Diary

The Milk Project Part 3RSS feed

Posted: Monday 8 June, 2015

by Rosemary Champion at 9:22am in Cattle No comments Add your own

So the last not-so-daily blog was on 25th May and things have moved on a bit since then, in a mainly positive way.

One of the problems I had was getting Annie and her calf out of the field without being mugged by the others.

So w/c 25th May, I decided to split the “milking cows”, i.e. those with a likely capacity to milk, from the non-milkers. I had decided to try again with Blizzard, although she’s a fourth calver that hasn’t been milked before. Rosie, who’s a year old and will calve (and therefore milk) for the first time next year and is Annie’s daughter WILL be a milker. So I moved Blizz, Annie, Rosie and Blizz and Annie’s calves into one field – you will recall that these are one “family” with Annie being Blizzard’s daughter. Basically, this means that I now bring the whole herd in every day.

Breeze (who was still in calf at this time), Bonnie and Clyde and Sunny were moved into a separate paddock.

Now, those of you who are keeping up will know that I have sold Bonnie and Sunny, both daughters of Breeze, to a breeder in Yorkshire. Clyde is sold to a breeder in South Wales. So of that “non-milking” group, only Breeze and her calf would still be here in the winter – and if it were a bull calf, Breeze would be housed on her own with all of Blizzard’s family. Now, cows have very strong matriarchal bonds so, having watched Breeze grooming Bonnie, I was a bit bothered about this. So I contacted the breeder in Yorkshire and asked if he wanted to buy Breeze, with her calf at foot, along with Bonnie and Sunny. I am happy / sad to say that he is buying her, so the whole family will go together. I never thought I’d sell Breeze, being one of my originals and a total pet, but I think it’s the best result for her and us.

On the 29th May, Breeze had the most stunning dun and white bull calf – registered as Rosedean Viento. He’s being kept as a bull, so I’m very pleased at how things have worked out, even if more than a few tears were shed.

So, back to the milking.

Last weekend, 30th / 31st May, Dan and I had a session looking at the process. Dan’s very good at these things and is much less volatile than me – I get wound up and can spit the dummy out quite easily.

It’s much easier bringing them all in. Annie and Blizzard get haltered and led in; Rosie and the calves follow, more or less. Vicki’s very good; Rosie and Robbie sometimes get distracted. But every day, it gets better. Once in, Rosie gets a halter on and she and the two cows get tied up with some hay.

The two calves go in a pen at the end of the barn – we’re in the barn now, not the byre. The pen is constructed from sheep hurdles and the first day, the Saturday, they just jumped the hurdles. On the Sunday, Dan cobbled together a couple of bits of rail to raise the height and they’ve stayed put. They have hay and a trug of calf mix and sugar beet but until yesterday, they haven’t really bothered about it.

Dan and I bring them in at just before 7am. Last week, I milked at 9am; yesterday and today, I milked at 11am but I think if we decide we want a higher yield of milk, we will have to bring them in at night and milk first thing OR keep bringing them in at 7am and milk in the afternoon. I favour the former, because I like to get the routine chores done in the morning and I think it would be nicer for the cows to be outside during the day, but Dan favours the latter. I didn’t want to leave the cows tied up for four hours yesterday and today, so with some trepidation regarding the calf pen, I untied them, until I was ready to milk. It was fine. So far.

If we do decide to separate the cows and calves for longer, we’ll need more robust penning for the calves; at the moment, they aren’t in long enough to get very hungry but when they ARE hungry either they’ll jump or they’ll start bawling and their mammies will demolish the pen.

One of the real pluses is the handling that Rosie is getting (and the calves to some extent). Rosie gets haltered, tied up, fed, udder washed – so next year, it won’t be strange for her.

So I’m still milking by hand – right hand – and taking about two litres a day from the two cows. In fact, Blizzard is proving to be a real star.

Dan’s made paneer twice, which is a curd cheese, and Cambridge cheese, which is a ripened, soft cheese. With a wee bit of blanched garlic added, it’s very like “Boursin” and very nice indeed. He’s booked himself on a three-day cheese-making course at the West Highland Dairy next month, and is looking forward to that.

There will be more tweaking to come. One of the important things I’ve learned is that the cows like routine but it takes time to become a routine – you knowing that “this is going to be the routine from now on” cuts no ice with them. I was told once that horses have to repeat an action seven times for it to be learned – I think cows must be similar. It’s getting easier to bring them in now they know where they are going and why; they settle to be milked quicker too. Putting them out is a bit haphazard – if I don’t take Annie on the halter with Blizz, she and Rosie abscond to eat weeds J

More to follow :-)

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