Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The magnificent cows!

I haven't posted anything about the cows lately. 

What a winter!  Usually we have very little milk, all of us looking at our half empty totes of milk and fondly remembering those spring and early summer days when we didn't know what to do with it all!  We are there again - more milk than we know what to do with!  Steve lent us two cows for the winter.  He comes down for a gallon of milk every week or two, and he did ask us to keep the calf on one of the cows for four weeks.  Other than that, the milk is ours to keep and distribute.

You might ask what is in this for Steve.  First, he doesn't have to feed them.  They will eat about $1,000 of organic hay this winter.  Our shareholders gladly paid this as a special assessment, because the one time assessment amounts to less than half of a regular month's fee, and these two cows have DOUBLED our production.  Steve's second reason for lending them is that they both freshened very late in the season - that is why they are giving so much milk - and he dries up his herd on November 15.  So he would have lost a lot of milk.  By having us milk them through the winter until he is ready to start milking again in the spring, he gets several months of milk next spring that would have been lost.

You might be asking how two cows can double the production of our own six cow herd.  Well, first, our cows freshened between April and early July, so they are all winding down.  Second, Quattro was dried up entirely about three months ago.  She is just not a very good milker, and I think we are going to use her for a nurse cow next year.  Third, we dried up JP last week.  She is a heifer, and she freshened first last spring, April 7, so it was a miracle that she milked so long!  Many heifers dry up in five or six months their first year of milking. 

Along come Phyllis and Delilah, our two borrowed cows, one fresh on August 31, the other just three days before she came down here along with her bull calf.  Steve said the bull calf wouldn't drink all that much milk, maybe a gallon a day, then up to two gallons by the time he was ready to leave.  Well, we knew better!  We hand feed our calves, and they get two gallons a day for the first month, drinking every drop of it and begging for more!!  The day the bull calf went to market, our production shot up by three gallons a day!  Since we measure our production in quarts, not gallons, that is 12 quarts, and we fill for five shareholders per day.  Do the math - they are all delighted. 

I am now getting so much milk again that I can make a three pound block of cheese every week and a half, even leaving plenty for myself and the dogs.  My dogs each get a small bowl of kefir every day.  I love my vet, and I respect his opinion, but about milk we differ.  He is livid that I feed it to my dogs.  He says all dogs are lactose intolerant.  Well, kefir grains pretty much wipe out the milk sugars, so my dogs digest it just fine, and since I have a dog with Cushing's Syndrome that should have been dead years ago, in this case I think I know more than the vet.  Bear celebrated her 15th birthday with a big bowl of kefir!

I am in a pretty good mood today.  After several days of getting up between 3:30 and 4 am and just chugging through the list of stuff to get done for my booth at market, as of 8 pm last night, I AM DONE!  :)  Today it is last minute holiday shopping, hauling milk into my booth at the market and relieving Annemarie for the last three hours of the workday, then home to start wrapping presents.  Maybe I will get my holiday cards and letters out before January 15 this year. 

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