Monday, November 9, 2009

Norman has two mommies

One of the things you learn when you keep dairy cattle is that every cow is different. Every. Cow.

There are ones who produce a large quantity of milk and those who produce less, but maybe have thicker, creamier milk. There are those who are a dream to milk, standing still in the stanchion and not even switching their tails. And there are those who stomp around and feel that milking time is the best time to empty the bowels. There are those who are consistently dirtier and those who somehow keep themselves tidy. There are those who would never, ever willingly let another calf nurse off of them and those who will either actively or passively adopt whomever gives their bag a nudge.

Isabelle is a born nurse cow.

Norman has been kept close to the house along with his mama, Caroline, and Isabelle, our other cow in milk right now. It makes milking chores much more pleasant, especially on bitter cold mornings. The other 4 (Lily, Belle, Annabelle, and big, ole' Burt) are out in the big pasture.

Shortly after Norman was born, Isabelle decided she was lonesome for a calf of her own and began offering her services to Norman. He was happy to oblige, of course, because what is better than a big bag of milk at your disposal? Two of them! She even seems to think that it is at least half her responsibility to protect the little guy and keeps a close eye on us when we get near to him.

At the moment, we're letting this continue. It makes for a surprise each morning, as we never know who will be full and who will have just been emptied by Norman.

Soon, however, we will send Norman out to the pasture with Isabelle. Isabelle doesn't produce quite as much milk as Caroline, so we'll let her take the calf and keep Caroline close to the house to be milked exclusively by us. We are expecting Belle to calf early in the year, so we'll be bringing her in so that we can start working with her before she calves. She is the wildest of the herd, so she definitely needs to get used to being handled, especially if we need to assist in any way during the birth.

Until all that happens, though, Norman is sure getting his fill.


Marci said...

We put Clover out in the field along with her calf Nutmeg. The only other one in milk was Buttercup (Clover's mother and Nutmeg's Grandma). We brought Buttercup in to milk one night and she was empty. Seems she is the maternal one.

Nancy M. said...

How cool for Norman to have two mommies! He's so cute!

Regina said...

Hi Gina, My desire is to have a milk cow but I haven't even been around them since I was a kid. Can you tell me a little about your routine? What times do you milk and what all do you do with the milk?

Gina said...

With just 2 in milk, our routine is pretty simple.

We milk at 7am and 7pm. We milk Isabelle only in the mornings, though, as she is later in her lactation and doesn't produce as much. Caroline is milked both times as she is newly fresh and produces a lot.

We bring them into the barn and give them either a few scoops of alfalfa pellets with a dash of molasses or just alfalfa hay. While they are in the stanchion, we wash their bag up with warm, soapy cloths and then dry them. We were fortunate to get a bucket milker machine, so now, we just sit and let the machine do the work.

We have young pigs who are getting some of the milk, though I often take the cream first, now that they are a bit older. I make different kinds of cheeses, yogurt, butter, and ice cream. And we drink our share, as well. We keep all of it raw, so as to not kill all the healthy stuff in there. Chickens love milk too, especially a little curdled, so they are always there to volunteer if I just start getting too much. But, with Norman still nursing, we aren't being overwhelmed at the moment.

If you have any other questions, I'd be happy to answer!