Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Jersey cows

 Here's a poem from my book:

                                             I LOVE COWS  

I like cream and I like butter;
Cheese and ice cream, yogurt, too.
I like candles made of tallow ---
Leather things, and Elmer's glue!
More than these, I love the creature
From whence come these things so fine:
In my little barnyard kingdom,
I like anything bovine.

Baby calves, both beef and dairy;
Aged cows, with udders low.
Friendly Jersey 4-H heifers,
Pesky bulls that snort and blow.
From the quite exotic Brahma
To Brown Swiss and Simmental.
If they can be classed as cattle,
Rest assured, I love them all! 

I love big brown eyes so trusting;
Tongues that feel sandpaper-rough.
I don't mind the smell of cow-dung.
(I walk bare-foot in the stuff!)
Grassy breath is perfume to me;
Please don't ask me why, or how.
At my death, put on my tombstone,
"She was born to milk a cow".

That's me in the 1980's with one of my Jersey heifer calves.  I have on the T-shirt I bought at a Waylon Jennings concert, which I attended with my daughter; she was my chauffeur to any such crowded affairs back then, since I don't drive, she had a brand new driver's license, and Cliff hates crowds and cities.

I like cows a lot, always have.  When I'd go spend time at Grandma's as a child, I loved following her on her rounds, doing chores.  I'd stand back and watch her milk "Old Betsey" twice a day, chattering away.

When we moved to our first country place, Mother and Daddy sold us our first milk cow, "Suzy".  I could write an entire entry about her antics, but that will keep for another time.

We went to the Missouri State Fair one summer and toured the dairy cow barn; when I saw those little Jersey cows, it was love at first sight.  I had to have one!

Most commercial dairies have the black-and-white Holsteins, which are huge creatures.  My Suzy was a mixed-breed animal, not big like a Holstein, but not tiny, either.  I watched the ads and found "Old Jers".  Somehow this love affair with Jersey cattle snowballed; we had the cows artificially insemnated to Jersey bulls, and I ended up milking (by hand) half-a-dozen registered Jersey cows, sometimes more. 

Now, the problem with keeping a dairy cow is that you can't go anywhere.  The "girls" have to be milked twice a day, and you can't find anyone who is willing, or even knows how, to milk a cow.  So, eight or nine years back, I sold my last cow.  We bought a camper and took some vacations.  I love the freedom I have now.  The problem is, there's this empty spot in my heart since I sold my cows.  If I chance to see a picture of a Jersey, or notice one in a pasture as we travel, my heart literally flip-flops.

Cliff bought three huge (about 1,600 pounds each, or more, now) beef cows a couple years ago, and they've had calves.  They're nice to have around, but they're not pets and they're not Jerseys.

I intend to retire at age 62, possibly sooner, if my knees give out (I walk constantly on my job).  I want a Jersey cow for when I'm retired.  But I don't want to have to stay home and milk all the time.  A beef cow gives enough milk for her calf, no more.  But dairy cows give enough milk for several calves!  And if their udder isn't relieved, they not only are miserable, but will develop mastitis, which ruins their udder and their milk.

I know from past experience that even a tiny Jersey calf will eventually be able to take all the milk Mama produces... usually by the age of two months.  So here's my plan:

I will buy a Jersey cow (bred already) and, when she calves, I will keep them seperate (that's what you do with dairy cows) but twice a day I will turn them in together and let the calf take all it can.  During the first few weeks of lactation, I will take whatever milk the calf leaves for me. We'll  drink what we can, and if we have pigs, they'll get the rest.  When the calf is able to take all the milk (without having diarhhea.... I'll have to watch closely for that) I'll turn it out with Mom.  If I want milk after that (not a big priority, since we only use about a gallon a week... but of course I'd make my own butter again) I'll seperate them overnight and take some milk the next morning, then re-unite mother and calf.

Christmas is coming... and I know where there's a two-year-old, 600-pound, registered Jersey cow that could be bought.  Can you see the wheels turning in my head?


csandhollow said...

A 2 year old is old enough to breed too! 3 is best but 2 is okay! I have never had fresh milk, but I have had fresh butter! I drink skim milk, have for almost 30 years so the milk would probally taste yucky to me.

simwarford said...

Our farm had a small dairy operation going before we moved there; just a 5 stall milking parlor, and some very antiquated, or non-existent, equipment. My dad had a herd of Jersey's to look after growing up; he wanted a couple early on. My mother, however, nixed the idea pretty quickly. Even though she was a "town girl," they had a Jersey throughout her childhood--which was her responsibility to take to and from pasture every day. She had no desire for a repeat of that, so our milk came from a dairy up the road. She reasoned, probably rightly, it was more economically sound--not to mention a lot easier on her! So we had fresh milk, cream and butter--and at 50 cents a gallon, she was probably right! It was great, except that at least once every summer, the cows would get into something they shouldn't eat--wild onion, or something--and for a couple of weeks, the milk was pretty much undrinkable, though perfectly good for cooking!
We did raise beef cattle; after being trampled a few times, I learned to thoroughly dislike them. However, after the space of many years (and not having to deal with them directly), I can appreciate the bovine form again; and I certainly appreciate the beef!

bnanajm said...

Not only can I see the wheels turning, I smell the rubber burning too.

Go for it!!!