Archive for the ‘Milking’ Category

A Problematic Month

September 30th, 2016 by Kim

I love my Dexters!  Anybody who talks to me about them will quickly see that.  As a hardy heritage breed, they are known for not having much in the way of problems with health, breeding or calving.  It’s one of many things that we really love about them.  But no breed is 100% free of problems.  Sometimes management or diet related issues can cause health problems.  And then there are always those individual animals, that for whatever reason have a weakened immune system or some other issue that makes them more prone to problems.  And sometimes, crap just happens!

Janie's lovely udder, 2 weeks after calving.

Janie’s lovely udder, 2 weeks after calving.

Apparently, August was my month for major problems with my Dexters.  And on top of the cows, the Anatolian pups have also been experiencing bone-growth related issues common to large breed pups.  So I feel a bit like I was in crisis mode the whole month…not fun.  Now that I’ve had a chance to catch my breath, here are the two big “Dex-asters” I faced.

Janie Gets a  Chance

CPR July Jane was due with her first calf mid-August.  Even though Dexters are known for having few calving difficulties, I usually keep a close eye on my girls when they’re getting close to calving, especially my heifers.  I put them in the barn overnight so I can check on them easily, and if there IS a problem they’re in a convenient spot.  Janie had started bagging up & getting ready early, so was being put to bed in the barn at the beginning of the month already.  I put her in on the evening of the 4th just like normal, but didn’t see any significant changes to put me on high-alert…so I didn’t check on her during the night.  We got up to a dead calf on the ground the next morning…and will never know what went wrong or why, or if I could have changed the outcome by being there.  Janie had been AI’ed to Belle Fourche Clay, and the calf was a red heifer, so I was extremely disappointed.

Janie is turning into a fine, young cow.

Janie is turning into a fine, young cow.

But now I was faced with a dilemma.  I had already decided quite some time ago that I would NOT try to train Janie to milk, even though she has excellent milk production bloodlines behind her.  She has remained rather shy & skittish about being handled.  And she has always been quite the kicker…the only one to ever kick me over having tail hairs pulled for DNA testing!  She also was still very uncomfortable coming into the milking parlor, even though she had been getting treats in there for quite some time.  But now, here she was with a full udder & no calf to nurse.  So do I, or don’t I?

I decided to give it a try.  The first few days of milking looked hopeful, as she did much better than I expected.  But then, instead of calming down & getting better, her behavior just got worse.  Milking an unwilling, kicky cow twice a day just really is not my idea of a good time.  But, oh my goodness, her milk was fabulous!  About a week in, I decided to pull her back to once a day milking to try to drop her production back a bit, which it did.  Then, after two weeks of practically dragging her into the parlor every day, getting kicked & bruised, I stopped milking on the 18th & dried her off.  Janie had a chance at being a milk cow, but it just wasn’t going to work.  I wasn’t really surprised.

Check out that cream line on Janie's milk! So yummy!

Check out that cream line on Janie’s milk! So yummy!

Tundra’s Crash Course

ZH Taco’s Tundra was due with her second calf the end of August, and was also looking ready earlier than expected.  I was looking forward to training her to milk this time around, being anxious to see how much improvement Taco made over Sara in the milk department.  When I tucked her in the barn the evening of the 23rd, I was pretty sure she was in early labor, and a check later on before my bedtime confirmed it.  She calved at 12:30 am, and gave me a gorgeous black heifer, the result of an AI breeding to RdoubleD Rambling Bob.  Hooray!

Unfortunately when I commenced with milking training in the morning, the nastiness I found in the milker made my heart drop to the pit of my stomach.  MASTITIS!  It was all cheese-y chunks & watery fluid.  Mastitis is something I’ve not had to deal with in my 9 1/2 years of cow ownership, even with BoPeep who is a Jersey cross, and it’s something I was hoping to be able to dodge.  It’s another of those things that Dexters don’t normally have problems with.  So much for that!  Now I was getting a crash course in how to treat mastitis.

Tundra's heifer, Brannagh, the day after she was born.  What a nice, thick girl!

Tundra’s heifer, Brannagh, the day after she was born. What a nice, thick girl!

I knew enough to know that I needed her calf to be nursing frequently and to keep hand-stripping out as much as I could.  I also got sterile samples from each quarter for the vet to send to the lab for a culture, and also a sensitivity test, so we would know what organisms we were dealing with & what to treat it with.  I learned how to do teat infusions, and we also treated with systemic antibiotics, as well as anti-inflammatories to help keep Tundra’s fever down.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a terribly nasty bug and she recovered just fine.  But it certainly wasn’t fun!

