Do Cows Get Morning Sickness?

We’ve talked about making baby calves in The Business of Making Baby Cows:

https://ofkidsandcows.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the-business-of-making-baby-cows/

We have talked about how we take care of our baby calves in All Those Adorable Babies:

https://ofkidsandcows.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/all-those-adorable-babies/

But how do we know that a cow is pregnant? They can’t talk obviously, they don’t pee 10 times on a stick and post it to their Facebook page (a little TMI in my opinion) and they don’t show signs of morning sickness. It is our job as farmers to do a little investigating to find out.

On our farm we check for pregnancy  the first time at 28-34 days after insemination. We use a simple blood test called Bio-Pryn. It measures protein levels in the blood. Cows have a small vein that runs up the underside of their tail. The tail is simply picked straight up, a hypodermic needle is inserted in to the vein and the blood is collected in a blood collection tube. We draw blood every Monday and send it via the US Postal service to a vet clinic in Pennsylvania. There it is processed with the results popping in to my inbox by 10am on Thursday morning. And who says farmers aren’t tech savvy?

A blood sample being taking via a vein on the underside of the tail. Photo courtesy of utextension.tennessee.edu

A blood sample being taking via a vein on the underside of the tail. Photo courtesy of utextension.tennessee.edu

Below is a sample of what the report looks like that is sent to my e-mail. The top has the date, specie and number of samples. The next line has the parameters used to decide if the cow is pregnant (yea!), open (no calf inside, boo!) or needs to have blood drawn at a later date for a re-check (this is normally boo, as it more often than not results in an open cow). This is then followed by a chart that has the sample number, animal ID number, their response level, if they were pregnant, open or a re-check and the last column has the number of days since they were bred on the day the sample was taken.

Report Date Assay/Animal Number of Samples
03/06/2014 Cattle – 11 samples 11

Open Low Recheck Cutoff High Recheck Pregnant
OD < 0.135 OD = 0.135 to 0.15 0.15 OD = 0.15 to 0.21 OD > 0.21
Tube Number Animal ID Response in Test, OD PSPB Range Days Post Breeding
1 34241-27 0.3971 Pregnant 35
2 39 0.0462 Open 32
3 85 0.3637 Pregnant 32
4 120 0.2284 Pregnant 60
5 77 0.3547 Pregnant 61
6 241 0.2121 Pregnant 60
7 255 0.403 Pregnant 60
8 244 0.0479 Open 28
9 129 0.0475 Open 32
10 86 0.2256 Pregnant 60
11 58 0.5295 Pregnant 61

BioPRYN measures the presence of Pregnancy-Specific Protein B (PSPB) in serum and the attached results are provided for your interpretation. If a sample’s OD falls in the Open range, 99.9% of animals are not pregnant in confirmatory testing; alternatively, if the OD falls in the Pregnant range, 93 – 95% of animals are pregnant in confirmatory testing. Visit the website listed on this report for more detailed information about the BioPRYN test.
© Biotracking LLC 2004-2009 All rights reserved.

After a cow comes back pregnant to the first test she is then re-sampled at 60 days post insemination. This checks for miscarriages. Cows can miscarriage, or “slip a calf”, for a variety of reasons. Illness, heat stress, injury, general stress and spontaneously just to name a few. Most miscarriages happen around 35-45 days, hence re-checking at 60 days. After she comes back pregnant to the second test, we consider her verified pregnant and she is done being tested. Some farms re-test before sending their cows on their dry period. We haven’t had much problem with cows going unnoticed losing a calf later in pregnancy so we do not on our farm.

This is not the only way to check for pregnancy. This is just what we do. Here are some others:

Palpation: A cows uterus can be felt via her rectum. A vet, or trained person, can palpate a cows uterus to determine pregnancy. A lot can be discovered this way. If she is indeed pregnant, how far along she is or if there is on calf or multiples. On our farm we will palpate cows if we believe they have slipped their calf later in pregnancy or if she is showing signs of heat when she is supposed to be pregnant. While I’m sure this is not 100% comfortable for the cow, it does not hurt her.

