Who Let the Cows Out?!

Reader Contribution by Faith Schlabach
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We had just decided to have a relaxing breakfast together (after I milked Cranberry the goat and Blossom the Miniature Jersey cross, and Adam did the choring) and go to second service. A phone call arrived which we were tempted not to answer but decided that a call on Sunday morning must be important. It was our son saying the heifers, which we keep at his place, had gotten out the day before and he didn’t know where they were. It seems that a deer had gone through the fence and the calves found it.  They decided to see if the grass was greener on the other side. Guess what, it appears that it was so good they stayed awhile.

We looked around for them but finally discovered that the neighbor had found them on the busy road and kindly chased them into his field. So all the while, they were safely enclosed. We went up and caught them, which was quite easy as they are very tame and gentled. We led them home with Button (so named because she was cute as a button) following because she had lost her halter somewhere along her adventure. This was a lot easier than catching our neighbor’s wild Angus calf the other week when she escaped her field. It took five people with one of us on a horseback and two hours to round her up.

We fixed the fence and finished just in time to have missed the second service all together!  I did ask my son if he had a liability policy on his little farm though.

Here we are bringing the girls home. Ellie lost her halter so we just let her follow.   Fortunately,  cows are herd creatures which makes them very willing to stay with other cows.  We had to go near a road on our way home and everyone stayed right with us!

Free Choice Minerals

Today I gave the cows all a dish with a zinc mix, copper mix, and sulfur mix. I do this about once a week to see if they need to free choice those particular minerals. Today they liked the sulfur and zinc but did not eat much of the copper. It is amazing how farm animals know what they need and will take it if they need it.

When we were riding, sometimes our horses would just stop and start eating dirt in the forest.  There was something that they inherently knew they needed in that spot. That is why we give our farm animals a natural source of free choice minerals. Our soils are proven to be extremely low in minerals and our animals suffer from this lack the same that we do. These particular free choice minerals come from Advance Biological Concepts.  Lancaster Ag in Pennsylvania also has some. There are other companies as well, such as Dynamite, which is a network marketing company that makes natural free choice minerals for farm animals.

Ideally, you would install little bins on the wall, high enough that they cannot poop in them when they are eating their hay. We have those, but since we have too many animals in several different paddocks to keep up with, we offer it once a week at this time and keep our ½ kelp ½ Redmond trace mineral salt and cattle mineral mix from Countryside Organics (in Virginia) out in every stall area. You can contact Remond Minerals at RedmondNatural.com for a dealer near you. That same farm store should have kelp in 50-lb. bags as well.

Lilly who is a Dexter/Mini Jersey cross, decided  that LizBeth, our new farm kitten (our granddaughter couldn’t say Elizabeth) needed a bath and a good lickin’ today.

“Hasn’t your mother cleaned you lately?  Dear me, hold still LizBeth so I can get under your ears too!”

“LizBeth come back here young lady. I did not get that right ear! L-I-Z-B-E-T-H I’m going to count to three…”

Artificial Insemination

I went to one of the farms where we have our lactating cows (they are on loan over the winter while we do not need the milk to a small herd-share farm).  We bred two of them.  One, a black Jersey to Jersey sexed semen and the other a registered foundation type Jersey to a miniature Jersey.  We will know in 3 weeks whether they come back into heat or not.  Straws are somewhat compromised and not always viable (you get 6 out of 10 they tell me, I think it has to do with the motility of the semen in the first place too, every bull is different) and the sexed straws have about one out of two of them that are not viable.  I plan to sell the black Jersey and being bred with sexed semen is a nice selling feature I think.

The AI (Artificial Insemination) tech gives them a shot and puts a “seeder” into the vagina.  It has a hormone on it. After 7 days, I will pull out the seeder and give her another hormone shot and he will come back in 48-60 hours when she is ovulating, and put the straw in. I have researched this and it seems to not be harmful in any way. (FYI, It is equivalent to natural bio-identical hormone therapy for women and does not compare to the pharmaceutical version of hormone therapy, which is NOT natural. Natural substances cannot be patented, therefore they have to tweak it a little which gives all the terrible side effects that women on traditional hormone replacement therapy experience.) This way, we can time the breeding exactly, and in the end, we think it is much more effective and cost effective.

