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.
Many of you know me as a cow girl, but what you might not know is that I'm a goat girl too. :) While my Jersey cows are my passion, my Nubian goats are my hobby and I can't imagine life without them.
In 1992, when I was four years old, my parents transplanted our family from Kamloops to an acreage an hour outside of the city. Our first farm animals--a flock of laying hens and a small herd of Alpine-cross goats--arrived in 1994.
I was homeschooled as a kid, and one of my assignments in Kindergarten and Grade 1 was keeping a "Nature Book". I still love going back and reading the journal entries in my Nature Book and looking at the photographs and my drawings:
November 1, 1995: I milked Buttercup today!
November 27, 1995: Made Cottage Cheese from Buttercup's milk. We gave the whey to the chickens.
March 22, 1996: Today is Friday. Daddy went to the barn, and then he came running back up to the house to tell us that Buttercup's baby kids were born. There were two of them. We all hurried and got dressed and ran down to the barn. Buttercup was licking the kids off. They were so tiny. They couldn't even walk yet! Then Daddy said he thought Buttercup was going to have another baby. Mama didn't think so, but she checked Buttercup, and sure enough, she could feel a little hoof. It was almost an hour after the last kid had been born, so we thought this little kid might not be alive, and we saw it being born!! We didn't know if it was a boy or a girl, but Peter named it STRIPE. I named my little goat girl PUSSY WILLOW, and Anna named her little goat boy SPOT.
March 23, 1996: Daddy told us this morning that Stripe is a little girl.
March 31, 1996: This evening, just as we were getting ready for bed, our goat Daisy had her kids. Daddy went down to the barn, and when he came back to the house, one kid was born. We named him Blizzard, because it was snowing and blowing outside. Then Mama went down to the barn and Daisy had another kid! This one we named Blackie, because she is mostly black. Mama came back up to the house to look after Thomas, and Peter, Anna and I went down to the barn to see Blizzard and Blackie, and while we were there, another kid was born. We named her Sunday, because she was born on a Sunday. So now we have six baby goat kids - three from Buttercup and three from Daisy.
But as every farmer knows, not every minute of farm life is joyous.
April 10, 1996: Aster's kid 'Midnight' was born tonight at 10:00 p.m. He was huge, and Aster is very sore and not feeling very well.
What we didn't know at the time was that Aster wasn't feeling well because she cracked her pelvis while birthing her huge kid. We bred her again, and the following spring she and her kids died while trying to give birth. My dad buried Aster at the back of the goat pasture and I remember that every summer her grave was covered with fireweed. It was beautiful!
I loved our goats and spent countless hours cuddling and playing with the kids. When I was a little older and wanted to learn how to milk, our goat Buttercup was a great teacher. She was very patient and would do anything for grain. :)
My parents sold our goats while our family spent two years in McBride, but after we came to Enderby our first farm animals were again chickens and goats.
After reading the book Your Goats: A Kid's Guide to Raising and Showing by Gail Damerow I wanted to buy purebred Alpines. I never dreamed that I would be raising purebred Nubians instead and in fact I thought that they were not very attractive with their floppy ears and funny noses!
All that changed when my friend Natasha offered me her two Nubian goats, Garden Gate Barbie Doll and Cot'Wood Sweet Treat, for a really good price. I agreed to buy them, and my first purebred Nubians arrived at the farm on October 27, 2006.
These two goats changed my life! I fell in love with the Nubian breed and their floppy ears and funny noses, and today I can't imagine raising any other breed.
Barbie Doll was 6 and died the following spring before she kidded, but her family lives on today on Birdsong Farm. Barbie Doll's dam was Willow Way Dolly's Daffodil, and Daffodil is the great-granddam of my buck, Garden Gate Sir Lancelot and the great-great-granddam of my doe, Garden Gate Perfect Breeze.
Leave a comment below to tell me how you got started with goats and what breeds you raise. I'd love to hear your story!