A rectal palpation. Photo from research.vet.upenn.edu

A rectal palpation. Photo from research.vet.upenn.edu

Ultrasound: Just like humans, cows can have an ultrasound done to determine pregnancy. This is normally done by a vet but more and more farmers are becoming comfortable with this technology. Just as in palpation stage of gestation and number of fetuses can also be determined. The neat thing about ultrasound is after 60 days, the sex of the fetus can be found out. No more waiting anxiously, you know what’s coming. The down side is this can also lead to 7 months of depression if a bull is coming from your favorite lady.

A 30 day old cow fetus. Isn't it so cute! Photo creds to uk-ireland.bcftechnology.com

A 30 day old cow fetus. Isn’t it so cute! Photo creds to uk-ireland.bcftechnology.com

Milk Sample: Pregnancy can also be determined thru a milk sample. This is then processed at a DHI (dairy herd improvement) lab. It tests for the same proteins as the Bio-Pryn blood test, but you do not have to go thru the work of drawing blood. Instead it is done from the sample that is already routinely taken when the milk tester is there.

Milk samples being processed in the lab. Photo from idexx.com

Milk samples being processed in the lab. Photo from idexx.com

There are many ways a farmer can determine if a cow is pregnant. This is essential so she has a calf and will continue to produce milk. While she may not show us signs of morning sickness we have plenty of ways to see if the next generation of bovines is on the way!

 

 

Safety First for the Girls

Yesterday we had an interesting machine to watch for awhile at the farm. The kids thought it was some pretty cool stuff to watch and so did the cows. We have an older facility with the parlor built a little distance from the barn. The remaining space was simply turned in to a barnyard for the cows to meander around in. Sounds great right? Well cows can have a hard time staying up on smooth concrete if they start to run playing, show signs of heat with mounting each other or get spooked and take off running. When cows fall boom, they don’t get up easily.

Our cows have sand in their stalls. While this is comfy and more hygienic for them, it also leaves a light coating of sand all over their hooves. This sand gives them traction they did not have before (cow hooves are fairly smooth). This has done wonders for slips and spills.

There has been a spot in the barnyard that has given us problems over time. It runs slightly down hill and goes in to our holding pen (where the cows stand and wait to be milked). The concrete in the barn and holding pen is grooved. These grooves also help prevent slips and spills. For what ever reason, this part of the barnyard by the parlor was never grooved. Yesterday things changed.

The machine that put new grooves in to the concrete.

The machine that put new grooves in to the concrete.

The new grooves in the barnyard

The new grooves in the barnyard

Of course while this was all being done we had to watch…

Tom and Taylor "supervising".

Tom and Taylor “supervising”.

They only watched for a few minutes. I have a feeling another audience watched the grooves being put in all day.

Our girls watch everything!

Our girls watch everything!

In the picture you can also see where the grooves are coming out of the barn. Not only is it important for humans to be safe around the farm, as farmers it is our responsibility to watch out for our animals safety as well.

 

The Business of Making Baby Cows

Those of us with blogs involving cattle show you all these pictures of cute little calves.

Two little cuties curled up sleeping together.

Two little cuties curled up sleeping together.

How do all these cute little heifers and bulls come to be? I mean we know of “the birds and the bees”, but how does it work on most dairy farms?

For starters, we do not have a bull on our farm. First off, he doesn’t look very friendly does he?

This is Greenwell MD Brutus S3F. He looks large and in charge to me!

This is Greenwell MD Brutus S3F.I don’t know who he is but  he looks large and in charge to me!

