[ Applejack went home last Thursday, Mike was super pleased at how he looked]
Katie returned in heat after we had observed a successful breeding, in fact three breeding attempts had gone by. Ralph and I are pretty upset but Katie is 10 years old and was open when we got her.
She had been run with a bull at the dairy. We had asked she be pregnancy tested and had decided to take her even though she was open at that point. From breeding cattle I know that older cows can be more difficult to get in calf but frankly I fell in love with her when she set foot on our farm. We were optimistic and she milked like crazy and is simply the sweetest cow I have ever owned.
So we fed her up, calf shared on her and heat observed and recorded each cycle. Her heats were regular but quiet and after missing standing heat to try to AI her we had decided to go with a bull. That in itself was a challenge. After a lot of back and forth with our Dairy guy, he supplied a bull.
Now Katie has fed 5 calves for us and is still milking. Not the 5 gallons a day she arrived producing. The 5 gallons a day that made me question my sanity for getting a Jersey. She is producing 2 gallons a day. The last calves were quite big enough to wean so after she came back in heat Ralph and I had a long cow talk.
1- How long can a cow milk without a fresh pregnancy and birth?
2- How much milk do we need?
3- How much will Katie continue to produce after 17 months milking?
4- What do we do with a barren cow?
We decided to dry off Lassie, she is part of this equation that didn’t quite turn out as planned either. She has never accepted hand milking and kicks worse than a range cow. Her milk is not as creamy as Katies, her smaller teats, great for a surge milker, are not nice to hand milk. (Especially when your trying to milk fast and not get kicked) Lassie loves her calves though and fed her two steers beautifully, they are fat, a rare thing for jersey steers at that age.
Lassie is also a frail Jersey, not like Katie. We never did get her to look anything but boney. When Mike picked up Applejack, I asked him why he sold a 4 year old who milked so well? The truth came
out. She was not his breeding but was sired by a bull his brother had and he felt she didn’t fit his herd. He thought with our care she would do better. I told him we liked her very much .....as a nurse
cow! I know she will not be our house milk cow but it’s fine if she loves calves. So Lassie has her job. Drying her off now will allow her to have a summer on grass to gain weight.
From what I have read and what Mike said....Katie might stay in milk for another year or longer. It just won’t be huge production.
So this past week we weaned Redneck, Spotify and Laddie and Bob. Lassie was heartbroken and tried all sorts of things to get to her calves. Katie wasn’t much better but since I have been milking
her it wasn’t as horrific and she has got back into rhythm. She loves her smidgen of grain and I have to admit it’s nice to have a milking schedule again.
She is a joy to milk and on fresh spring pasture the milk is heavenly, her cream is way up as well. We are going to enjoy our old ‘open’ cow. She still has a lot to offer us, the milk amount is plenty and Katie is in great shape, not too fat but certainly not boney. She is not looking her age and after watching her buck the other day....not acting her age either.
Part of this morning’s milk. A rich half gallon with gobs of cream. I hope you can see the cream line. Even after I skim the layer of cream off the milk, the milk is still sweet and delicious
So here we are, in a bovine dilemma. We fell in love with a sweet set of Jersey eyes. I think we are going to continue our love affair. It’s not like she is actually costing us anything. She is giving us fantastic milk and delightful companionship. I think sometimes animals earn an honorable retirement. Katie’s happens to be a working retirement.
Sometimes you make decisions with your heart and that’s alright now and then.
In closing I think you might enjoy a montage of Katie moments.
God keep you safe and bless you with a sweet jersey cow at least once in your life!