Saturday, February 02, 2013

Why I have all these cows

I kept milk cows, mostly Jerseys, for over twenty years.  That means that for all those years I milked cows twice a day, every day.  We didn't go on vacation.  We didn't spend the night away from home.  And honestly, for the most part, I didn't care.  I loved my cows, and we really couldn't afford to go on a vacation anyway.  I used all that milk to raise baby calves or pigs.  
The time finally came when I didn't want to be tied down.  Also, I went to work; it was no fun to have to milk a cow before and after work.  During my cow-free years, I had a horse or two, but I was done with milking forever.  We went on a few vacations.  
Years went by, and from somewhere deep within me came a longing:  I needed a Jersey cow in my life again.  This was before I discovered Craigslist, but I was part of a country forum, "Homesteading Today".  I found someone up near Richmond who had Jerseys and asked if she would consider selling me a heifer calf.  I figured I'd have fun raising the calf, have her bred at the age of thirteen months or so, and once again have the fun of milking a cow.  Because I've always loved cows.  
"But we'll be tied down again," Cliff said.  Not that he cared much, because if it was up to him he would never set foot off our land.  
"No, I'll only be tied down maybe six weeks out of the year, until her calf can consume all her milk." 
Cliff wasn't so sure how that would work, but I knew it would.  

So in February of 2008, I paid an outrageous amount of money ($300 or $350) for a little bitty grade heifer.  I enjoyed raising her.  I loved her so much that we even went and bought an ugly little dwarf-sized steer so she wouldn't be the only cow on the place.
Unfortunately, although she came in heat regularly every three weeks, she was sterile.  We called the AI man for her twice.  Then we hauled her to a bull.  Then we hauled her to another bull.  We finally realized that she was not going to breed and got rid of her.  
Before we got rid of her, though, we bought another Jersey.  No more calves, I told myself.  We'll get a cow that's bred so we know it isn't another sterile female.  

  By this time we knew about Craigslist, and that's how we found Bonnie, a registered Jersey heifer pregnant with her first calf.  I think we paid $1,350 for her, which seemed high at the time, but looking back, it's the best money I ever spent on a cow.  I don't even remember what we did with Secret.  Did we eat her?  Did we sell her?  Oh well.  
So we were now a one-cow family, although if Bonnie had a heifer calf, I intended to keep it as a replacement in case something happened to her.  An ace in the hole, so to speak.  Bad things can happen to cattle, especially dairy cattle.  I wanted to be prepared with a backup.

However, she insisted on having boy babies.  That's why I bought Jody, who is now grown and very pregnant with a Jersey calf.  I now have my replacement, but Bonnie is still going strong, albeit only milking from three quarters.  I now have two milk cows.  
A little over a year ago, we noticed that cattle were selling high.  I told Cliff, "We have hay going to waste and lots of grass; we should buy a beef cow and make some easy money."  
That's when Babe, the Hereford, came on the scene, a cow I would not have to milk.  Now we had female cows, but no bull.  

We bought Red, the bull, so we wouldn't have to transport cows all over the countryside when they come in heat: one more mouth to feed.  Babe calved in August, giving us a heifer calf.  Before that, though, a drought occurred.  Our pasture and alfalfa patch kept the cows in grazing material until late fall, but the hay crop was skimpy.  If we hadn't already had some hay in the barn from the previous year, we would have been buying some very expensive hay this winter.  In fact, we could see that our hay wasn't going to last till spring; since Babe ate more than any two of the others, she and her calf had to go.  
Last September I saw some baby calves selling for a decent price on Craigslist and, because I love raising babies and couldn't resist, I bought two.  Sure, there was a drought, but babies don't eat that much hay.  (I guess I forgot that babies grow up.)  
And that's how I ended up with more cows than our place can handle.  I have two full-grown dairy cows, a  five-month-old heifer that will eventually be a milk cow, and if Jody has a heifer, that's another one.  Did I think I was going to start a dairy, or what?  
Bonnie has a whiteface heifer that will NOT have to be milked when she's grown, but will give enough milk to raise a really nice baby.  We will likely sell her at weaning time.
Folks, I've had rabbits that didn't multiply as rapidly as the cattle on this place have.  
I'm going to have to sell some animals next year.   
If I mention getting a bottle calf again, somebody please hog-tie me until the urge passes.

Of course, I am thinking about buying a baby calf for Jody to raise alongside her own.  You know, just to take advantage of all that extra milk.  There's a dairy at Higginsville selling their Holstein bull calves for a reasonable price...


I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

You enjoy what you do and that is important. If you didn't enjoy it would be work and not any fun. It won't be long now and there will be another.

Paula said...

Nice journal about you and your life with cows. I agree there is nothing like a cow and her personality. They are a vacation, huh?

Margaret said...

My husband swore that his mom's farm and all the work she did with her cows and chickens kept her young. I think it's a healthy way to live!

Angela said...

My favorite part of this entire entry:

I don't even remember what we did with Secret. Did we eat her? Did we sell her? Oh well.

You make me laugh.
Have a great week!

Forty Pound Sack said...

Your cow-buying logic makes perfect sense to me :)

patsy said...

if you think about your herd has grown fast. when bonnie was breed you only had her a the herford if I remember right. now you have a bull will have to look back on your blog to see what you did with secret. we do that all the time , we even check the weather in the past by reading our past post.
I check chickens, Fleta checks gardens and goats and Betty checks dogs.
Helen checks cleaning!