When you start talking about using a bull to breed our ladies, he is going to need to be very large to be able to successfully breed our girls. Our cows themselves weigh between 1,200 and 1,600 pounds. Most bulls that are considered cow size, or large enough to breed a mature cow, are over 1,500 pounds. 1,500 pounds of cranky muscle and testosterone. They become very protective of their herd and can see farmers as a threat. Bulls become very aggressive and pose a safety issue that we have decided we don’t want to deal with on our farm.

Secondly, as a whole, you do not get as good of genetics with a herd bull as you could by using a bull who is at a bull stud. These bulls are from elite cow families who have been bred to other top bulls used by bull studs. They are to be the best of the best. I’m not saying you don’t get poor bulls who slip thru the cracks at studs or you don’t stumble upon an outstanding herd bull from time to time, but more often than not your better genetics come from bulls housed at a stud.

By using A.I., artificial insemination, we are also able to diversify our gene pool in our herd. Instead of having cows and heifers out of 2 or 3 bulls, we have daughters out of many bulls. This helps us vary our genes, limit inbreeding and minimize/eliminate the amount of daughters we have from inferior bulls.

Many farms still use the occasional bull. Some cows have a hard time becoming pregnant and sometimes will breed to a bull easier. Or after a cow has been bred x amount of times a farmer will put her in a bull group to hopefully become pregnant as a last chance. There are also farmers who still breed with a bull routinely for reasons of their choice. Bulls are still used on farms for varying reasons. But the fact always remains, they need to be treated with respect and can’t be trusted.

So now that we’ve covered why our farm uses A.I., how does it work?

Bulls are selected a young age to go in to stud, while at whichever stud company they live at semen is collected to be distributed to farmers. The bull mounts either a fake dummy or a steer. The semen is collected in an artificial vagina and processed in a lab.

While being processed semen is checked for quality to make sure that each dose has the possibility of fertilizing an egg. Semen is then frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored in straws. The individual straws are housed in groups of ten, called canes.

2 straws of bull semen. They are from Doorman, a popular Holstein sire right now. Photo credit to modernmilkmaid.ca

2 straws of bull semen. They are from Doorman, a popular Holstein sire right now. Photo credit to modernmilkmaid.ca

Why are the straws two different colors? The clear straw is considered conventional semen. It contains both X and Y chromosomes to give you equal possibility of a bull calf or a heifer calf. The pinkish colored straw is sexed semen. It contains 95% X chromosome semen. This gives you a much higher possibility of having a heifer calf.

While farmers want heifer calves, they don’t use sexed semen with every service. It costs more than conventional semen, it’s not as fertile and generally your superior bulls are not sexed. We use sexed semen on our virgin heifers. It helps with calving ease (heifer calves are normally a little smaller) and growing our herd, which we would like to expand.

When a cow shows signs of being in heat (mounting other cows, standing to be mounted, constant mooing, pacing) she is noted to be bred. Twelve hours after we see her standing to be mounted by other cows we pick out a bull who will correct her faults the best and breed her with A.I.

A diagram of how a cow is AI bred

A diagram of how a cow is AI bred

The cow is palpated and the cervix and A.I. gun are manipulated until it has passed the whole way thru the cervix. The semen is deposited in the uterus and if all goes well in 9 months…..

A baby is born!

A baby is born!

Country Fair Blog Party

 

 

 

The Dirty “F” Word, Factory

As farmers we are facing a whole new invasion of privacy. There is a journalist in Washington D.C. named Will Potter. This Potter fellow has raised $30,000 in 5 days. To do what you ask? To use drones to spy on American farmers. He believes we are mainly factory farms who mistreat our animals. I cannot even begin to explain the level to which this infuriates me. What about a right to privacy? May be Mr. Potter would enjoy us flying a drone over his house watching him. I’m going to leave my thoughts on that there. I honestly don’t know if I can describe in words the level of wrong I believe this is.

This leads us to the bigger question, these factory farms he is speaking of, what are they? See I’ve been raised in the ag industry my entire life. All 26 years of it on the farm. I have never encountered a farm on any tour that looked like a factory. I’ve seen large farms, yes. But no farms with conveyors, machines nor assembly lines like I would associate with a factory.

