When things don't go to plan - establishing a new house cow

Jun 20 2011 0 Comments Tags: calf, cow, dairy, mastitis, milk, natural cattle care

I hope that others will sympathise with this post.  I'd love to write about how well we are doing with our new house cow Bella, our great milking routine, and how tame Molly is getting, but as usual, things haven't gone to plan!

Cattle are difficult animals, they look dumb, but they are smarter than you realise.  You soon know about it when you want them to do something though.  We had our milking area organised, a nice new concreted slab, under cover and with a light and power, with a crush that we had started building, now converted to milking bales.  Bella used it once.  Then she decided it wasn't to her liking.  So early one morning (5 am) we ended up moving the crush closer to the paddock gate, with two extension cords to plug in the milking machine and headlamps to light our way!  This made things easier as we could now drive Bella through the gate and straight into the bales instead of coaxing her slowly through the house yard, but it was not what we planned originally!

We had to move the milking bales out into the weather as
Bella wasn't happy with our original location
(a covered concrete slab with easy access to electricity!)
We were going to milk Bella once a day, catching the calf in the evening and putting her in a separate enclosure.  That happened a few nights, but the chase got too much for us (and must have been scary for her).  We decided to leave her in the calf pen, milk Bella twice a day and bottle feed Molly so that she would get tamer.  This worked out ok (although it was more milking work than we had planned).  Then I went away for a few nights for work.

Molly wasn't as tame as we expected
and needed to be chased each night to be
separated from Bella (so we could have more milk)
Bella wouldn't go into the bales for my husband.  Then she went in and kicked while he was trying to milk.  He couldn't milk her, even though he tried everything to stop her kicking, she was panicking too much and it wasn't safe for either of them.  So he had to let the calf out and hope that she would drink enough to keep Bella healthy.

Bella wouldn't cooperate while I was away and had a mild case of mastitis
When I got home again things started getting back to a routine.  We managed to get Bella back into her bales and milked, but the calf is still running with her.  Then we found that she has a mild case of mastitis!  We have increased her dolomite intake, added sulphur and garlic to her meals, and are still milking her twice a day to try and clear her up.  This happened because Molly wasn't taking enough milk, so the milk sitting in her udder got infected.  By milking her more frequently we are removing the milk before too much bacteria can grow, and we hope this will control the infection without the need for antibiotics.  While the infection was bad, we couldn't drink the milk, so the dogs are getting everything we milked out (with the calf having the rest).

She seems to have recovered and we can drink the milk again (we have a test kit, so we can tell that the milk is ok), but we're not getting as much milk as before.  Now we have to work out if we want to separate the calf again, feed her on grain and bottle milk to get her tamer.  And see if we can get some more milk out of Bella for cheese making.

It just goes to show that you can plan to milk once a day, make heaps of cheese and have a tame calf......and end up milking three times a day, have no milk you can use and still have a crazy wild calf!   This always seems to be the way with new projects!  We read every book and website and have everything planned and then when we get to the real thing and learn the hard way.

How about you?  Do you find things never go to plan?  Read more about mastitis treatment here.

You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy

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