I often read questions on discussion forums and Facebook groups from individuals asking if they should buy a calf or a cow as their family's future milker. There is not a black-and-white answer to that question, and what works great for one family might not work at all for you.
My first milk cow started out as a 9-month-old heifer; my second cow was a 2-year-old that was already milking. In this post my goal is to give you a few of the pros of buying a cow versus buying a calf.
I've known for many years that I was born to be a farmer. Every day is hard work, and there are countless highs and lows, but it's a lifestyle that I wouldn't trade in for all the money in the world.
Last year I came across a cute barn board plaque on Pinterest entitled "I was born to be a Farmer", and it became the inspiration for this post. These are the musings of a Modern Milkmaid™.
I began keeping milking records when my first cow, Blossom, started milking in September 2004. I milked her twice a day and would weigh her milk every morning and evening and record the weight on my paper chart.
My paper charts worked well, but I needed to add the daily totals at the end of every day and then the monthly totals at the end of every month--all by hand. Shortly after I discovered Microsoft Excel I spent a weekend programming a new milking chart that did all the math for me.
If you are milking a family cow--or a dozen on a small dairy--and want to keep daily milk records, I trust that my milking chart will be a handy resource for your farm.
The inspiration for this blog post came to me in the spring of 2015, when Birdsong Princess Diana broke out of the fence and treated herself to a bucket of grain that I'd left out. Ooops!
She was a very sick girl for couple of days. I called my veterinarian out to treat her and spent a sleepless night checking on her. The next day I spoiled her as I tried to tempt her to start eating again, and when she finally did I allowed her to eat whatever her bovine heart desired...other than grain, which was off-limits for a whole week.
I drafted the outline for this post as I relaxed in the pasture and watched Diana graze. I'm not a mother myself, but as the oldest of nine children I'd like to think that I know a thing or two about the parallels between kids and cows!
Aster was the second heifer calf born on the farm, and I clearly remember that September morning. She arrived before her due date, and I didn't believe my brothers and sisters when they roused me from my bed with the announcement that Blossom calved while we were all sleeping.
I'd decided years before that I was going to name the first heifer born on the farm Daisy (which I did), and the second heifer born on the farm Lily. Well, I took one look at Aster and thought, "She is NOT a Lily." It took me about a week to think of a name for her, but I finally named the new heifer Birdsong Autumn Aster; Autumn because she was born on September 5th, and Aster because the wild asters began blooming the week she was born.
Aster was black like her mum, and I always liked how she added a splash of dark colour to the herd, which ranges from black and mulberry to brown and fawn. As she matured, she developed beautiful red and brown highlights.
Aster spent close to six years on the farm and blessed me with a beautiful heifer calf in 2014 before I sold her to a family in Sunnybrook, Alberta.
Aster was an opinionated girl at times and she always like doing things her way. I can be opinionated too, so we often disagreed. In fact, my first farm scar came from Aster. We were fighting about her grain and I split my chin on her hard noggin! The scar never completely faded, so every time I touch my chin I think of Aster and all her crazy shenanigans.
Aster was smart...or maybe she was greedy. She was the first cow that figured out that when she untied the knot on her rope halter she could assist the other cows with eating their grain too! My sister Anna and I were always learning new knots in an effort to outsmart her.
I really enjoyed the goodbye photo shoot my sister Anna and I did with Daisy, so I wanted to do a photo shoot with Aster to remember her by as well. We decided to take Aster's pictures on the Baxter Bridge, which crosses the Shuswap River about half a kilometer before you reach the farm and I think it made for a great background.