy that morning to make the mothering-on process easier for us.

After awhile we took them both back to the pen in the paddock where Wags was having a nap on the hay. Sweetheart again fed from Lucy, and Lucy let her! We were so relieved.

I continued to watch Lucy and the calves carefully each day - checking the calves' health and bowel movements (Wags was scouring for awhile, but it seems to be almost-normal consistency now), checking Lucy's udder and generally observing their interactions with each other.

Lucy, waiting at the gate to graze in the house paddock, with Sweetheart and Wags having a feed. See the mud? Hasn't stopped raining for 2 weeks!

In just a week they've all settled nicely, and Honey sleeps in her own paddock at night, but grazes alongside Lucy by day, with or without the calves.

We're still not taking any milk for ourselves, as Lucy is still producing colostrum, but we're looking forward to share-milking with two calves, and continuing our learning alongside our little herd.