The Calf Arrived! First 2 weeks milking...
Can’t believe it’s been 2 weeks since Charlotte‘s calf arrived. She had a baby boy on Tuesday morning on the 22nd. He’s happy, healthy, and bouncing all over the place! He’s so precious with long beautiful lashes and white tipped tail. I haven’t named him yet - and I know I shouldn’t, but it’s hard not to get attached to him. I pet and halter him everyday while I’m milking to get him to used to being touched. Well... everyday that he is laying down when I arrive at the farm. If he isn't laying down I can't catch him. :) He's already out growing the halter I got for him. We are definitely disappointed that it's a boy, but I can't help but love him!... even if we will potentially be putting him in the freezer next year. :( Absolutely using sexed sperm for AI next go around!)
My hands have been constantly sore since I started milking. Like swollen and achy! Feels like borderline carpel tunnel haha. Day one it took me a good 45 minutes to setup and milk all that I could out. Just over 2 weeks in and it takes me about 30 minutes. I'll take the progress! Charlotte has great front teats that the calf obviously favors. The teat closest to her "bad" leg that had an abscess years ago, is the smallest and hardest and the calf doesn't help me at all with this one! We're getting between 2-3 gallons a day with calf sharing. I haven't started separating the calf from Charlotte at night yet. We're getting all the milk we can handle. When he gets bigger and takes more then I'll start separating at night. I might regret this decision of not starting sooner when I can't get him separated! lol.
Mason loves hugging the calf. It's so precious to watch him try and brush and pet him while he's tied to the milk stanchion.
Charlotte is really getting into our routine and I'm so glad that we had a few days to really get used to having feed in the stanchion before the calf arrived. Now I just lead her in with no issues. The floor of the stanchion is "textured" so she doesn't slip getting on and off. The boards stagger in height to help. Originally the feed tough was too high for her to eat comfortably so we lowered it. One day this week she actually broke one of the arm off the feed tough holder so I've had to set the plastic tough in my wheelbarrow for her. Yikes! If I leave it on the ground the sheep come over and want to eat her feed which they are not allowed to have since it has copper. Naughty sheep! But they still try. This is a challenge when milking. If the sheep come over and try and stick their head in the wheelbarrow Charlotte will nudge them out of the way - forcefully at times! So she's shifting her weight around and I've almost lost several buckets of milk to grain hording.
Milk, milk, milk. Jersey milk is so rich and delicious!
Everyone said how good fresh milk was, but jersey milk was something above the rest. How right they are! If you can't tell fresh milk from store bought then you wont appreciate any of the joy of having fresh raw milk and I feel a little sad for you. There is defiantly a difference! It's so creamy. I love going back to the refrigerator and seeing the cream layer separated on top of the jars. I have made butter, yogurt, ricotta cheese, cultured butter, and tough, over worked mozzarella.
While showing sheep this year at the Dixie Classic Fair I met so many lovely people with similar interests and good tips on everything farm related! One woman was so helpful and warm, loved her immediately! Angela and I talked quite a bit about our sheep and then I discovered that she has a family milk cow too!!! She's the only other person I know that has a family cow. We have bonded over cow stories, milking frustration, recipes for cheese, and finally a spin group! When I joined her in a spinning wheel group meeting that she invited me to she brought me a yogurt starter and had a friend bring a cultured butter starter! Farm friends share amazing things and I'm so grateful for all of her advice and now the best yogurt I've ever had made all the better because it came from my cow! Thank you Angela!
The challenges have been - a challenge. :)
Besides the obvious of getting my hands stronger to milk, its just the time. Knowing it will take a certain amount of time everyday to milk, then clean equipment, feed animals, fill water toughs, and put milk away. All takes about an hour each morning. My routine with Charlotte will only get quicker as I get better and eliminate distractions, but in winter it will always take time to put hay out. Having Mason help me has been easier than I thought it would be on the sessions that he wants to be at the farm and play with the sheep. On other occasions he wants to sit in my lap and "help" me milk. And by help I mean points to the udder and says "milk, milk, milk" while I now milk one handed. I love these moments with Mason even if they do add 5 minutes to milking time. But I also feel selfish at times for taking this time. Yes, Mason learns so much and will one day help with chores, but for now it's really for me. And I'm reminded at times at how this really is my hobby, my selfish desire for a farm even if the intent is good and to share it with others. I think every bit of it is worth the effort and time, but balancing it with other responsibilities is hard at times.
