Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Adam and I got our chores done early so we could jump in the rig and head off to southern Virginia to pick up (hopefully) a new foster mom. After a 148 pleasant but uneventful miles, we arrive at our destination. The eager farmer had assured me that she was 900 pounds when I inquired about her size. Keep in mind, that to a farmer, bigger is better although we happen to like the smaller family sized cows.
How tickled we were to see that she would barely be 750 pounds if not very pregnant! We wanted to jump up and down but calmly told Mr. Nice Farmer that we would take her.
We do not like to buy our Jerseys off dairies, especially conventional, so are happy when we find one from a small farm like this one. She was his only Jersey. All the other cows he had were beef and she spent her time grazing the fields with them. We liked the fact that she probably had not been blown out by too much grain and by talking to the farmer and the looks of her bag, it appears she has not been gorged on grain. I have learned a long time ago that you cannot trust what most sellers tell you, so sometimes we just have to make educated guesses.
In this girl’s case, she was bought off a dairy as a calf and raised by his friend who was going to use her as a foster mom and never did and then he bought her and intended to do the same and never did. She has had two sets of twin bull calves though and he said she looked pregnant with twins again. She is due the end of March, which will be good timing for our babies and give me time to test her for diseases.
TESTING FOR JOHNES
If she tests positive for Johne (pronounced Yoonees) we will have to cull her. A cow can be a carrier but not manifest symptoms as long as the immune system is coping with it. But it is deadly and symptoms would be foamy diarrhea, losing weight, and generally poor condition. You can’t test for it until after 30 months. We have a Johnes free herd.
TB and Brucellosis is not an expense we go to, as we are a TB and Brucellosis free state, as is much of the US. When we can afford to as a farm, we will test anyway, just to say we do. However, for now, we have to make choices.
HOW TO TEST FOR JOHNES
There are different ways to test. Your vet could come; you can pull blood and send it away to a lab (Bio Prn), the blood serum pregnancy test also tests for these diseases or at least SOME of the labs that do the bio pryn serum test do, you have to ask; or if your cow is lactating, you can send a milk sample to AntelBio.com, which is what I did today. I sent 3 samples of milk from lactating cows and since this new girl is not lactating, I sent blood serum which is drawn from the jugular or the underside of the tail (Bio Pryn has a video on their site of how to do it). Some of the four samples, I am checking for pregnancy and some of them for disease or both.
We would really prefer to have our own stock that we carry over from year to year and may do that after this year. We just could not afford the winter feed last year.
HOW TO LOAD A VERY SHORT, VERY PREGNANT COW THAT IS NOT HALTER BROKE
I have to share something funny as an example of the constant ingenuity that is needed with a farm. When we arrived at Mr. Nice Farmers place and saw how short our new girl was, we realized that with her so pregnant and so short that our trailer was going to be too high for her. She is not halter broke and has not been handled up close so backing up to a random hill and leading her over to the trailer was not an option.
My husband, ever creative, asked the farmer if he had a tractor and could dig a ramp for her. Hallelujah he did! He ran to get his front-end loader and scooped the gravel into a pile to make a foot high ramp that we could back up to. We had asked him not to feed her much that morning so she would be a little hungry. After smelling the grain and uber good hay that we offered her, she actually only took a short while to decide to overcome her reluctance and load up. We honestly do not know how we would have loaded her with her short little legs and huge belly without building the ramp.
We will now take a shovel any time we go to pick up a new cow. We could then at least dig out a space for the trailer tires to go down into which would in effect, lower the trailer. When we got home, Adam quickly built a ramp for her to step down onto as she exited the trailer. We will now take that ramp with us when we pick up a new cow. Just in case Mr. Farmer does not know how small his Jersey really is
If April turns out to be disease free, we will have found a little treasure. If she tests A2/A2, we will be VERY happy. I would settle for an A1/A2 though. More about A1 vs A2 milk here.
Adam and Faith Schlabach
Raising Once A Day Family sized Jersey Milk cows with grazing genetics, hand-sized milking teats, and smaller statures.