I retired from 25 plus years job working for the State of California in May of 2012. That doesn't mean I'm retired. It just means that my days are not spent in a cubicle in Sacramento in a job that was not fulfilling to me. With that said, I went on a search to find a milk cow. I contacted the dairy guy in Galt that I have purchased from in the past but he didn't have anything. I contacted several people who had advertised on Craigslist but I didn't want a holstein. I didn't want a three teated cow or a cow that had not had her brucellosis vaccine. Yes, I was a little picky. Feeling very frustrated I contacted the dairy guy again. This time he told me about a dairy going out of business (retirement) in Hilmar, California. I called them and was initially told that they didn't know if they had anything available since they had several buyers. I told them to keep me in mind and let me know. A week later I got the call that they had one left that they would sell me. Ironically, I had just made an appointment to look at another cow. I cancelled the other appointment and we drove to Hilmar.
Then - Getting my milk cow
March 21, 2013: Here is Marney at the dairy the very first time I saw her. This was actually her due date. I walked into the pen with her and although she wasn't friendly with me, she also wasn't spooked by me. I decided I had to have her. We loaded her up in our stocktrailer and headed for home.
We stopped for gas and I took the opportunity to check on my new cow. I jumped up on the side of the stocktrailer and found a very pissed off cow. She was snorting and pawing and acting like she wanted to charge the side of the trailer where I was. She scared the heck out of me. I thought I had made a HUGE mistake. I had just purchased a milk cow that wanted to kill me. I told Richard she had to go back. He said it was my decision. I called dairy guy and told him what was going on. He talked me down and told me not to worry. I was told she has never been in a trailer before, she is only two year old and she is very pregnant.
We decided to chance it. I figured this would be a funny story for us later on or I had just made a very big mistake that I would regret.
Once home we put her in our corral system and I checked on her several times a day and night waiting for the baby too arrive. She did appear to settle down. At least she wasn't snorting and pawing and acting like she wanted to kill me. That was a good sign.
On March 24, Mamie arrived. I was ecstatically happy to have a little heifer. Now I could eventually have a friendly milk cow.
I named her Mamie after my Great Grandmother.
So very typical of me, I jump and then figure out how, where, and why. I have a milking parlor for my goats but not for a cow. Our temporary cow milking parlor was the cattle squeeze shoot. I have a goat milking machine that we were able to modify into a single cow milking machine. I had to buy a new milk bucket top with four claws instead of the two claws for goats. Then I found that I could not get all four claws on before I lost my suction. Milking was a two person job. Richard controlled two claws and I controlled the other two. Obviously this was not going to be a long term plan.
No one that I contacted could tell me how to fix my problem. Finally I found some milk hose shut off clamps that I put on each claw which allowed me to put each claw on one at a time. They worked great. Milking was now a one person job.
I made my milking machine portable. It was put in the back of my Ford Ranger truck and kept there. This made it easy for me to transport the milk to the house and clean the milking equipment. Also, I was still milking my goats in the goat milking parlor.
We put a halter on Marney and I started working with her on being led. Fortunately, after she had Mamie she had a much more cheerful attitude. We kept her penned in the corral for about two weeks. Then we started turning her out during the day with a couple of my Dexter cows. I wanted to catch her when she came into heat so we could artificially inseminate her with sexed semen from another dairy breed. Our vet had semen from an Ayrshire bull.
Almost three months went by and we were not catching her in heat. We talked to the vet about what we could do and we were discouraged with the amount of time we were looking out. Instead we put Simeon, our Dexter bull, in with her and within three days we had the deed done. We had her preg checked in July and she was definitely pregnant. I'm hoping for a heifer calf but we get what we get. Due date is March 30, 2014.
