When Penny calved on April 25, the calf was huge, and was dead by the time Cliff pulled him out of her. As often happens when there is a calving problem, she retained the placenta and Dr. Neal came and cleaned her out, put some boluses in her, and gave her something to make her cycle, which he said usually helps get a cow with these problems back on course.
We had a Jersey bull here with her for over two months, but he was getting pretty ornery. So we had him butchered. However, I hadn't noticed him following Penny around for three weeks, so I was hopeful that she was bred. After he was gone, I watched closely for signs of heat, but there were none. I figured she must be bred... but then I began to notice she had pus coming from her nether regions at times. I consulted Dr. Google and realized Grace had metritis. According to what I read, cows with metritis often fail to come in heat and breed. So, was Grace bred, or not?
She is one of the best dairy cows I've ever had: She is still, in September, giving over four gallons of milk a day. She stands still as a statue when I milk, and hardly ever poops or pees while she's in the barn. There is a good amount of rich cream in her milk. She is gentle-natured, although a little timid with strangers. I decided to call Dr. Neal back to pregnancy-check her.
She was open (not pregnant). Dr. Neal treated her again; when Cliff joined us in the barn, I said, "Well Cliff, I guess I'll just milk her until time to haul the calves off and use her milk to grow the pig, then load her up with the calves and take her to the sale barn.
"Oh, I'm confident she will be fine," said the vet. "I believe she will breed in a month or so."
There haven't been any signs of a problem since he was here, so my hopes are high that the vet knows what he's talking about.
I had already shared here that I thought I had found someone to milk Penny for me when we went on vacation. Well, that didn't work out: We went to meet up with them at the time the guy wanted to meet, and they stood us up. I figured if that's the kind of people they are, I didn't want any dealings with them. Once again, I resolved to sell the cow. Much as I love her, I want to be able to go someplace once in awhile.
And then, while I was milking last night, I thought of one more thing to try: Another Craigslist ad explaining my dilemma and offering to pay someone to take care of my cow: "I love milking my Jersey cow, but it ties me down. Once in a blue moon I would like to be able to leave home for a couple of days. November 10 and 11 we are going on a trip, and if I can't find someone to milk Penny I will have to sell her. She is the best cow I've ever had, and I really hate to have to get rid of her.
We either need someone to come here and milk her for three milkings, or else if you have facilities, we would haul her to your place if it's not too far. We live between Lexington and Buckner.
If interested, call and we can discuss specifics."
Notice I didn't mention how much I would pay. I had in mind $50 per milking, because I am that desperate to keep the cow. If I ended up taking her to someone else's place, I told myself, $50 a day sounded good, since I've paid that much to board dogs before, and Penny is worth more than any dog I've had. But that was something I'd work out if I got any calls.
The ad hadn't been in for ten minutes when I got a call. The guy was Mexican with a thick accent. He had never milked a cow, but he was willing to learn. Sorry, but I want someone who knows a little about the nature of a cow, likes them, and realizes how tired your hands can get milking a cow if you don't do it every day.
Less than an hour later I got another call from someone who was raised on a farm but never milked a cow. Sheesh. Oh, and he lives near Chillicothe, a good distance from here. He's going to make the trip to my house twice a day for two days? I politely took down his number and told him I would see what other calls I got. Then, because I was going to bed, I turned off my phone.
This morning I had a voice mail from some guy named George who milks cows himself and would gladly let my bring my cow over so he could milk her with his herd. Bingo! I'll call later this morning and see where he lives and decide if we can work something out. When I opened up the laptop, I had an email: A man in Grain Valley said we could take the cow to his place and he would milk; he didn't say whether he has milk cows of his own, but at least now there are a couple of possibilities. There will be things to work out: Most people who milk these days, even just one or two cows, use a bucket milker, so whoever does this for me will need to have the patience to train Penny to a milking machine the first time or two they milk her. That shouldn't be difficult for someone who knows cows.
The silly thing about this whole situation, of course, is that I don't need a milk cow. I only keep milk cows around because I love to work with them. But hey, one pet is as good as another if you fall in love with the animal. I would hope that Penny's next calf survives. That will simplify matters for me, next time around.