Calf Watch Has Begun…


Lucy- http://Wildflowerfarm.orgI’m not going out to the barn every few hours yet. I would call this “first stage” calf watch. The vet said Lucy was due the end of this month, which is coming fast. I would like her to have the calf before Thanksgiving or wait until we get back from pheasant hunting. I have a feeling she could care less about my plans though.

Her previous owner said she doesn’t tend to show before she gives birth, so I’m trying not to look to hard to see things that aren’t there. But I do think she is starting to show a few signs. Her muscles on either side of her tail have started to loosen, making her tail look like its standing up a little taller and her hips a little wider. I haven’t noticed her loosening up under her tail much yet.

Her bag is definitely full. At this point I’m just waiting for her teats to fill. This happens 12-24 hours before she will go into labor. At this point, for me, that is the easiest way for me to tell when she’s getting close. Once that happens then I will be making more frequent trips to the barn. On that note, her and I might need to talk about a Brazilian wax. She is definitely ready for winter and looks more like a beef cow than one ready to milk. Haha.

This isn’t her first rodeo to speak of, so I’m sure it will go just fine. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be anxiously waiting for the calf to be on the ground and feeding well. I think I have concerned myself more over this delivery than I have my own… I know I have actually. But that’s ok. I like my family and animals well taken care of.

I have yet to set up my milking station. But I have a little time. I plan to use 5 panels and a gate- make a square pen to hold the calf over night and attach the gate panel to one corner and the fifth panel to that to create a little stall. The stall can then be used to hold Lucy while I milk and double as a bit of a squeeze gate if needed for vet visits and such.

The plan is to hold the calf overnight, milk Lucy right away in the morning and then let the calf nurse the rest of the day. By doing this I will be able to only milk once per day and if something happens (like I go into labor) then the calf can stay on Lucy without causing her pain and risking mastitis. Not to mention, I believe it’s best for the calf to be able to nurse as long as the cow will allow.

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Lucy in the Sky With…I Need More Cow Bell

The cows came home! Lucy our Dexter cow and Louise her Dexter-Angus calf have finally arrived. I am so very excited! Louise is actually my brothers but she gets to live with us. A huge thank you to Kip for Lucy, to Uncle Greg for the use of his truck and cattle trailer for hauling, and of course dad and Mike for bringing them home!!

Dexter cows are a dual purpose cow that’s lineage can be traced back thousands of years; another heritage breed, just the way we like ’em. They are native to the southern parts if Ireland and were first imported to the US between 1905 and 1915. They have always been a great “farmhouse” cow; providing a family with fresh dairy and beef. Pound for pound they are much more cost efficient from birth to steak. They are a very hearty breed and can thrive in all climates. In the cold winters they only need a wind break to stay comfortable outside. Birthing is usually done without complications with the breed as well.

wildflowerfarm.orgLucy (pictured on the left) gave birth to Louise in, I believe, November this past winter. It was a record winter of constant -50 temps around here. Both mom and baby were in the pasture all winter, through the birth and all. That’s a tough little cow! Now I have a very hard time knowing they are out in the rain with no option for shelter so knowing they are out in a cold Minnesota winter will be harder on me than them and for that reason they will have a nice home in the barn on those extra cold days.

When I say little cow, I’m serious. A full gown cow ( cow, meaning a lady cow that has had a baby) is only 36-42 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs less than 750 pounds!. That’s pint size compared to an Angus that is 54-58 inches tall and can weigh anywhere from 1200-2000 pounds! That’s a lot of cow (and hay)!

Dual purpose in the cow world means one that can be used as a dairy or beef cow (or both). We are planning for both. And this time when I say “we” I mean me. I’m pretty sure my husband is not interested in milking a cow. Me, I can’t wait for fresh milk to make yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, butter, oh boy! the options are endless!

The average Dexter cow will give 1-2 gallons of milk a day which is much more manageable than the 8-12 gallons an average full size modern dairy cow puts out. The modern dairy cows have been breed over time to be milk machines, which I personally have a bit of an issue with. It’s just not natural. No calf drinks that much milk so the cow should not be producing that much. That’s just me though.

Of course it’s going to take some time before I can start milking. Lucy was at one time halter broke and shown for 4-H, but it’s been quite a while since then. Before I can halter her we need to make friends. She will need to get comfortable with me being around and then handling her. Then we can work with the halter. It will take some time after that to get her used to being led, tied and finally begin milking. I could just jump right in. It would probably scare the crap out of her and would then take even more time to get her ok with the idea again.

wildflowerfarm.orgOnce Louise (pictured on the left) is weaned I will begin the process of halter breaking her. I’m not milking her though. For now Lucy is still too protective of her; between a new place, new people and her baby I’m sure she will be on the offense for a while.

Lucy is coming around though. I can call her and she will come to the fence, rub her wet nose on my hand but won’t take the cracked corn treat yet. We will get there though.

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