So, needless to say, with back-to-back problems, August was a stressful month for me.  But, we got through it & life goes on, and I’ve learned to not take trouble-free for granted!

How I Share-Milk

January 20th, 2016 by Kim
Bo & Thumbelina can see each other through the gate, so they don't get too upset about the separation.

Bo & Thumbelina can see each other through the gate, so they don’t get too upset about the separation.

We had a fine start to our 2016 calving season when BoPeep kicked off the New Year with a lovely little heifer, Thumbelina, on Jan. 5.  The dreaded milk rationing that happens during Bo’s dry period is over, and the natives are rejoicing in the abundance of milk again.  I’ve been at this share-milking thing for a good while now, and looking back over my previous milking posts, I realized I do things a bit differently now.  Through trial & error over the years, I’ve found a share-milking routine that I & my cows are quite happy with, so this seemed like a good time to share it here.

If you’re not already familiar with the term, “share-milking” refers to the practice of leaving the calf with the cow part-time, so that you’re sharing the milk with the calf, usually milking only once a day.  There are many different ways to share-milk, as different things work for different people in different situations, and so you just have to figure out what works best for you & your cow.  This is the method that works best for me. (more…)

That’s So Cheesy!

September 26th, 2011 by Kim

An excellent, easy-to-follow book by Ricki Carroll.

So, since weaning Hershey, BoPeep has been giving me about one & a half gallons of milk every morning when I milk.  We use a good bit of milk for breakfast, drinking & cooking…but not THAT much.  So what do we do with all that extra milk?  Well, that’s cheesy…I mean…easy!  We make cheese…and butter…and yogurt…and sour cream…and ice cream.  All these delightful dairy products from our very own fresh, raw milk!  It’s been wonderful.  And, believe it or not, it’s not very difficult.  I found a great book by Ricki Carroll called Home Cheese Making that has been a huge help.  Here are a few things to whet your appetite.

A jar of cream with clabber added, to make sour cream. Clabber is started in the same manner.

Keeping It Clean

Before we talk about making things from raw milk, it’s important to know how to keep your equipment clean so you don’t inadvertantly spoil your dairy products.  Everything from your milking equipment to milk jugs, pots & cheese-making utensils needs to be properly washed & sanitized before coming in contact with raw milk.  After use, rinse milk equipment with cool water first, to prevent milk stone from forming.  Milk stone can be as simple as a thin film of milk residue (that you can’t even see!) left behind on items.  Next, add some vinegar to your warm, soapy wash water to help remove any remaining milk residue, and scrub items well.  Rinse, then dunk in a bleach solution to sanitize, and rinse again with fresh water.  A bleach residue left behind can ruin your cheese-making efforts as well.  Then leave items to air dry. (more…)

A Big Let-Down

September 12th, 2011 by Kim

Chucky & Hershey have their last buckets of feed here Saturday morning.

Well, it’s been a noisy week on Hope Refuge Farm.  BoPeep did not like losing her young’un!  Not that I really enjoyed leaving mine behind either, but at least I didn’t scream my head off for 3 days after getting him settled in at college.  But all in all things went pretty smoothly with weaning, in spite of the bellowing.  Here’s how our week went.

Stephanie tries to make friends, but Hershey’s not totally sold on the idea yet.

The cow herd had been moved to a newly fenced pasture paddock on the “horse side” of the farm before we left for Michigan.  So Friday (Sept. 2) evening I brought Bo, Hershey & Chuck (Eavie’s steer calf from last year) back to the cow barn.  I penned Bo in the barn corral like I normally had been for milking in the morning, and put the two boys in the front yard-turned-pasture paddock.  I knew things would go better if Hershey had a friend to keep him company, and even though Chucky is about 9 months older than Hershey they’re about the same size & get along great. (more…)

What’s the Big Hold-Up?!

August 27th, 2011 by Kim

BoPeep inherited a nice udder from her Jersey momma.

There’s been a hold-up in my milking parlor & I’m sick of it!

This is one of the difficulties that comes with share-milking (that’s when you leave the calf with momma part of the time, so you’re sharing the milk).  Momma decides that she would rather feed baby than give her milk to you, so she “holds up” when you try to milk.  Which means you get a piddlin’ little bit of thin milk and are wondering what happened, while baby guzzles down the bulk of the milk…and all the cream, which comes at the end.  If this is a frustration you’ve been dealing with, believe me….you are not alone!!  Here’s the story of my big hold-up. (more…)