I’ve seen farms with lots of animals, yes. These animals were housed comfortably in barns that kept them out of the elements. They were warm in the winter, cool in the summer. Comfy bedding, accessible food, clean water. You see to me I don’t care how many animals you have. I want to see that they are well cared for. That is possible on any size farm. 1 animal- 100,000 animals.

There are some small farms I drive by that make my skin crawl. Cows in mud and manure, very visible from the road. It appears they milk very few cows. I interned on a dairy that milked 500+ cows. They all had names, tears were shed when they left. It has nothing to do with numbers, it has to do with the farmer. Good or bad farmers come in all shapes and sizes.

Our farm is average in size compared to other dairy farming numbers. We milk 120 cows that live in a free stall barn. They are milked 3 times a day. In between milkings they have access to all the feed, clean water and comfy sand bedded stalls they want to use. Is this what this Potter fellow wants to see? Happy cows? Because I have a feeling he will be very bored in his findings.

My other beef with this creep is this: The over whelming majority of farms in the United States, 98%, are family owned. My kids play in the yard at our farm daily. I don’t want some weirdo watching them. I worry enough as it is. I don’t want to have to be concerned my kids are being watched from the sky while they play. Any one can be behind that drone. Gives me the creeps.

It’s scary to me that people will drop $30,000 in 5 days so we can be spied on. I don’t think as farmers we are too intimidating. If you want to know where your food comes from ask. Don’t send some creep with a drone in to spy on my family!

Look at the following photos and you decide. Factory farm or family farm?

#MyFamilyFarm

#MyFamilyFarm

#MyFamilyFarm

#MyFamilyFarm

 

S’mores Ice Cream

I told you this dairy recipe would be cheese free, so my next go to after my favorite dairy product of cheese is ice cream. I’ve met few people who don’t like to cool off and relax with a nice, icy cold cone after a hot day. S’mores are a summer time favorite around this place. Many s’mores are made around the camp fire at my mom and dads. So this recipe contains both of our favorites, plus the best part is you don’t need an ice cream maker to enjoy it! No messing with salt and ice to enjoy this tasty treat!

S’mores Ice Cream

  • 1 Pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 14oz Sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Cup Chocolate syrup
  • 3/4 Cup chopped chocolate bars (divided)
  • 3/4 Cup crushed graham crackers (divided)
  • 1 Cup marshmallow cream
  • 1/4 Cup mini marshmallows

Whip the heavy whipping cream until light and fluffy. Gently fold in the can of sweetened condensed milk,vanilla, cocoa powder and chocolate syrup. Stir in 1/2 cup of chocolate bars and 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs. Pour in to a loaf pan. Spread the marshmallow cream on top. Swirl the cream in to the ice cream mix with a knife. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate bars, 1/4 cup of graham crackers and the 1/4 cup of mini marshmallows on top. Now the hard part…. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and allow to set up in the freezer for at least 8 hours or over night. Oh the wait….

Hopefully this can help to cool you off on the hot, balmy days of summer! Enjoy!

Pretty Toes

No matter what type of farm a cow lives on they spend a lot of time on their feet. Standing up eating, walking to the milking parlor, waiting to be milked and socializing all require a cow to be standing and walking around. Cows also are not small animals by any means. Even on the smaller end they still weigh over 900 pounds. That’s a lot of weight to carry around. All of this means it’s of great importance to keep their feet healthy and in good shape.

Lame cows have a hard time walking. We do every thing we can to prevent cows from having sore feet. The one of two ways we do this is by running a foot bath 1-2 times a week. A foot bath is long, shallow tub the cows walk thru to submerge their feet. At our farm they walk thru a mixture of copper sulfate, salt and water. This helps to keep their feet free of digital dermatitis, other wise known as hairy heel warts.

