Newbie here - help!

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by oakhillfarm, Jun 2, 2005.

  1. oakhillfarm

    oakhillfarm Member

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    We brought home our first cow ever. She is a 4 year old Jersey. She came from a Jersey dairy 3 hours away. The dairy is organically run, but will use antibiotics for illness, keeping the cow off the line until her milk tests clear again. The cow, Poppy, is registered and seemingly extremely fit. This is her 2nd lactation. We bought her 2 month old heifer as well, although they have never been together (and aren't now).

    The dairy sold her because she has a blind quarter (always been blind, no history of mastitis) and is therefore just not as high a producer. Her breeder has a large herd of registered, organically raised Jerseys and chooses to limit her milking to only 20, so she occasionally has a few she is willing to sell and "rotate out". I was told that the cow normally gives between 30-45lbs. a day and has 4.6% fat content. While she is extremely good-natured, loving and fond of human interaction, she is not used to hand milking and is obviously under a great deal of stress from her journey and being separated from her birthplace/herd.

    We milked her for the first time last night with the help of a neighbor who had some experience - very soon after unloading. If I include the milk that got spilled or soiled and thrown away while we were learning, she gave about 2 gallons. It took forever and she was very agitated - her let-down happening in short spurts, almost like she would let down and dry up again depending on her level of agitation.

    This morning, making sure to keep to her normal schedule, we again washed and massaged her with warm wet towels, trying to encourage her to relax while she busied herself with some grain. She was much more relaxed and came down with a vengence spurting milk everywhere... but I could not milk her out! It's like she decided to stop the spigot after about 20 minutes. (I'll get quicker with time I guess) She just stopped letting down rather suddenly. I tried for over 45 minutes. Her udder never got empty-feeling or soft, just less hard. I only got one gallon plus a little bit more. And she looks so full right now (3 hours away from milking time) that she looks like she could be the porter for a bowling team. One of her quarters was engorged and warm last night, but not hot or red. She is still warm on that side today but it doesn't seem painful when touched and her milk is still clean and clear - no lumps or clumps or "offness" of any kind.

    She's been moo-ing all day. Poppy, who is pastured, and her calf, who is in the barn adjacent, have been calling to each other constantly.

    What can I do to help this cow? I know it will take several days for her to settle in and relax. An acquaintence tells me I must build a staunchon for her - that tying to a post in a big, open area of the barn will not work - but I've heard of folks who just go out to the field and milk! Another person says I should just put her with her calf when I'm finished milking, to make sure she is really milked out. But another person says if I do that I'll never get the calf off her again and a year from now she'll still be trying to nurse if they are not permanently separated (not an option on my fairly small acreage). I just don't know how people handle this transition. I feel like I just brought my first child home and haven't a freakin' clue!

    How many days can I reasonably expect her to be giving me only half of her normal production, and not being completely milked out, before developing an infection or reducing her production considerably? 3? A week? More? How important is it to have a staunchon? Any plans for homemade ones? Am I just being a worry-wart and not giving her the credit she deserves for being a perfectly capable grown-up cow who just needs a freakin' minute to adjust?

    HELP!

    Liz.
     
  2. JanO

    JanO Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Liz from what you've described your doing fine....you need to relax. It sounds like you have a jewl of a cow there but she is very nervous because of numerous factors. First of all... she is trying to adjust to everything that is new. New surroundings, new handlers, new routines, and she's more or less alone and away from her herd and that has an effect on her. That goes for her calf as well. I would put them in adjoining pens if possible..that will help her relax a little if they can at least touch noses, but not allowing the calf to decide to nurse unless you decide that you want to milk share with the calf. You can can wean her at any time, so if that's an option for you don't hesitate. Remember though that in her mind the calf is the last of her herd. In time she will associate you as being apart of the herd, but it's going to take a few days. In the meantime spend as much time as you can out there with her... brush her, talk to her, just be with her and let her get used to you.

