Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Cows of GSF

Over the years, I've only had four cows. 

When we first moved to the country, I dreamed about getting a Jersey cow of my own. But instead of a cow materializing, I ended up with a bunch of goats. This wasn't a bad thing; I learned to love goats. But I still hankered after a Jersey cow... So after months of saving my milk money, I bought a 10 day old Jersey heifer calf from a nearby dairy. I named her Poppy.

I have many, many fond memories of raising that calf. But I also have a lot of bad memories about her. I raised Poppy until she was six months old and then was forced to sell her. The reason? She hated goats. Phooey. Below is what my Poppy girl looked like, right before I sold her. She was shedding out to a white-face Jersey, which I happen to like. :) 


 I took a year or two off from cows after Poppy. When I was ready to try a cow again, I decided I didn't want a Jersey; I wanted a Guernsey. The problem though, was that my mom wanted a small Jersey, and Guernseys were practically impossible to find. So we compromised when I found a waif of a Jersey/Guernsey cross. I named that calf Peaches... Peaches was a fun project, and I took pleasure in watching her bloom. But y'all know how that story ends: When Mattie died, she went ballistic and was the caused death behind seven goats. An estimated loss of $2,800. So I sold her.


In June of 2012, I took the plunge and bought my first milk cow. Peaches needed the company anyway. The cow in question was a staggeringly large Jersey/Holstein cross who I dubbed Hazel. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into... She was 300 lbs. underweight, had a horrible case of edema, had cracked teats, and didn't like to be hand milked. I wanted this cow to work out so bad... I knew she was a problem cow, but after seeing how quickly Peaches had responded to TLC, I had hoped that a few weeks of care would get this girl turned around too. Turns out that Hazel only stayed three days.
She was a kicking cow. And more than that, she was milking 6-8 gallons a day. It took me an average of 1.5 to 2 hours to milk her out, and during that time I was forever dodging her big feet, and picking up the bucket of spilled milk. Hazel finally nailed me one evening. I turned my head to look at the far side of her udder and in that split-second moment she kicked me with all the force she could muster. Her hoof caught me right in the stomach and the impact sent me four feet across the milking stall. I probably would have gone farther than that, but there was a wall in the way. I slammed against the cold metal sheeting, and for a moment could only gasp in shock over what just happened. And that was it. I wanted nothing to do with this big cow. I wanted something smaller, gentler, and I wanted a milking machine. Hazel left the next morning.


But I am a stubborn person. And I wasn't giving up yet. Some dear friends of mine heard of my plight and offered me their Jersey cow named Mattie. Truth be told, at the time I was mostly interested in her simply because a milking machine came along with her. I told my friends 'yes', I would buy her. What a time that was...

Mattie was everything I had ever dreamed of wanting in a cow. Well, almost. ;) Temperament wise, yes she was. But she was still a learning curve for me. She was high maintenance, and required a lot of expensive feed to keep her in condition. But I forgave her of that fault. She never once lifted a hoof as though to kick, even when I bumbled around with the milking machine for the first few days. She was quiet, trustworthy, halter broken, and patient. We quickly settled into a milking routine, and while I always tied her up for milking, it was never really needed. She would stand stock still until I said, "Okay. Head out." and then she would walk herself back to the pasture while I followed behind. 

I had always thought I would get to keep Mattie until she died of old age. I looked forward to raising her daughters, keeping them as future milkers. Then the unexpected happened, and Mattie died two days after calving. Seven months after I bought her. 


So now I'm cowless. And you know what? I don't like it. I've tried four times to have a cow, and I have yet to be successful, long term. But I'm not giving up. Each cow has taught me something new, and Mattie sealed the deal: I like cows. I almost bought another Jersey a few weeks ago (Flash), but decided not to. I will wait for the right cow... I doubt I'll ever find another one like Mattie, but I want to try. 

It's only a matter of time before there are cows here again. I look forward to it. :) 


OneOldGoat said...

That is such a sad story about Mattie. Tell me, how the heck does one find a cow? I've been looking for a mini Jersey, put my name on waitlists, searched Craigslist - nothing! Any good hints?


Goat Song said...

Mini Jerseys are hard to find! :-/ Sounds like you're on the right track though... CL and breeder wait lists. Are you looking for something local to you, or are you okay with having one hauled? I know of a few breeders scattered around the USA, and I think a few of them might have stock for sale... But I think they only have calves right now. Few people sell older minis. I did just see 3 or 4 minis in my area though, and one was milking. ;) I think her price was something like 3k though!!

OneOldGoat said...

Wow! 3K although I do realize that this isn't going to be cheap. Really I'm looking for our own milk supply. I've read about mini Jerseys but it is not imperative since I don't have much money and I want something calm :) But I am willing to travel and pick up. So if you hear/see anything, let me know!