A cow walking thru a foot bath. Photo from www.farmersgaurdian.com

A cow walking thru a copper sulfate foot bath. Photo from http://www.farmersgaurdian.com

What on earth is a hairy heel wart you may be asking. My personal opinion is they look gross and sore. This is why prevention is key with them. So on top of being sore, gross and nasty they are contagious. This is why we make everyone go thru the foot bath.

Nasty little warts. Prevention is key! Photo is from vetnext.com

Nasty little warts. Prevention is key! Photo is from vetnext.com

The second thing we do for hoof care is routinely schedule a hoof trimmer. We trim hooves about every 6 weeks. Frequency varies from farm to farm and depends on the size of the herd and the condition of their cows feet. When we trim the hoof trimmer trims 15-20 cows. Most of these cows are getting ready to go on their dry period, 2 months of vacation before they calve. At this time we’ll also trim cows who have sore feet or cows who’s toes have grown to long. When hooves are to long a cow becomes much more prone to lameness (sore feet).

A cow is a large animal to handle and most are none to willing to volunteer their toes to be trimmed. The girls are put in a chute, very similar to a squeeze chute. They have straps placed around their bellies to hold them and make them feel secure. Each foot is also strapped so they are unable to kick while being trimmed. This could lead to injury to them and/or the hoof trimmer.

chute

trimmed hooves

As you can see from the photo there is a big difference between an untrimmed and a trimmed hoof. Trimming is good prevention for injuries to toes and to fix any problems a cow may be having with her toes. If something is wrong with the hoof it can easily be corrected while they are in the chute being trimmed. After the problem is addressed a bandage and salve is placed on the foot. It’s left on for about 3 days then we remove it.

wrapThe health and soundness of a cows hooves are vital to keep her as a productive member of the herd. Regular maintenance from hoof trimming and a foot bath are essential to keep her on her toes. Sound feet make a happy cow!

** If you have any questions about the dairy industry feel free to leave them in the comments and I will answer them as quickly as I can. For the month of June my blog will solely be about the ladies and dairy related recipes!**

Sometimes Cows Get Sick

The goal on all farms is to have a healthy, happy animal that is productive. One way to have this happen the easiest is to prevent disease and illness. We implement several things to make sure our cows and heifers stay healthy. Calves are giving colostrum at birth, which sets them up with a healthy immune system for life. Heifers are fed a diet that promotes good growth and receive scheduled vaccinations. The cows eat a balanced diet, appropriate to the stage of life they are in and are given annual vaccinations. Just like your child or pet, vaccinations are some of the easiest ways to prevent diseases in cattle. When an animal gets sick it can be very costly. Visits from the veterinarian, medicines and lost production are expensive. Prevention is key.

You cannot vaccinate against every disease. Some times despite our best efforts cows get sick. There are more common ailments that we have to watch for early symptoms of and treat promptly to increase our chances of once again having a healthy animal. We are a “conventional” dairy, I HATE labels, which means we use antibiotics to treat our animals if they are sick. We can also use supportive therapies that are used on organic farms.

When a cow/heifer/calf is sick they are given the antibiotic, recommended by the vet, that is most effective for that disease. They can also be given pain medicine, anti inflammatories or IV fluids if needed. We do everything in our power to make them feel comfortable.

Once an animal is treated, administered medicine, she has a hold placed on her. A hold means that animals milk or meat can not be sold for consumption of any kind. Her identification number, the date and what medicine she received go in to our computer records as soon as it is given. This insures that she is not going to leave the farm or have her milk sold until the hold is off.

When we treat a milk cow she is clearly labeled with red leg bands. All of our milkers know that cows with red leg bands have their milk pulled in to a separate bucket. It never mixes with milk from healthy cows.

Rakayla had mastitis and received anitbiotics. Her milk goes directly in to the separate white pail and it dumped down the drain.

Rakayla had mastitis and received anitbiotics. Her milk goes directly in to the separate white pail and it dumped down the drain.