    As far as the milking is concerned, definatly get yourself a stanchion built. It will make the whole process much easier for milking and any other proceedure she may need. Such as vet visits. There is a wonderful book out called "keeping a family cow" written by Joann Grohman. Here is her site... you can order it from here. www.real-food.com This book is a must for the family cow owner and it has the plans for a wonderful stanchion in it. Milking her without some sort of set up, especially since she isn't used to hand milking is not a good idea especially since she's new to hand milking. I'm sure that there are others with plans and hopfully they will chime in so you don't have to wait on the book before you build one.

    Since your not sure if your milking her out all the way, don't hesitate to milk 3 times a day if you need to. Since she already has one blind quarter, you sure don't want any trouble with the other 3. I'm sure that in time you and her are going to settle into a routine and it's all going to work out, but give it time and patience. Also, if you have to milk a little early or even if you milk a little late it's not a big deal. She may not like it, but sometimes you have to because things happen. Her let down will get better in time, so don't panic about that. Like I said, she needs to adjust.

    I know that in a few days your going to love having a family cow, and you will get better. So will she.

    Jan

    edited to add... On Joanns site there is a link to the discussion forum. There you will get the advice of many cow owners such as yourself who can better advise you. It's currently down for upgrades but it should be back up in a day or two. I strongly suggest that you check it out. Joann, and all the folks in there are a wealth of knowledge and are happy to assist any way they can.
     

  3. Patt

    Patt Well-Known Member

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    I would put the calf in with her mother if it were me. :) We have a Dexter milk cow and she keeps her calf with her during the day and the calf is shut up at night. You don't need a big pen to wean off a calf. We have 3 1/2 acres here. We put the calf in one half of the pasture and the cow in the other. After a few months the cow won't accept the calf back to nurse even though we're still milking the cow. The only problem I could see is that the cow might not accept the calf now if she's never known her.
    Our cow was never milked when we got her and we had to gentle her. We tried tying her to a post and I wound up almost breaking my leg. :) We moved her to the stanchion and she's fine now. A simple stanchion is easy to make. You need 2 posts to attach your top and bottom frame to, you could do it across a sturdy stall. Attach a 2x6 across the bottom and another one at 5ft high. You'll attach 2 more 2x6's vertically to these. One will be permantly bolted at top and bottom the other will be loosely bolted at the bottom and have a hole at the top with a nut and bolt. The boards need to be the width of your cows neck apart.
    Here's a link to a picture of our stanchion:
    http://photo.tcworks.net/Milking-machine

    Patt
     
  4. oakhillfarm

    oakhillfarm Member

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    Jan, we did put together a stanchion today - finished JUST in time for evening milking! She was pretty calm. She was also very muddy because it's been raining for 24 hours here! But we eventually got her all cleaned off and warm and massaged down and she was just POURING milk everywhere! My technique is getting better - getting some nice foam in the bowl - but it's still a one-handed operation because she will knock over or step in the bucket if I put it down to try and use two hands. It still takes about 45 minutes to finish her and her bag is not empty. Her teats are soft and shriveled, and her bag is softer but not what I would call flacid... she still looks like she's got blown up balloons in there! But she's not hot, that's mostly my worry, that she'll get blocked up - but I see no sign of any real discomfort other than emotional.

    I do worry that I do not seem to be able to empty her - her bag was still tight after 2 gallons this evening. I can't believe that it's SUPPOSED to be that tight - no matter what her physical structure! I may try to milk her 3x a day like you suggested, just to try and get her milked out. I'm not sure I can compete with a milking machine though, which is what her body has been used to. No doubt her production will decrease from hand-milking.

    I have ordered Joanne's book and visited her site a few weeks ago when I was searching for my cow - actually placed an ad there. It seems like a great group. Thanks for your trouble in answering me. I guess I just keep on what I'm doing and perhaps bump up to milking 3x a day until she is adjusted better and letting down completely again.

    Liz.
     
  5. oakhillfarm

    oakhillfarm Member

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    Patt! You'll never guess what we built today?! After another wrestling match this morning my husband decided to build a staunchion - of course we don't know what we're doing - we've only seen the big metal, tubular ones at the dairies - but I was just reading your description to him and laughing because that's exactly what he did! Except we ran out of nuts and bolts so the moveable piece was held in place at the top by a nice clamp tonight!

    We also thought, after listening to all that blessed moo-ing all day, that we would try the calf with her after milking this evening to see if that would empty her out at least... but she will have nothing to do with that calf. We even tied her off so she couldn't butt or run after the calf, but her kicks were enough to send the little one shivering into the corner of the stall. (10x10 horse stalls are all I've got). I suppose I could try putting the calf out in the paddock with her during the day (she's not out in the big pasture yet until I know she knows where to come when it's time), but the calf is only 2 months old and I don't want to disrupt her diet with too much grass and weeds all at once either - she's not had any up to now I understand. But the facts are that the calf has never nursed and doesn't know what to do and the cow has no idea this cow is hers or what the devil it's doing back there! She does know that she does not like it - one bit! I can keep trying if you think either of them will warm to each other, but I fear until that happens I might be spending some extra time milking, that's all.

    Thanks for your wise advice - I think DH was all proud he figured it out and had a "pro" basically corraborate his idea! Some moments are just good, even when you forget where you put your tools all the time and you have 4 kids that sometimes move them when you're not looking! Sometimes it just works out. I hope it will be so with the milking soon!


     
  6. JanO

    JanO Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Liz since she's kicking and refuses to keep her feet down when you milk I would get an anti kicking device. Your feed & supply store should be able to help you with that. If not nasco has them and you can order it on line. Here is the link to nasco. Look under farm & ranch, then I believe you go to safety devices.
    http://www.enasco.com
    You can also rig one up using a rope, but from what I gather you need 2 people to use it and it's not quite as good. But, regardless of what you use she needs to learn that lifting her foot into the bucket and being a pain in the rear is not a good thing. She will settle down, this will just help. :p

    Also, it does't surprise me that she doesn't want anything to do with the calf. Niether one of them have a clue as to what to do. I would just continue to milk out as much as you can, but keep them close together so they have each other for company. If she is charging and kicking at the calf don't put them in the same pen until the calf is bigger.

    Your going to do fine. Just hang in there.
     
  7. Patt

    Patt Well-Known Member

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    That's great! It's amazing what we can do with some ingenuity and necessity! :) We've had to figure so many things out as problems come up since we started homesteading 4 years ago.
    I'm with Jan O on the calf, sometimes cows will take a calf even it's not theirs and sometimes they won't. Yours obviously isn't one that will adopt a calf. I've had a cow that would nurse any calf that wanted I'm sure she was a bit weird though! :) I've also put a kid on goat doe but we could hold her until she gave up and accepted the kid.
    The milking will get better as you go along, you'll get quicker and she'll get calmer. Our cow took about a week to get in the rhythm and let down well and stay calm.
    Patt
     
  8. SilverVista

    SilverVista Well-Known Member

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    Buy a tube of silicon caulk -- the stuff you would use to waterproof around the bathtub or something. Squeeze 2 or 3 thick lines down either side of the outside of the milk bucket and let dry. That gives your knees something to grip -- you hold the bucket between your knees so it's not on the floor in harm's way, and you milk with both hands. My cow didn't kick often, but on the rare times she did, I was able to swing my knees away from the raised foot until I could grab the handle to get re-settled.
     
  9. Christina R.

    Christina R. Well-Known Member

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    I was where you are now last Aug. and it was with a gal I bottle raised since she was 5 weeks old, so we had the advantage of being bonded with each other. Here is a link to a thread I started then. Hopefully you'll get some good advice, lots of encouragement, and a few laughs along the way. Everyone's right, you're doing great!!!


    http://homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=54753
     
  10. oakhillfarm

    oakhillfarm Member

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    The staunchion is working well - the technique is improving - I don't know about the bucket-between-the-knees-thing tho'! I'm not that coordinated! DH can get on the other side of her and we can milk in tandem into the same bowl, but one of us has to hold the bowl so it can be wisked away when she decides to move.

