Last year, the first year our milk association was here at my farm, we had so much demand for shares that we couldn't keep up. We forged ahead and bought several cows. There were a few poor choices. The last one to come on board was a trade with a neighbor. We had bought a Dutch Belted, one of those poor choices because she was a huge cow that ate copious amounts of grass and hay, providing very little milk in return. She milked well for the first two months but by mid-July was nearly dry. Her name was Alligator. Part of Gator's problem was that she came from a grain fed herd, and she was used to that grain. When she came here and had to live on grass alone, she just didn't milk like she should have. The neighbor (Eric) had a smaller cow that had always been grass fed. She would eat less, and she was bred to freshen in April, unlike Gator, who was not going to freshen until later in the season. Eric's wife wanted a Dutch Belted, so we were both happy with the deal. Gator left us and Lola joined us.
Lola was the last cow to join our herd, and she was quite small. Fortunately, Eric hadn't dehorned her, so she could defend herself. She freshened on time in April, and we had high hopes for her. In fact, we kept her calf, Zelda, and she is a beauty. But one of Lola's quarters had a problem. A little explanation here - a cow's udder is divided into four separate compartments, each one with a teat. Lola's right rear quarter wasn't milking. The vet looked at it and tried to open it up. No luck. The quarter dried up, never to provide a drop of milk. Eric said that sometimes the other three quarters will make up for the dry quarter, but alas that was not to be. Lola was a poor milker, would probably have been our worst milker even with four quarters operating. We dried her up about a month ago. Not worth the effort to bring her in the barn.
We have had two dry periods this summer, each lasting about four weeks. The pastures are not lush, and we had to start feeding hay during the first dry spell in July. I only got an inch and a quarter of rain in September, so we got a double whammy and have had to go on about three fourths of our winter hay feeding rations already. The pasture rent is based on the number of cows that are grazing, so Lola increased the monthly pasture rent. She was eating grass and hay that could have been going to the milkers. It was time to make a tough decision.
Margie, a former shareholder, knew how it was bothering me, and she reminded me that animals live in a Zen state, in the moment. They do not contemplate their own deaths. I remembered that, and in the three weeks leading up to today, I did not mourn, instead treating her the same as usual and enjoying my time with her. Lola left us today. She lived a good life here, enjoying the great outdoors and a first class diet.
She blessed us with the nourishment of her milk. She will provide us with organic grass fed beef. Some of her tallow will make laundry soap, and her bones will provide bone broth. We saved her horns so that we can use them for our BD-500 preparation. Read about that in Stirring Preps http://farmersusie.blogspot.com/2009/09/stirring-preps.html
Lola served us well and will continue to serve us in the months and years to come. Blessed be.
Tonight, there are 15 chickens, three calves (including Lola's Zelda), three heifers inside the fence, one small white cat, one large black dog, one small yappy dog, and one less cow.