Monday, July 28, 2008

Cows are a mystery

A few days ago I was quite excited by the fact that May, our Dexter cow, had come into milk. That is one of the indications of impending birth. The next day she wouldn't leave the barn, wouldn't eat, and was being generally grumpy.

Afternoon found her in what appered to me to be the beginnings of labor.

We spent the evening and the whole of the next day running to the barn every few hours to check on May. Nothing!

Now, about a week later, she is still looking huge, being grumpy, and finally back on pasture. (I'd kept her in the barn to facilitate separating her from her calf. Now I suppose I'll have to do it the hard way.)

What have I learned?

1. I don't know nearly as much about cows as I think I do.
2. One cow is much more difficult to manage than 100 cows. With 100 you turn them out with the bull for a set number of days, walk the herd during calving to help with any problems, and get rid of anyone who doesn't fit the system. With one, you have to be aware of all the intimate details of a cows life, keeping track of them, and try to manage what nature would take care of in a normal herd. Much harder.


Heather said...

Hey, I hope it goes ok! And I totally (think I) know what you mean about the 100 cows versus 1. My whole "oh lord, the chicken is limping" drama/saga was very much due to the fact that I have seven (7) chickens. I talked to a friend who really raises chickens, and he was like "uh, if she couldn't get to the food herself it would have been over long ago!" Gulp...

Alan said...


You got it right on the money! I love reading about your chickens and their drama (there are a couple other blogs with a similar number of chickens I also enjoy.) We always have at least 50 or so, so they never (rarely) get named. I wouldn't say it was survival of the fittest, because we do try to take care with the sick and the injured. It's the personalities, we miss, and the fact that they better be pretty sick or bloody or we aren't going to notice. Baby goats on the other hand have lived in the kitchen for weeks. Given a choice (which at this time I really do have) I prefer smaller numbers and the challenge of getting to know my animals on an intimate level. Maybe a little less intimately than I am having to get to know my cow. We don't have a bull option lined up for next year, and I am not looking forward to the alternative.


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