The stanchion that Chase made has been amazing! I need to add a board or chain to go behind her so she doesn't shift her weight back when she tries to back out of the stanchion while I'm milking. It's also wide and she has room to shift away from me, so several times I have to more the pail out from under her, get up, push her back to the right spot, sit down, put the pail back in place and then resume milking. This doesn't seem like much, but the time adds up every morning.
The ground coming up the ramp of the stanchion is getting worked quite a bit now that we have had rain! So there is a muddy area where she walks in and out. I've tried to help this by walking her in a bigger arch leading to the stanchion which has helped and I put hay down where it was the worst. Since the stanchion isn't covered and not easily moved this will be a constant pain point for now.
Feed - having different feeds for Charlotte and the sheep were a given. I buy great feed from the dairy that I got Charlotte from that has all of her minerals in it so I don't have to have a mineral block out for the sheep and alpaca to get into, but they are constantly trying to get to whatever feed is around. When getting Charlotte's feed together if I don't feed the sheep first they are rushing to the gate to get Charlotte's share. A flock of sheep crowding you will make you feel both loved and smothered simultaneously. If I don't hurry then Charlotte is also already there and wont let me back in the gate to get to the stanchion without nose diving into the bucket! 10lbs of feed is a lot to waste of Charlotte pushes it out of my hands! I tried keeping a 5 gallon bucket of Charlotte's feed by the stanchion with a tight lid, but it's not worth the risk of her getting it open and then over eating grain - not to mention dangerous consequences for her and the sheep. This happened once when there was only 2lbs left in the bucket but I won't make the same mistake again!
Sanitation - Keeping Charlotte clean!
Charlotte lays down along the fence where I feed hay so most of the time this isn't an issue for her to lay down in manure. But as she stands to eat - she also poops where she stands and if she happens to lay there again - well not pretty and its a mess to clean off of her. I brush her everyday to keep the hair out and big debris from falling in the milk. But dirty teats... the worse. It's just time consuming to rub and scrub her if its dried on. I always pick up most of poop in the area around the barn and hay each day, but it still happens. I use an iodine solution as a teat tip after washing with soapy warm water, but still would like to help myself in this area by moving the hay and giving her better cover to lay down somewhere else. This isn't going to stop happening, but make it less frequent.
Charlotte pooping in the stanchion! Yikes! This one is really frustrating. I didn't learn until a week into milking that she can't control this for the first couple weeks and it's a natural reflex with milk let down for this to happen after having her calf. No less aggravating. I put a 5 gallon bucket near by and when I can feel her shift I have it ready to catch it after putting the lid on milk pail. This is just part of the process and comes with having a dairy cow, but I didn't want it to be a habit - a very bad habit. The past few days have been great! If there was poop I could feel it coming with her tail lift, and moved the pail well away. It's just cleaning the stanchion afterwards. I don't want to hose it down and add water to the already muddy area so I've been scrapping it off and throwing it over the fence if I can't catch it.
A good challenge is what to do with all of this milk! I didn't realize how odd our family is that we actually drink milk as adults. In our household we went through a gallon of milk or more a week before Charlotte. Who doesn't love a cold cup of Ovaltine? Two or three gallons of milk a day is more then we know what to do with! I given gallons away to family and a few friends, but it's still a lot of milk. Angela says that its a great problem to have! I've tried making cheese (cheddar since the recipe called for 3 gallons of milk!) that didn't go well at all! Mozzarella that was good but chewy. And ricotta that I used to make lasagna with - delicious! I store the milk in half gallon glass jars and the fridge is always packed now with milk jars! I have GOT to get BETTER at cheese making!
The rewards - so many that I don't even know how to name them. Delicious, nutritious, organic, milk to enjoy and share. Mason learning so so much about where food comes from even at his age being comfortable around animals. The precious moments watching Charlotte and her calf together - loving, laying together, playing. The calf chasing the sheep! And he always lays right in the middle of the fresh hay I put down. Without fail. So the sheep and Charlotte are eating around him in the hay pile! This is cute now but will stop as soon as we build the covered hay feeders. I'm just loving this moment in life. Listening to Charlotte eat her hay while the milk hits the side of the pail in a steady rhythm, hawks calling near by, the sheep baaing to eat other, and Scarlett humming to me that she wants her bottle! Mason behind me looking for beetles or feeding Mitt. Peaceful for the soul.
Thank you for reading about our farm! Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions!