Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Timing is everything... and ours is lousy

There are two things happening around here that have really messed-up timing.  One would have been under our control, the other, not so much.

We acquired Stanley the pig June 28 to help us use up the excess milk we were getting from Penny.  I had a couple of calves nursing her at milking time and later got a third one, but there was still plenty left over for a little bitty baby pig.  When I weaned the calves and put them on pasture, I was left with a surplus of four gallons of milk a day.  Stanley wasn't big enough to take that much milk, so I had to pour some down the drain for awhile, but he gradually grew enough that he could take it all; I supplemented it with a little chopped corn.  We planned to take our cheaply-raised pig to the butcher shop down the road when he got to three hundred pounds:  Grandson Arick would pay for the processing, since we took care of the pig's feed, and we would each take half the pig.  It's a great plan, one we've used before.  

We forgot to take deer season into account.  When it's time for deer to be processed, the butcher shops around here stop taking cows and pigs, which is a good thing in the long run, because deer season is such a rushed, busy time for them, even if they continued to take in domestic livestock, it probably wouldn't be taken care of in a timely manner.  So when Stanley is ready for butchering, no butcher will process him.

Thank goodness Cliff worked at the now defunct Country Butcher shop at Oak Grove for many years.  He still has his knives, and knows how to use them.  It isn't easy these days, with arthritis plaguing him in his shoulders and hands, but he can do it.  We have a grinder, and I know where to get seasoning for sausage.  We don't have a way to cure the hams and bacon, but Cliff and I weren't going to have that done anyhow; the grandson planned on some ham and bacon, so he's out of luck unless the butcher shop would agree to do the curing if the cuts are brought to them, ready.  We just didn't think ahead when we bought Stanley.  It's our fault.  

The other thing that is really bad timing for us is the current drought.  While there was lots of rain a hundred miles to the north, all of it has passed us by, leaving us with dust clouds and dried-up, depleted pasture.  The timing is great for the farmers busy with harvest right now, but it's terrible here; cattle prices have taken a nose-dive, and we are forced to sell our weaned calves.  We'll haul them to the sale barn today.  As always, we thank God we don't depend on cattle-raising for a living.  

I'm not as bummed by this as you might think.  We have never been great at socking money away and building up savings accounts.  So if the calves bring exactly what we paid for them six months ago, we ask ourselves, "If we hadn't spent that money on calves, would we still have it today?"  

Probably not.  So we just tell one another, "Well, at least we kept our money together for awhile."

Yeah, we'll take what we get and be happy.

Monday, October 05, 2015

A difficult choice

Regular readers realize how I have worried and stewed over whether to sell Penny, one of my two Jersey cows.  One would think it shouldn't be a problem, considering I have sold dozens of cows I loved over the years.  And yet I struggled.  Penny's milk was perfect, the cream content outstanding.  She never gave me a problem in the barn, being milked.
I usually like to buy at least two baby calves at a time, so they can be buddies; but Penny was the only one I bought that spring.  I took suggestions for names from my blog readers, then let them vote for their favorite of the names that had been suggested.  That's how she got her name.  

When we put dehorning paste on her, some of it got on the tip of an ear, leaving her right ear shorter than the left one.

I had hoped that when she had her first calf, I might be able to get a couple of "bobby" calves to put alongside it so I wouldn't have to milk all the time.  This worked perfectly with Grace, my other cow; unfortunately, since Penny's firstborn was dead by the time it was delivered, she never got any experience with having a calf suckle her.  She refused the calves I put on her, although I did force her to take calves for about three months by putting an anti-kick device on her right side and letting all three calves nurse from that side.  Calves are hard on a cow's delicate udder, she developed some sore spots, and I weaned the calves and started milking twice a day.  That isn't as unpleasant a task as you might think, not for me.  I saved the morning milking (over two gallons), skimmed off the cream for coffee cream, potato soup, rice-and-raisins,, butter-making, etc., and poured most of the skim milk to Stanley the Pig, who got ALL the milk I obtained in the evening, cream and all, warm from the cow.  I'm guessing he weighs around two hundred pounds now, although Cliff and I aren't very good at estimating the weight of a pig (therein lies another story).

The trouble is, you have to be home every twelve hours to milk a cow.  Later on I could have switched to once-a-day milking, but not now, with her giving so much milk.  Finally this week, that still, small voice of reason kept telling me to sell the cow.  Friday evening I placed an ad on Craigslist, offering Penny for a more-than-reasonable price.  I would have asked more had she been bred, but it's been almost six months since she calved:  When I see a cow advertised that hasn't been bred in a timely manner, that raises red flags for me, and I wanted to allow for that.  See, she had metritis after her difficult calving.  The vet treated that, got her coming in heat again, and assured us that she would breed if we got her to a bull.  Here's one of the pictures I took to put on Craigslist:
She looks as thought she's accusing me
I immediately got a phone call from someone far away in central Kansas wanting to come and see her; he was going to be working Saturday but wanted to come the next day.  I told him to check back and see if she sold before then.  There was an email half an hour after I placed the ad asking if I would take $150 less than my stated price for the cow.  Good grief, I had her at a bargain price already!

Saturday I got calls from two different people who probably would have bought her, but we were going to be gone on a tractor drive until evening.  One man, another Kansan, said he would be here at 4:30 after I told him we would be home by four o'clock.

He and his son watched me milk Penny and asked lots of questions; "Four gallons... that's a lot of milk!" he exclaimed.

The guy said he has a lot of kids, and although they have never had experience with a cow, they want to try milking.  I liked the fellow, even though he has no experience.  Cliff and I both got good vibes from him.  He paid us half our asking price to hold the cow until next weekend and went on his way.  We will probably tell him that if she doesn't work out, we would take her back, as long as she is in the same shape as when we sold her.  But then he could probably sell her to someone else for more than he's paying.

So, Penny is going to Edwardsville, Kansas, next weekend.  I'm churning butter every day, putting it in the freezer.  I hope this all works well for everyone involved.  

Grace is due to calve in three weeks, I believe.  Her milk and cream are nothing to brag about, but her temperament is sweet.  If she accepts other calves as well as she did last year, we should be able to travel a little bit and I will still have a pet cow.