By this point, Marney is no longer the wild milk cow that wants to kill me. I can turn her out during the day and bring her back in for evening milking. I can even put a halter on her in the pasture if needed. I typically would leave her in the corral system at night so she could get the extra alfalfa she needs without feeding the entire Dexter herd. I also brought my 32 1/2 year old mare in so she can get some extra feed without the competition. The only problem with that was that Marney is now getting to be a bossy milk cow and she has April (my horse) totally intimidated. We make sure that the hay flakes are on totally opposite sides of the corral.
By now we have been giving some serious thought to making a permanent cow milking parlor to replace our temporary arrangement. With the help of our fantastic neighbors we did a total revamp of my goat milking parlor to be able to accommodate my cow too. One side of the area is for goats and the other side is for the cow.
In September, we were done enough to be able to utilize the revamped milking parlor. We brought Marney up and put her in with the goats. Mamie, the calf, also resides in the goat pasture where she gets to socialize with goats, Tina the Llama, and Harvey the bottle-fed steer.
Mamie met Marney and vice versa. Bottle fed calves can be pretty darn pushy when they want a bottle. And Mamie is no different. Mamie started pushing me around and mama Marney did not like that in the least little bit. She went after Mamie. This happened again with the dogs. I have a guardian milk cow. She doesn't like anyone getting too close to me. And I should have mentioned before now that she is not crazy about human strangers either.
We do not have a cow head stanchion in our milking parlor yet. It is still on the to do list. Regardless we started utilizing the milking parlor for Marney. Her first time in took some coaxing. It was all new to her. Richard had to hold her lead rope and with her grain pan in front of her we were able to get the job done. We did it this way for a couple milkings and it went well. Finally, I was again able to do it by myself. We got to the point where a lead rope was not even necessary. Give her the grain bucket and she is a California Happy Cow. The one hurdle we had was the changes we were continuing to make to the milking parlor. Everytime we made a change we had to coax her in again. She doesn't like change.
It became impossible to keep her with the goats as getting her out and not letting all the goats out was a major hassle. So we put her back out with the cows. She had the entire 60 acres to roam on but come milking time that gal was parked at the gate behind the garage. No lead rope was required. Open gate, let cow in and walk to milking parlor. If I stopped at the garage to answer the telephone, said milk cow would be standing there waiting for me to finish. Once we got detoured when our two female Anatolians got into a quarrel. Richard was grabbing one dog and I was grabbing the other. We got the dogs apart and I ended up running down the hill. Guess who was right behind me running down the hill... Marney. She stuck right with me through a dog fight. HA HA... What an awesome cow.
We did have one issue with Marney about a month after she freshened (calved). It started with her not eating all her grain and alfalfa and her milk production dropped. I thought that was strange but just kept watching her. Then I noticed that when she was coming in to be milked she kind of stumbled. That seemed stranger yet. Feeling like a fool because I thought I was over reacting, I called the vet. I wasn't over reacting. Marney had Ketosis. To truly confirm that was the issue the vet needed a urine sample. Marney was not cooperating. He left a container for me to catch it when I could. We were all standing around his truck as he was gathering the supplies to start her treatment. That's when Marney decided she had to go. I ran for the container. The vet ran with his gloved hands. He got to her for the very last tidbit which was just enough to get a reading on the test strip. She got an oral drench of meds and was treated to molasses and propylene glycol for about a week. There was no withdrawal period on the medications and she picked up big time.
When I say big time, I mean big time. Soon we were swimming in milk. I started making cheese. Some of my attempts turned out great and some were epic failures. But it is a learning process. Marney is currently dried up as we had to make a trip to Missouri and did not have a cow baby sitter. Next March we start the process all over.
Now we laugh about Marney, the cow that wanted to kill me. Next year we will be able to breed Mamie. I only want one milk cow so someone will be looking for a home where they can be a California happy milk cow for a family. I'm hoping that we have a Dexter/Guernsey heifer calf and I can start yet another milk cow for a family. I have definitely enjoyed my experience with my Marney and Mamie.
Mamie relaxing with an Abyssinian cat!
Visitors - Kim and Brooke
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