Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thunder in July

Karma's first calf, a little bull the kids named Thunder, was born right on schedule on the 4th of July amidst early fireworks and gentle rainstorms. We were not present when he arrived, but had apparently just missed it as evidenced by the afterbirth. He is reddish brown, is very healthy and playful. He particularly enjoys the dog, Max. Each on one side of the corral, they play chase.

Since Karma had never been milked before, she has been going through some training to get over her anxiety. She and her little Thunder are in "milk jail" a method that worked for me in the past with goats. I put in a temporary small corral where both are kept beside the milking stall. Karma has never liked the stall and stanchion as she has had to undergo medical treatment in there, shots, tags, tattooing and she associates it with bad things. I tried to coax her into the milk stall with food and even sweet feed would not change her mind. As a last resort, I dropped a lasso around her neck that first time and heaved her in. Instead of closing the stanchion, I tied the lasso to a post and went to work milking. Thankfully, she doesn't dance around like her mother often did and her kicks thus far, are in slow motion and extremely gentle.

Thunder nursed soon after his birth and is a good eater. He is half mini and because Jerseys are bred to make more milk than one calf can take, it's easy to share the milking with him. He takes whatever he needs and I take whatever I need. Karma gets a massive bin of alfalfa, Bermuda and a bit of sweet feed and everyone seems content so far.

I feel as though I am relearning a new skill since every animal is different when it comes to milking. Karma has good front teats and Thunder prefers them, so he's used them and stretched them out a bit. The back teats are harder to milk out, so my guess is that he doesn't favor them as much. I figure he gets the front and I get the back until he can catch up some more.

Thunder is much more curious than Karma was as a calf. He will come right up to us and sniff us, checking out what's going on. Like any baby, he eats, sleeps, and poops a lot. Milking works best when he joins his mama in the stall as she is calmer having him where she can keep an eye on him.

It took a few days for Karma to get the milk routine down. Now she knows what the schedule is and I often find her waiting in the stall for me.

I don't use the stanchion because I think it frightens her. I come in from the front and gently loop the lasso over her horns and fasten it to the post as she eats. This keeps her in place and lets her move her head quite a bit but doesn't allow for her to leave.

She does have a little edema (swelling) in her navel. This began before the birth. I read several articles and it seems to be normal and should go away in a couple of weeks. It doesn't seem to bother her.

Having her in the stall each day has given me the opportunity to try the Dremel on her hooves. When she was a calf, I could easily lift her feet up and trim her hooves like a farrier would a horse. But now that she's full grown, she can simply kick her leg free of my hold and I am not strong enough to hold on. I have to say, the cordless Dremel is a little slower than the nippers, but it works well enough and is much more precise.

It's nice to have fresh cow milk again. I've made butter, pudding, cheese and smoothies. It's so delicious and rich--hard to describe to anyone who has not tried it.