Today was a dawn to very late day.  I milked Blossom early this morning switching her to morning milking (we only milk once a day) as I knew I’d be tired when I returned.  The local cooperative Extension Service hosted a Farm to Table Conference at the local college.  The purpose was to encourage local farm and market business.  A local natural foods restaurant catered the food and it was awesome!  In addition, a local cheese maker covered morning snacks.  It was fabulous real cheese!  We set up a booth and had the opportunity to talk to some really great homesteaders who wanted to think about adding a cow to their homestead-back to eating food from the source plans.

A2 Jersey

I left early this morning to pick up two standard size Jerseys (both A2/A2 genetics that are VERY hard to find right now) from the grass-based organic farm we work with.  One I dropped off on my way home  to a family that will do a one-cow herd share.  They were so excited to see their new girl, Felicity.  She called and gave me a great report.  They had one child curry combing the tail to get farm muck off and one brushing her while mom milked!  Amazing and not something I would have recommended on the first day!  I think they got the right cow! 

Cow Training

The other one, Emma Lou, I am babysitting over the winter and keeping her in milk.  She is beautiful too.  Neither of these girls has ever been handled up close and personal but Emma actually did quite well.  She does not lead and has never had a halter on so we put the halter on at the farm before traveling.  I had to unload by myself and decided to try it on my own, as it seems I am always calling my neighbor to help me.  When I arrived, I tried to back it up to the barn door where I would have a clear shot right into the barnyard but jack-knifed the truck and trailer and ended up 30 feet away.  That is a long way with a cow that does not lead and is nervous from being on the trailer for the first time in her life!  Backing is not as easy as my husband Adam makes it look! 

I went into the trailer with her and used a natural horsemanship training technique where you approach and retreat.  This “takes the pressure off” and proves to the animal that it did not hurt to have you close.  I did this for 15 minutes to ½ hour and gradually got to the place where I could touch her and then retreat.  As is typical, she would only let me near her back end.  It is much harder for them to give their head area to you as it is more vulnerable.  Using this technique, I eventually was able to snap my 35′ long lead to her ring under her halter (very quickly once I got my hand close).  I let her settle a little and then opened the door.  Cows can be very shy to strangers and changes.

I had previously kicked straw over the boards that were very wet near the stock trailer door.  Wet boards are terrible for causing an animal to slip.  I did not want her to slip while stepping off the fairly high step down and hurt herself (that udder needs protection from mishaps).  I said a prayer and opened the door.  It only took her ½ a minute or so to take the plunge off.  Of course, she started pulling against the lead rope and went in the opposite direction!  I gave her some line so she would relax and tried to pull and get her to take one step and then release (release is the reward, another horse-training technique that we use).  I got a random step here or there but my problem was that dark was approaching and I still had to milk this lovely lady.  After an hour or so, I relented and called my neighbor.  He graciously came and it was a matter of minutes with his gentle “pressure” from behind she decide to walk forward.  We got her into the stantion too.  Did you know that a cow cannot really kick backwards?  (Except my “bad Heidi” learned to do it occasionally when she was really in a bad mood.)  As a rule, you are safe in the back.  You can wash the udder or push from behind in this case.  I have even milked a bad cow from behind.  I always wondered how the vet could stand so confidently beind to breed or pregnancy check even an untamed cow.  That is how.  If you notice, they hold the tail up at an angle too.  That disengages a nerve that keeps them from kicking as well.

Here’s Emma Lou, one of the new girls. We just have her over the winter as she is sold to a gal in North Carolina who has ten acres that she is turning into a community supported garden and farm with chickens and now an A2/A2 cow.  They are building their barn this winter and will be ready for Emily in late winter.  Her autistic son helps her on the farm and all the activities are part of his education and preparation for life skills.  Apparently, he really enjoys it.



We raise Once A Day Family Size Jersey Milk Cows with grazing genetics, hand sized milking teats, and dam raised for 4 months for a well developed rumen and healthy immune system.