Monday, November 21, 2011

Meet the critters: Cows

After we had the chickens awhile, we knew that our next step would be a dairy animal.  Since I'd had a bad experience with goats, I knew that I didn't want them....and besides, I'd always heard that their milk tasted funny.

Our neighbor had a wonderful jersey and they were nice enough to share her milk with us.  The cream was wonderful.  I was able to make ice cream and butter and the kids loved the milk.  So of course, we had to get our own cow.

We found a jersey due to calve within the month, and brought her home.....well, not all the way home, since we didn't have a barn to put her in or a pasture for her to roam.  The kids got to name her, I tried to help them with suggestions, but they each picked out a name and we combined them into:  Flower-Bob.  It was February, there was still snow on the ground and the ground was too hard to put in posts.  Our wonderful friends kept her at their house and did calf checks on her all night long just in case she had the baby early.  Eventually, my hubby built a barn, and we brought her home, and within a week, a bull calf was born.  We named him T-bone....and we knew what his future would be.

Flower-bob was a great mom, we tried the calf-sharing method, where we separated them during the day, milked her in the evening and then put the calf with his mom at night.  This did nothing to foster his trust in us and we also never got around to dehorning him....oh, and we botched his banding (to make him a steer).
So he grew into a very large, horned, and angry bull.  He was pretty smart.  Using his horns, he would pop off all the electric fence insulators, drop the electrified fence to the ground and walk over it to wreak havoc on the ranch.  His favorite game was to chase after a very pregnant me.  We had to take him to the vet for castration and then wait at least six months for all the testosterone to leave his body, otherwise the meat would have a strong (unpleasant) flavor.
We had him butchered in February.  It wasn't an easy thing to do, having raised him from birth, but man, does he taste good!

We had Flower-bob artificially inseminated that summer using sexed semen.  The next spring, she had a little jersey heifer we named Clarabelle.  After her birth, we kept them together long enough for her to drink Flower-bob's colostrum and then we separated them.  We bottle-fed Clarabelle and immediately dehorned her.  Instead of being distrustful, she now thinks she's a very large human....she loves attention and still has fond memories of her bottle, as she chews on anything made of rubber (mostly my barn boots).  She really loves my hubby, as he was the only one able to get her to drink from a bottle at first.
Now Clarabelle is old enough to be bred and we AI'd her with long horn semen, since she is still a little small, and long horn's have long, skinny calves.  We had Flower-bob AI'd with the last straw of sexed semen, so she will have Clarabelle's sister in June.

Since we don't have another steer, we adopted one in May from the local dairy.  They cull all the steers and sell them really cheaply.  They even dehorned, banded and bottle trained him!  The kids named him Meathead.

We brought him home and housed him in the goat barn where he made fast friends with the Nigerian buck born 2 weeks prior.

Flower-bob and Clarabelle weren't too happy with the interloper and they pick on him, so he gets free run of the ranch, which means he mostly follows me everywhere and stands outside the back door moo-ing for me to feed him.