Now that I’ve recovered from having little Brynna, my thoughts have started turning to the next new arrivals for our family–the three calves that should join the farm family this month sometime.
Much like I didn’t know when Brynna would be born, I have no idea when the calves will make an appearance. While they were introduced to the bull the second week in June, I don’t know when the heat cycle happened, or if they took on the first try. I do know that all three cows are bred. I just don’t know exactly when that breeding took place (which is a trade-off I’m willing to make for not having to worry about artificially inseminating!) Having a bull makes breeding much easier, but harder to keep track of.
But since I know we’ll have three calves and thus three milkers soon, it’s time to prepare.
My milk jars need disinfected so they are ready to go, the barn needs freshened up a bit after winter, and the calf stalls need prepared.
Jars are easy–a little bleach water and a good washing will take care of them.
Since I cleaned the barn really well after my last milking last November, it won’t be too bad. But, it’s had the winter to accumulate dust (easy to do on a dirt road!) and will need a good spray with the hose on a day that’s not freezing.
The calf stalls will be the hardest. I didn’t clean them out completely the last time they were used, and I should have. I need to get better about leaving things ready to go. That whole, “Don’t put off til tomorrow what should be done today” saying. It’s true! So I need to shovel out some compost from those pens and haul it off to the garden. The good news? That compost has been sitting for a full year now, so since it was mixed with hay and straw, it should be perfect for using!
Once those are cleaned out, I’ll be ready to begin the milking season for 2015. My plan is to rebreed the cows in June, and stop milking again just before Christmas. That’ll give the cows (and me!) a nice break before the calves are born in March 2016. Not milking over the winter was SO nice this time around.
The other thing I’ve been doing to prepare is researching once-a-day (OAD) milking. As I’ve shared in the past, I have switched to OAD milking once the calves are weaned (around 3 months). I’ve done this twice now, once with one cow and once with two. It’s worked well. But…I’m wondering if I can just jump into OAD right off the bat. It seems that with Dexters (who are lower producers than say Holsteins), it is possible. Milk is after all, based on supply and demand.
But, I use milk from the cows to feed the calves. And the calves need to eat twice a day. I don’t want to use milk replacer, as I’ve never had scourers with my calves on mama’s milk. Or any other health problems on that note…so I don’t want to mess with what is working.
However, I don’t want to be stuck in the barn for a couple of hours each day. And milking three cows will take time. Not to mention chasing the cows in, cleaning up after them, and taking care of the milk and jars. That’s a lot of work twice a day with the family being as active as it is.
So I think I’ll milk my reliable milker (Epi) twice a day and milk the younger cow and heifer just once a day. Then at the three month mark, I’ll cut Epi down to OAD as well. That way I’ll have plenty of milk for us (milking 3 cows at 1.5-2 gallons each), and for the calves (who each need 1/2 a gallon each milking). The evening milking can be given almost entirely to the calves, and maybe to the pigs (which we are currently looking for!) if there is extra.
Unless of course, I decide to milk Maggie in the evening instead of Epi. Maggie comes running when I open the door to the barn. She loves grain and is anxious for it. Epi, on the other hand, often needs to be encouraged and walked behind to get into the barn. But–Epi stands beautifully for me to milk and Maggie kicks. Hm…chasing a cow in or dodging a swift kick? Which would you pick to deal with twice a day? I have no idea what kind of milker Annie will be, so I’ll wait until I’ve milked her a season before deciding to milk her extra.
Regardless of which cow (or all three) I end up milking twice a day, one thing is for sure. We miss having extra milk and are looking forward to having the back fridge full of it once again!