This is probably too much information for some and will probably bore most city folks, but for the few people who enjoy Bonnie's exploits, here is the current state of things:
It's always a problem owning just one or two cows, because there's no way you can afford to keep a bull. I used to have excellent good fortune using artificial insemination, but we just couldn't get the timing right with Bonnie. It would be wonderful if we had a next-door neighbor who would let us bring Bonnie to visit once in awhile, but we don't. Many cattle breeders don't want to risk bringing in a cow from outside the herd because of disease, so I don't even ask local farmers.
So for the past two years we've taken Bonnie on a road trip of thirty miles or so to visit a friendly bull. These days that's complicated because Cliff sold our pickup. So here's the procedure: When we notice Bonnie showing signs of heat we mark it down on the calendar and make plans to get her to Cliff's brother's Hereford bull the next time she comes in heat. This involves driving thirty miles to get his brother's pickup and livestock trailer, bringing it home, loading up the cow and her calf, taking her to Phil's, and then driving back home.
We don't wait until she comes in heat to take her there because if you don't give her time to get acquainted with the herd, they're all jumping on her, pushing her around, and trying to establish dominance. If she was in heat upon her arrival, it would not be good for her; she'd not only have a 2,000 pound bull on her every half-hour or so, but every cow in the herd would want to take a few turns. That's how cows get acquainted, especially if somebody is in heat.
Usually we catch Bonnie in heat within six weeks of having a calf. I don't know if I wasn't diligent enough about watching her or if it just took her longer this time, but this year we didn't see signs of heat until her calf was four months old. And even then we weren't positive about it.
Almost a month ago it appeared fairly obvious that finally she was looking for a bull, so I marked it down on the calendar so we could plan on taking her to Phil's place next time. Wouldn't you know, Cliff was working ten hours a day during the time Bonnie needed to go visiting, and there just wasn't a reasonable time to make that trip. "Well," I told Cliff, "we weren't 100% sure she was in heat anyhow."
Obviously she was, because a couple days ago we saw the signs again.
So in a couple weeks we'll take her to the bull. Her calf will accompany her, not because he needs the milk, but because Bonnie has to be milked and he does a fine job of it. He will be six months old when his mother is bred again, so there will be quite a long space between calves. Real farmers want to get a calf from each cow every twelve months. Since I'm not a real farmer, it's no big deal. I'll just be happy to have her bred so I can keep her around longer.
If Bonnie's "date" is successful, she would have her next calf in November. That's an excellent time, because that would give us the whole summer to go anywhere we want without having to stay home for a week before the calf is born and then another month or two of waiting until it can consume all it's mother's milk.
By the way, Bonnie has already lived as long as most cows in commercial dairies: The average herd life of a dairy cow is three lactations; Bonnie is on her third lactation now. If she were in a commercial dairy she would have been culled in her second lactation due to mastitis in two quarters. 20% of the ground beef in this country is from culled dairy cows.
As long as Bonnie can conceive, and as long as she has one functioning teat so she can raise a calf, she stays. I only milk her because I enjoy it; when we're buying milk in the store, I seldom purchase over a half-gallon a week, so we can afford it.
So that's your Bonnie update. We know she is coming in heat... now all we have to do is hope she conceives.