Tuesday, July 14, 2009

cows, and other things

A reader left this question in my comment section: "How do big dairies get their cows to let down their milk? I thought they separated the calves almost from birth."

Now that's a good question, one I myself would ask if I didn't already know.

Dairymen leave the calf with its dam for the first three days, so it can take full advantage of the colostrum, or first milk, which contains antibodies that get calves off to a flying start; often, if the calf does not get colostrum within the first twenty-four hours after it is born, it will die.

Colostrum is considered "not for human consumption" in this country, although I've read that in some other parts of the world it is sometimes made into some sort of pudding that's considered a delicacy. Colostrum is thick-ish, and sometimes strange-colored. I'll pass on it, thank you very much.

After those first three days of its life, the calf never meets up with its mother again, and the cow forgets about her baby and accepts the person who milks her as a replacement for her calf. The routine of going into the barn, getting feed, and having the udder washed twice a day triggers the same response in her that the calf once did.

Now, moving on: Lately I've had the gate to the big lot closed, keeping Blue off the lush pasture and Bonnie and her calf up here where I can keep an eye on them. This afternoon I looked out the window and saw Blue and Tude, one of the horses boarded here, together out in the pasture; and Sassy, the other boarded horse, was inside the big lot. And Bonnie and her calf were gone to pasture.

The gate was closed tight when I went to check, and I don't have a clue how this happened; maybe at some point it wasn't latched, and a horse bumped into it and opened it? All I know is, the animals played upset-the-fruit-basket.

I am not comfortable yet letting the calf out, so I took my cattle prod (just a long white plastic stick, not one of those shock things), figuring I'd guide Bonnie back to the barn and her calf would follow. Normally she guides quite well with the prod. Unfortunately, she figured out where I was taking them and decided to turn aside and keep her freedom.

So I began guiding Sir Loin with the prod instead, knowing Mom would follow. I was amazed when he let me guide him so well!

I still can't figure out how all those critters got in the wrong places and then shut the gate. You'd think a human was involved, but there's been nobody around but me and Cliff, and we haven't touched that gate since the weekend.

Another note: When I was at the doctor's office last week, the nurse mentioned I had wax built up in one ear, and she intended to take care of that; unfortunately, she and I both forgot about it. So Cliff suggested later that we get some of that ear wax removal stuff at the drug store.

I put some in my ear last night when I went to bed, and this morning I woke up deaf in that ear. It's the left side, just like Cliff's deaf ear. It's my telephone-talking ear. It's driving me batty! Directions with the ear stuff say to use it for four days, so I'm hoping it'll dissolve whatever's in there eventually. Otherwise, I'm going to the doctor.

Cliff thinks it's rather funny that I'm getting a taste of the problem he's lived with for years.


  1. Lindie5:30 PM

    I have heard of candleing. Does that work?

  2. Hopefully the wax clears and you can hear all the glories of stereo sound of birds and internet radio again.

  3. Interesting story! I hope you get your ear issues straightened out soon. That will drive one carzy!

  4. ms martyr1:32 PM

    Thank you for the answer to my question. I remember visiting a small farm when I was a child and the cows and calves had been separated and were bawling for each other. I spent most of my time petting a steer that was destined for the butcher. That was because the stupid lambs ran away from me. They were so cute, but not tame at all.

  5. LOL at MS. Gremlins abound on your farm!


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