Sunday, 8 November 2015

A New Calf - Blossom

 Lavender surprised us on Thursday morning with this healthy calf born six days early.  She was due on November 11th, but this being her first pregnancy, we were aware that she might calve early.
Her udder had bagged up during the last two days, so we separated her from the other cows on Wednesday night, into a paddock close to the house so we could hear her during the night if there was any action.
We were up at 6am as usual, and there she was in the paddock, eating the afterbirth with the healthy heifer calf standing up next to her.
We were so excited to see that she had successfully calved with no problems. Calving is always an anxious time for me, and especially when it's a heifer having her first calf.
Lavender was unconcerned that we were there to check them both and happily stood while we guided the calf towards her udder and watched as she took her first drink.
Waiting for a new calf to find the udder and then the teat, is one of the most frustrating things. I'm always concerned that the calf will not get its first drink soon enough, so there were great sighs of relief when the calf suckled and then went back for more all on her own a few minutes later.
So the first name to come into my head was Blossom, as it seems to be that we are following a floral theme in the naming of our recent cows.
Lavender's breed is half dairy (Jersey) and half beef (Murray Grey). We raised her from three days old when we bought her from a Jersey dairy in 2013. She was fostered to Bella who was our house cow at the time. Unable to get a bull calf at the time, we took a heifer as second choice because we needed to find a calf in a hurry to help use up some of Bella's milk.
Intending to grow her to sell, or to eat, she was six months old when we decided that she would make a perfect small house cow for our small acreage. Being half beef breed she will not produce as much milk as a full dairy breed, will not eat as much, and if we mate her to our beef bull, her calves will be beefy and meaty.

Yesterday her udder was looking very full and tight as three days had passed since calving. We want her for a house cow so it was time to bring her in to milk her for the first time to show her what a dairy cow is supposed to do.
Anyone who knows cows will tell you that the first few times of milking a new heifer are full of stresses and problems, and that the cow must be coaxed to get her to stand to be milked.
So we brought her down from the paddock with Daisy at milking time in the evening. Her calf (Blossom) was asleep over in the far corner so Lavender came down easily and stood waiting while Daisy went into the dairy to be milked.
When it was Lavender's turn we followed the same routine with her that we have been doing for months leading up to her calving. She already knew about eating a delicious mix of molasses and chaff from the feeder with the bales on her neck.
Brian had taught her to have a leg rope attached to her hind leg weeks ago. All that remained was the actual milking machine cups to be attached to her udder.
Neither of us could believe how she stood and made no fuss at all, just like she had been milked for years.

 Her fifth teat is just visible in this picture.

We took approximately three litres of milk, just enough to relieve the tightness in her udder, but left plenty for the calf to drink.
These first days are more about teaching her to associate calving with being a milking cow and getting her accustomed to the routine, so it is important to avoid any stresses or create bad memories for her at this time. They imprint all of these things firmly in their mind and the consequences could be felt at a later stage.
She has never had a bad experience in the milking shed so she is totally relaxed with the whole experience at this stage.
We plan on sharing the milk with the calf and will leave Blossom with her until weaning time.
The fifth teat is quite prominent but we will not squeeze or try to milk it hoping that it will shrivel and shrink. There are definitely only four quarters, and we need to try to ignore the surplus teat. If we manipulate it she could possibly get mastitis caused by milk remaining in that section. Now we hope that the calf doesn't suckle it.

Today was the fourth day after calving and we followed the same routine with her. The calf was asleep and Lavender came in and behaved perfectly again.
Tonight we took only one litre and her milk is really creamy, that's the Jersey in her, with no colostrum remaining at all.

 Daisy is stress free in the dairy with the leg rope attached.

The leg rope is accepted well by both cows. They were introduced to it slowly.
Firstly by handling the leg and rubbing it all over while talking reassuringly. Do each stage of the training for some days until going onto the next step.
Then put a rope around the leg, hold the rope firmly but not attached or knotted. They will get used to the feel of the rope while still having access to moving the leg.
Then start to put pressure on the rope, pulling the leg back. They will try to kick it off, but not maliciously. They treat it as more of an inconvenience, like dislodging a fly, but will learn to put their leg back in the position quite quickly.
When leg roped, they can't kick forward and our job of putting milking cups onto the teats is much safer.
Daisy is such an old hand at it now. All that is required to ask her to put her leg back is a slight pressure, or pat, on her flank.
All of our cows, past and present, come into the dairy easily because they enjoy the experience. Well, what's not to like?
A delicious feed of chaff, bran and molasses while the pressure is taken off the udder. Then they are released into the holding paddock where hay is waiting to be eaten, before sauntering back to one of the big paddocks to eat grass, chew cud and sleep all day.
Oh yes, it's a cow's life.

I hope your weekend has been as enjoyable as ours.
Have you got a new addition to your property?
Isn't it wonderful having a "baby in the house" again?


  1. Sweet calf! And interesting to read about your milking routine. We found that our heifer Molly started milking very easily, but Bella who came from a dairy always kicks at the cups and gives us trouble. I suppose she has had bad experiences in the milking shed, whereas Molly associates it with good food and had never had any trouble....

    1. Funny about that isn't it? Our first ever cow that we bought from a dairy farmer was also fractious, yet our own bred and trained are relaxed and well mannered. The leg rope still goes on though, as they can kick at a fly with mighty force just as we're bent over putting the cups on. I want to keep my teeth a bit longer.

  2. Beautiful cow and calf! I found you via Rhonda's reading list :)


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