Sunday, June 30, 2013

Milk cow project: The calf arrives!

I've written a series of entries about my family milk cow.  To go to the first entry in the series, click here.  To see the previous entry, click here.  

 How time flies.   My Holstein heifer was due to give birth in July, and is a little earlier than I thought; a week or so early.  I was out working on the water lines today and checked on her in the morning, but didn't see her.  That's odd, I thought.  So I walked her paddock and found her on the far side, with just the feet of her calf sticking out.  She looked a little uncomfortable, but the calf was oriented correctly, and so I went and got a 5 gallon bucket of water and some soap,  and walked back to see how she was doing.  She looked hot; I gave her the water, and she seemed grateful for it, and then I took a little bit and soaped up my hands and make sure that they were clean.  I carefully explored around the head of the calf, and it was a tight fit.  This is a big calf. 

The cow was still straining, but making little or no progress, so I grabbed the front feet of the calf and applied gentle traction... well, sort of.  I put my feet against her rear legs and pulled a bit.  A little movement, a little bit of wiggling.  Some more movement.  I was worried that the calf was distressed; I could see its tongue (you can see it in the picture above) and it looked a little purple. 
 A little more gentle pulling, a little more progress, and
 a giant calf is born.  I cleared the mouth and nostrils, and then let nature take its course. 
 a giant, rough tongue gently applied.  A little bit of soft mooing by the cow, an answering squeak by the calk.  Everyone is good. 

15 minutes  later, the calf stood for its first milk meal.  Cow and calf are doing great. 

What happens from here?   I'll leave the calf on the cow for the next day to make sure that it gets several meals of colostorum.   As with the other cow, I will share-milk this cow with her calf; the calf gets a couple of gallons a day, we get a couple of gallons.  The calf here is a little girl.  She's half Holstein, half angus. 

I am using a milking machine to milk the jersey, which means that the total time for milking, including cleanup, is about 10 minutes.  It takes longer to bring the cow to the milking parlor.  I'll write up a longer entry about milking by machine vs milking by hand soon. 

I'm looking forward to having both jersey and Holstein milk available to compare the two.  They'll be eating the same diet and kept side-by-side, so the breed differences will be the only thing that makes a difference in the milk.  Holsteins are a favorite  cow for the US dairy industry because they produce a very large volume of milk per cow.  Jerseys, a smaller cow, produce a smaller volume, but it's higher in butterfat - a richer milk. 


ellie k said...

Would you show some pics of the milking par low, it must seem really big with just two cows to milk in it.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, Was that an Angus sire you used to breed your Holstein? Or is the calf just a predominantly black Holstein? What do you plan on doing with the calves? My partners do a pastured veal. Very good, tender, meat.