Despite our best efforts, some times treatment does not work. We are then faced with a few options. Once the cow or heifer no longer has a withdrawl hold, the time it takes for the medicine to leave her body, she can be culled to enter the beef market.  A cull cow is an animal that is no longer productive in the dairy industry. They are sent to slaughter and used for beef. This is the most desirable option if the cow can not be saved. Yes she may be leaving the farm, but she is still being productive. The farmer is paid for the cow and she produces beef for people to eat.

The last two outcomes are the least desirable. Sometimes an animal is too ill or is injured too badly to be saved. Then the only option to allow the animal to quit suffering is a humane euthanasia. No one likes to see an animal put down. These girls literally spend their lives providing for us. We can give them the respect of a quick, painless death.

Lastly, there are cows who simply become too sick very quickly and pass away despite what we do. Some illnesses can be quick and nothing can be done.

We treat our sick cows with medicine in order to help them become healthy and happy once again. No one likes to be sick. We take great care of our girls. Medicines are needed to make them feel better and continue producing or growing. Milk or meat from animals that are treated is clearly identified and does not enter our food supply. As farmers are ultimate goal is to produce a healthy product from happy cows.

 

Beating the Heat!

Summer has finally hit Ohio. After a bitterly cold winter that never ended, we have been smacked in the face with heat and our trademark humidity. Not only are we miserable, but the cows are feeling it as well. A cow is not a small animal to get cool once she gets too hot. So we try our best to keep them as cool as possible once the temperature is on the rise.

Not only is controlling heat stress important for obvious comfort reasons for the cow, but it can effect many things. When a cow is too hot, she doesn’t eat. When she doesn’t eat, she will make less milk. Less milk production is not a goal on any dairy I have ever seen.

Heat stress also can reek havoc on fresh cows (cows that just had babies). Cows who are heat stressed at calving are more like to end up with a calving related illness. This means 1) she is going to feel like crud 2) she will more than likely end up on antibiotics, thus making her milk unmarketable for a period of time 3) produce less milk once we get her healthy again and 4) have more difficulties getting pregnant with her next calf. It is important to keep our very pregnant ladies cool and comfy.

Cows who are too hot don’t like to get pregnant with their next calf. If a cow doesn’t calve in regularly her milk production will suffer. When they’re too hot it’s hard to get them in “the mood”.

So you may be wondering, how does one keep a 1500 pound animal cool when it’s 90 degrees outside. Here are some practices we use.

Extra water. An easy way to keep cows happier in the warmer months is by having lots of fresh, clean water available. Cows like people need to stay well hydrated in the heat. We have two groups of cows. They each get extra watering tubs, tubs are also placed by the milking parlor exit. These tubs have automatic floats so they are always full.

Water tubs by the milking parlor exit.

Water tubs by the milking parlor exit.

The water tubs "in use"

The water tubs “in use”

This year, we did some barn “modifications” to allow for extra air movement in the barn. I can’t believe the difference it made. We now can open the side of the barn to let in more air. Some dairies barns have large screens with curtains that have the same effect.

The side of the barn opened.

The side of the barn opened.

Like people, cows enjoy the breeze of a good fan. We have several fans placed through out all the barns to keep a breeze on the girls. After all ladies don’t like to sweat!

Lastly and one of my personal favorites, we have a sprinkler system for the cows to enjoy. Many dairies implement sprinklers when it gets hot. Cows actually really like water. Sprinklers can be effective in many places. We currently only have one set and the cows walk thru them as the exit the parlor. They are also useful along feed bunks to mist cows while they eat and in holding pens where cows stand waiting to be milked.

#8 enjoying the sprinklers after she's done being milked. She is a girl who could stand her ALL day!

#8 enjoying the sprinklers after she’s done being milked. She is a girl who could stand her ALL day!

Front view of cows walking thru. Yes, if you're wondering from our walls we have very hard water. Adds a nice orange hue to everything!

