We got our family milk cow “Lola” In March of 2014 as a bred heifer. This means she was pregnant with her first calf and was not trained to be milked. I read what ever I could find about keeping a family milk cow and talked to other people who kept milk cows and we charged ahead.
Her first Calf Charlie was born in July 2014. I went out to the barn one morning and there he was, all licked off and beautiful! His father was a lowline angus (miniature angus) and we raised him as a beef cow. Lola was fairly easy to train to be milked, she was not a kicker so that helped a lot. It took a lot of patience and it was exhausting work during those first few weeks. We persevered and tried many different things to manage the milking and the feeding of her calf Charlie. After all our experimenting we settled on sharing Lola’s milk with Charlie. We would take him out of her stall at night and put him in his own stall, then we milked her in the morning and put Charlie back in with her a few hours later and he stayed with her and drank all her milk for the rest of the day and evening thus allowing us to only milk her once a day and not have to bottle feed Charlie. It had it’s benefits and drawbacks for sure but for our first experience it worked well enough.
Charlie was a naughty little calf from the beginning. He tested every pen and fence and was constantly getting out. I soon discovered why farmers frequently complained about the cows getting out – because now I had a cow that was always getting out! Chasing a rambunctious yearling steer who was full of spunk and attitude was NOT fun and it ruined many an afternoon. This is probably why we were never so attached to Charlie that it was hard for us to have him butchered. That was actually an excellent day for me.
He met the butcher at 15 months old which was a little young and he wasn’t fully mature. However, it was October, the weather was getting colder, I didn’t have a safe and secure place for him to spend the winter away from my other cows. He was just too naughty to keep any longer. Charlie was delicious! It was the first time I had eaten true homestead grass fed beef and I loved it! Charlie led a completely stress free life full of grazing in lush pastures and breaking down fences. Even his butchering was totally stress free. I had a mobile butcher come to the farm and take care of the initial butchering process right here at home. Charlie was just standing happily in his pen and Bam! He never saw it coming and had no stress or adrenaline in his system to make his meat tough. We raised him and kept him for 15 months and he gave us back everything we gave him in the form of delicious beef for our family. It was very rewarding to see and be part of his full life cycle.
Lola’s 2nd calf Ella was born in September 2015. We actually got to see the whole delivery and it was awesome to watch! Ella’s sire (father) was a miniature Jersey but you’d never know she’s part miniature. She’s been long and lanky since birth. We made the decision to separate her from Lola at 2 days old and we bottle fed her for the next 5 months. That was also hard but it made a huge difference in milking – for the better. Lola is a different cow to milk this time around, so much easier! Ella is also more friendly towards us than Charlie ever was. Win win!
We plan to keep Ella, eventually breed her and milk her too. We will see how that goes…..
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