It is so fun to have our new cow, Violet, here!
She arrived Sunday in the late afternoon. Luckily, she was already halter broken so we were able to lead her through the woods to the barnyard (it is REALLY hard to get a trailer backed up to our barnyard). She only lowed once, when the sheep stuck their heads out of their stall to see her. Besides that she was very quite. This is very unlike Charlotte, who bawled and bawled constantly for days after she arrived.
We are keeping her separated from the chickens and sheep for a while, in her own little section of the barnyard, until she gets used to us and the other animals. She is with the dog, though, since we have been having some trouble between him and the sheep (more on that later) and need to keep him separate from the sheep. She had no trouble meeting him and him her, it was as if they had always known each other.
I would estimate she is about 3/4 the size that Charlotte was. Charlotte was a standard Jersey cow. Violet is a mini Jersey mixed with a Lowline, which is a miniature version of Angus cattle. They call this mixed breed a “JLow.”
As you can see in these two comparison photos, Violet is about 12 inches or so shorter than Charlotte was. She is also “beefier” and doesn’t have so much of the bony hip conformation that a standard Jersey has. Also, look at the length of leg on Charlotte compared to Violet, BIG difference. Violet is definitely a squat, and yet very stout, little cow.
The goal with getting Violet is that she would still give us the amount of milk we need, and yet eat a lot less than Charlotte. Charlotte could make WAY more milk than we need, and ate accordingly. So we were feeding a cow to make 6 gal of milk a day, but taking WAY less milk. It just wasn’t efficient. Violet can make about 2-3 gal of milk a day, and is a smaller cow overall, and thus eats much less. The other thing that should help with the feed bill is that, as I already showed you, Violet is built more like a beef cow. Charlotte had a very hard time keeping weight on through the cold, windy winter here and thus ate even more. Violet, being built more like a beef breed, should be able to keep weight on better through the winter, and thus eat even less.
So that is what we are hoping for with this new cow, but only time will tell whether it will work or not.
Violet arrived late afternoon and they told us they had been milking her in the evenings around about 7pm. They also told us they were only milking her 1x per day. Wait…What!? She is only a week out from calving, without a calf on, and they are only milking her 1x a day? That didn’t sound right to me. I thought that in the first few weeks of lactation, without a calf on, a cow would definitely need to be milked 2x a day.
So at about 7:30 it was time for the first ever milking of the new cow. Since she hasn’t been hand milked very much we decided it should just be my husband and the cow, alone, for the first several weeks until she calmed and settled and until we felt comfortable letting the kids be there. So off he went to milk her.
He led her to the stanchion, instead of luring her, since it was her first time. She settled right away and began munching on her hay. He pulled his stool up, which he immediately noticed was WAY too tall for this short-legged little cow. He started washing her udder and when he got to the back right quarter she lifted her right back foot as if kicking at a fly. No biggie. So he kept washing and again she kicked like at a fly. We have a bunch of flies right now, so he really thought she was kicking a fly, but he should have probably realized that she was warning him. So he went back to washing the back right quarter and BAM, she nailed him…right in the knee…and HARD. At that point he realized, of course, that she was warning him, not swatting a fly, and that she was clearly very sore on that quarter.
So he tied her foot and finished washing the udder, as gently as possible. She tried to kick a few more times when he was at that same quarter but then settled. Once he started milking she was fine and didn’t attempt anymore kicking.
He brought the milk in to strain it, and we noticed a major issue. There was some white stringy sludge kind of stuff in the filter as we poured the milk through. Oh no. Mastitis. I went online and looked around and we were pretty sure it was a low-grade case of mastitis. Which would explain the tenderness as well. Not. Good.
Mastitis is a serious, serious issue with a dairy cow. A bad case of it can ruin a dairy cow and make her unable to milk like she should. Luckily, it seemed very low-grade, so we hoped it would clear up quickly. We decided it was probably caused by the once-a-day milking so early in lactation without a calf on. So we felt the best way to deal with it would be to do twice a day milking, every 12 hours, and see if it got better within a few milkings. If not, then we would consider milking even more often, and using antibiotics. Meanwhile, we would have to throw the milk out anyway because of the mastitis. And by throw the milk out, I mean give it to the chickens, dog, and cats.
So he milked again Monday morning, Monday evening, and then again Tuesday morning. By the Tuesday morning milking there was no tenderness and no white gunk in the filter anymore. Yay! It cleared up very quickly. I think it definitely was the once-a-day milking. So we have continued with the milking every 12 hours and will do that for at least a few weeks before we consider moving her towards less.
He tied her foot again at the Monday morning milking, but hasn’t had to tie it again since. She has stood very nicely and hasn’t even threatened to kick again. She is also warming up to my husband more and more and even let him pet her yesterday unrestrained. Once she settles to him I will spend more time with her, and eventually we will let the kids be with her. Charlotte was not friendly when we got her either, it took some time but she ended up as a big friendly teddy bear. We hope that will happen with Violet too.
So we are excited and enjoying this new journey and adventure with our little JLow! And my husband’s leg is fine, just bruised and sore. Poor guy. The prices you pay to have a farm! He says it is worth it, though I don’t know if I’d be saying that if it had been me. 😉