Remember back when, upon returning from Puerto Rico, we got three bottle-fed calves to raise for beef? And then remember how, a couple days later, we went back to the farm to pick up a heifer calf because we (I) thought it might be fun to maybe have a milk cow someday?
Welp, Daisy’s preggo, thanks to a little rendezvous at a neighboring farm last summer, and now her sides are bulging out most alarmingly. I don’t know anything about pregnant cows — and her size is probably perfectly normal — but as any pregnant person, or person around a pregnant person (or animal) will tell you, there always comes a point in the gestating process when one begins to question just what, or how much of whatever it is, is growing inside there, and right now it looks like Daisy’s gonna be popping out a set of twins come April. Doubtful, I know, but she’s HUGE.
Regarding the encroaching milk tsunami, I vacillate between excitement and profound dread. Having a milk cow is kinda a big deal, I think — everyone talks about it in hushed, knowing tones — and here we are just kind of sliding into it sideways, fingers crossed. There’s a very real chance that we’re in well over our heads.
Take, for example, the following reasons why a milk cow is most definitely not a good idea:
- A Holstein (mix?) cow does NOT a family milk cow make. One is supposed to thoughtfully acquire an appropriately dainty breed of cow, not one that’s bred to be a milk producing machine, squirting out 5-9 gallons of milk daily. Oops.
- My husband’s lactose intolerant and hates farming.
- Half the children — in other words, half the milk drinkers and half the chore dooers — no longer live here.
BUT IN MY DEFENSE: What better time to tie ourselves down with a little farm project than in the midst of a pandemic? Also, my younger son thinks this is a fantastic idea and has agreed to spearhead it. Also also, a family milk cow is endlessly educational, providing a cross-disciplinary venture in horticulture, nutrition, husbandry, cooking, economics, and The Art of Waking Early. Plus, we have the land, the animal, the time, so why not?
(Don’t answer that.)
Not that it really matters how I feel — it’s happening — so we’re gearing up (some of us more begrudgingly than others). A couple weeks ago, my husband and son visited our neighbor-friend to observe his one-cow milking operation. My younger son has read a couple articles and made a supply list. Plans for the milking set-up are being cobbled together. I’m considering (or beginning to think about considering) purchasing a second fridge for out in the barn. And we’ll need a bunch of glass jars. Also, starter stuff for homemade sour creams and cheeses and such — once the milk hits the house, it’s MY domain.
For now, though, the biggest task is prepping Daisy for milking. She’s actually already pretty docile, but each day my younger son spends some time taking her halter on and off, leading her around, feeding her treats, and grooming her, especially around her back end so she gets used to having a human hang out back there. Next step: set up a stanchion to get her used to putting her head through and holding still while eating and being groomed.
Once the calf is born, the (loose) plan is to, as per our milk cow-owning friend, separate Daisy from her calf every evening, milk her in the morning, and then leave the calf with her all day. Depending on how much milk Daisy gives, we may need to get a second calf to help drink it all (if Daisy doesn’t let it nurse, then we’ll have to bottle-feed the calf . . . I guess?), or we might have to get a couple pigs and feed them the extra. And we’ll probably be sharing lots of milk with family and friends, and I’ll be making tons of yogurt and ice cream.
To sum up: This could be loads of fun or it could be a disaster. Either way, we’re bound to learn something. Wish us luck!