A few weeks ago, we got some bad news. After waiting three weeks to get a milk pregnancy test, Patty our Jersey cow isn’t pregnant. (By the way, I will not recommend that company selling the milk pregnancy tests because they first lost my order for ten days, then it took another ten days to get it through the mail!) After the test we got Dr Robert Mulligan, who works with Kamloops Large Animal Veterinary Clinic, to come up and confirm the bad news.
We have a number of choices:
1. We could bring Max the Dexter bull back and have him tear out all our electric fences again. We would also lose all the milk to his nursing. (I know there is a vegan myth out there about humans being the only animal to consume milk in adulthood. I guess vegans don’t spend that much time with real animals. Most adult animals love milk, if they can get it!) This option would give a late summer calving and no milk during the peak grass production. This option is the cheapest in direct costs but we will have to feed the bull for about 60 days to catch two estrous cycles.
2. We can use Artificial Insemination with Patty and accept a late birth, assuming we can tell when she comes into heat. This is a more costly option but we would be able to choose the genetics of the sire. We have got two straws of semen from Westgen from a “calving ease” Jersey bull. Calving ease semen is usually given to heifer cows to ensure a small first calf. Since Patty’s last calf was a stillbirth, calving ease semen seems like a good idea.
3. We could milk Patty through the winter until we can get her pregnant next year. Milking through the winter would be hard on Patty and us for that matter. Here are the reasons why it is better to milk seasonally and freeze milk.
4. We could get another cow that is pregnant and will give birth in March or April 2011.
We really are not set up for winter milking. Patty is a weak cow and milking through the winter would be hard on her. We do not have a proper barn, so milking in winter would be a serious challenge for the milker. The danger would be that she would dry-off too early and we would lose milk production during peak grass production in the spring and summer.
We have decided to use AI with Patty and accept a late calving in August 2011. This will set her up to always be a “late” calving cow. Of course, if we learn to watch her fertility we might be able to slowly bring her back to early calving over a number of years.
This still does not solve the problem of having fresh milk in the spring and summer. Getting another cow solves this problem. It will mean getting more hay to feed the animals over the winter. As I have said before, our pasture is brittle grasslands, so we may have a semi-permanent forage problem unless we can get more land. But with the extra manure from a second cow and extra water on the pasture we just might be able to improve the fertility of the pasture. We have observed that the hay we bring in is excellent mulch for the pasture. Under the hay stems not eaten by the cows grows a lush carpet of mixed grasses and forbs. It is a beautiful sight to see a sage and brittle grassland moving towards a lush pasture of mixed grasses, forbs and herbs.
So we are looking for another Jersey cow. We have visited two Jersey dairies in the Spalluncheen area looking for pregnant cows:
Grenville and Christine Blake
1165 Mountain View Rd, Spallumcheen, BC, V0E 1B8
commercial milk dairy, breeders for Jersey cows and Saint Croix sheep
4931 Parkinson Rd, ?Spallumcheen, BC V0E 1B4?
commercial milk dairy, breeder of Jersey cows
During this search we have found out more about our own cow Patty. Originally, I bought Patty from a couple in Abbotsford, BC. This couple got Patty from Hunny-Do Ranch in Prince George, BC. It turns out that Patty’s real name is Georgia and she came from Windfire Jersey. Christine from Windfire Jersey gave me Patty’s(Georgia’s) pedigree.
It looks like Jake Konrad does not have any cows he is willing to sell that are calving at the time I need. Christine Blake has a number of cows which would work well for me. It looks like we will soon have a new addition to the herd.
Updated November 18, 2010: We have found another option. Christine and Grenville Blake at Windfire Jersey board and breed cows to their Jersey bull for $100 per month. Normally, they do the boarding and breeding in the spring but they have agreed to take Patty for two months this winter. Thank you, Christine and Grenville!
Updated November 26, 2010: I just got an email from Christine Blake at Windfire Jersey. She said that Patty is doing very well and has been enjoying the company of their bull. (We’ve been joking around here that Patty has gone to the spa!) We have bought another Jersey cow. Her name is Olivia and here is her pedigree.