Calving doesn't always go as planned. The inexperience of a heifer, health issues with an older cow, or problems with a calf can result in the need to bottle feed some of the baby bovines. Another option is to try to get the calf to nurse a different cow. This is often a challenging experience. Cows don't appreciate other calves stealing their milk and reject the hungry calf. After going through the bottle feeding and attempts at swapping cows for years, I am finally going to try what I think I favor as an option. We will have a dedicated nurse cow!
I have watched the newspapers, searched Craigslist, and called other farms for a year now trying to find my "nurse cow". You see, I didn't just want any old cow. I wanted a healthy, young dairy cow. Something capable of producing lots of milk. Something easy to handle. Something that doesn't try to kill you when you get in a closed area and try to get a strange calf to nurse! I was determined a Jersey cow fit my needs well. This last weekend, my search ended.
On Craigslist, I found an ad for some Jersey cows. This time they weren't $2000 apiece or 5 hours away. These Jersey girls were 30 miles to my North! I placed the call and found the dairyman was getting out of the business and had 40 or 50 head to sell. I informed him I would be there in the morning.
When I arrived at the dairy I noticed 2 things right away. Instead of woven or barbed wire, there was a lot of single strand electric wire around these cows. Secondly, there was a particularly vocal Jersey bull bellering across the wire at the road. Those of you who don't know cattle very well should be informed that dairy bulls are notorious for injuring bipedal humans like myself.
After introductions, the owner and I headed across the road and right past the noisy bull. The owner stepped on the wire and I entered the cattle pasture. 2 things were once again apparent. That is string, not electric wire, and the bull was always somewhere close behind us! We walked through the cows. He pointed and read information from piece of folded paper in his hand as I glanced at the cows tried to remember ear tag numbers, then glanced around for the bull again. "You have any trouble with that bull?" I asked. I looked at the bull over the man's shoulder as he studied his papers. "Keep an eye on him." he told me. That meant yes in my mind!
Despite dodging the bull for 30 minutes, I wittled my choices down to 2 cows. We pushed these cows into a long string alleyway. As we went past the bellering Jersey bull, I felt great comfort that the string was now separating us! I studied the pair. I couldn't really decide and put my secondary plan into action. "How much for both of them?" I asked. He shot back a very agreeable price. "Sold!" said I.
The dairy owner moved strings from this post to that and finally we had them in a pen across the road. I had already fell in love with these little cows. My beef cows can jump a six bar fence in a single bound, yet a string could keep these girls in check. Soon they were in the trailer and headed back to the farm. Honey Bunches and I changed their names from 142 and 65 to "Cream" and "Sugar".
I am not sure which one I will keep. They should calve in February to March. I will wait to see if they have heifer calves or more of those bellery bulls!