    Poor thing - I think I offended her last night, and things were going so well too! The thing is, she has this one side (the side with her blind rear quarter) that is always tight and looks twice the size of the other side when she's decided she's done and everything goes bye-bye. I mean, it's not tight as a drum - it's pliable because we've milked 1/2 - 1 gallon out of it - but anyway, I decided to bump it around a bit - you know, like the calf does, to see if it will encourage another let-down - and she turned her head and gave me such a look! Then she tried to kick my hand away every time I came near until I managed to smooth over her indignance enough to let me continue. Well, now I know not to do THAT again!

    I am going to go look at the thread you forwarded now and hope to find some ideas.

    Tonight my problem was MUD!!! And I'm going to start another thread to ask everyone how they deal with a cow covered in mud at milking time... but the good news is that I MADE BUTTER!!! Woohoo!!!! And it's wonderful, and the buttermilk was delicious and we have enought to feed her calf and still have at least a 1/2 gallon a day for the family (since we share the rest with another family), and I'm tickled. Still worried and stupid, but tickled.

    Thanks to everyone for their concern and suggestions and encouragement! And I hope you'll contribute the the conversation about MUD when you have time!

    Liz.



     
  11. JulieLou42

    JulieLou42 Well-Known Member

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    One way to tell if she's going to lift that leg of hers is to rest your head into her flank in the depression between there and her belly; then you'll know if she's going to move, and it might just spare your bucket being soiled or spilled. It worked for me. If she's not really very clean at that spot, I'd wear a kerchief or baseball cap, backwards to shield my own hair from her dirt.

    from No Central Idaho...JulieLou[/FONT]
     
  12. oakhillfarm

    oakhillfarm Member

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    Just thought I'd write a quick note to let you know that things are going very well I think. Poppy is getting more comfortable with her surroundings and gives as much affection as she gets. DH and I are still milking together but we've got the routine down from over an hour to under half an hour, start to finish (including all the washing up on a good day). We are getting about 3 - 3.5 gallons a day from out 950 lb. girl. We store it in tall, glass gallon jars and there must be 2.5-3" of cream on those babies after a day or two!!! The kids made the best butter rolling mason jars on the floor with a couple of marbles in them and we are thoroughly enjoying our new member of the family. I've even got neighbors asking for milk! I'm feeling comfortable enough that DH's upcoming trip north isn't freaking me out. I think I can do it fine on my own. Poor Poppy is bound to get a little frustrated by the slower pace - she is apt to boredom after her grain is gone - but if I have one of the kids come out to play with her and talk to her I think she'll do just fine. The only difficulty seems to be her impatience with the evening milking - altho I understand it completely - it's hot, the flies bother her then, she's had a whole day of things happening to irritate her - in fact, our feelings are pretty much the same! LOL We are getting along.

    I am feeding her 18% Purina lactating feed with about a dozen or so alfalfa cubes as treats since my hay isn't very rich and my fields aren't either. She drinks lots of water, enjoys the cool sawdust in the barn in the heat of the day. The only glitch in feeding her is trying to keep the horses away from her hay - it's practically impossible. I have to wait until the horses are out in the field for their afternoon grazing. Then I go out to the barn, where she is enjoying her peace and quiet, and give her a few flakes which she gobbles down happily between kisses. She always has it available to her but she gets bullied a bit and somehow I don't think she gets much of what I put down early in the day. I've considered shutting her in a stall for part of the day but that would mean having to move one of my calves first, and wouldn't accomplish anything more than my afternoon visits to the barn are right now.

    Soon, the horses will be rotating to another small pasture and she will have the place to herself. Then I can start letting my older two calves out for their initial introduction to pasture too.

    Thanks for all your help and encouragement. You all have been great.

    Liz.