Front view of cows walking thru. Yes, if you’re wondering from our walls we have very hard water. Adds a nice orange hue to everything!

Hopefully you, like our girls, are able to catch a break from the heat!

**With June being dairy month, if you have any questions on the dairy industry feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m keeping things strictly dairy this month to celebrate!**

 

Fathers Day on the Farm

I know I said I was going to keep my blog strictly dairy this month and I am. You see if it wasn’t for each of these 3 men in my life I would not be where I am today. Each one has shaped me more than they will probably ever realize. My father, grandfather and husband (ok he may not be MY dad, but he is an amazing dad to our kids) are all involved in the dairy industry and have all been a huge part in my involvement in the dairy industry.

My Dad:

Walking down the aisle at my wedding.

Walking down the aisle at my wedding.

My dad has always been on the farm. I’ve always been on the farm since I was little and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. There are just something to be said about some quality father/daughter time spent in a combine. I’ve heard I didn’t last long in the combine before I fell asleep, curled up on my My Little Ponies sleeping bag. We’ve spent quite a few hours together milking cows, riding in tractors and searching for a groundhog or two with a .22  in a freshly mowed hay field. I also went thru a spell where I made him drag me to about every UKC beagle field trial he even thought about going to. He really lucked out when I moved out, a whole half mile down the road and stayed at the farm so he can see me every day.

My Grandfather:

A picture from Grandpas birthday party last year.

A picture from Grandpas birthday party last year.

If it weren’t for my grandfather I would have never had the opportunity to be involved in the dairy industry. The farm was originally his. The 4-H projects I drug around the yard were all his heifers until I was old enough to buy my own, which he then let me keep at the farm. Some of my earliest memories of my grandpa are him reading me bull proofs. And you people thought I brain washed my kids. I have nothing on him. In the summer I used to ride in his bouncy, old, red Dodge truck to the local sale barn with him, spending the day following him around. There’s something special about a bond with your grandparents, no matter how old and cantankerous they may be.

My Husband:

Emma's first time deer hunting. I love this picture of them.

Emma’s first time deer hunting. I love this picture of them.

Tom with his mini-me, Taylor. Their similarities are so many it's disgusting some times.

Tom with his mini-me, Taylor. Their similarities are so many it’s disgusting some times.

Tom and the little Henry this spring. I hate to admit it, I'm pretty sure he is his second clone.

Tom and the little Henry this spring. I hate to admit it, I’m pretty sure he is his second clone.

You see if it wasn’t for my husband I probably would be a high school English teacher right now. He pushed me to go to school to do something that would make me happy. My dad and grandfather had the cows and the farm to get me involved in the dairy industry, while my husband (boyfriend at the time) gave me the courage to go to school to do something I loved. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading, writing and tearing a good book apart, but I don’t think I would have felt as happy being a teacher. I don’t regret changing my mind at all.

The best thing about these three amazing men is my children see them on a daily basis. Not only did they influence me but they are now the father, grandfather and great-grandfather to the crazy little tribe. If they had such a positive impact on my involvement and desire to be in the dairy industry, I can’t wait to see what they do for my children. Happy Fathers Day!

** In the month of June if you have any questions about the dairy industry, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will answer them as soon as possible**

How Much Milk Does a Cow Make?

After asking people what they wanted to learn about dairy cows this month, I realized that I’m taking for granted what information people know. One of the most basic questions asked was “How much milk does a cow give anyways?”. Why did I not think of sharing something like that on my own? Time to get with it!

Let’s start with the basics. A cow is a mammal. Mammals of any kind must give birth to produce milk. The average cow at our farm gives birth for the first time around 22 months of age, then about every 14 months after that. After having her calf the cow enters the milking group and the calf heads over to our calf barn to be taken care of (and receive loving and hugging from the tribe). To learn more about taking care of baby calves, click here: https://ofkidsandcows.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/all-those-adorable-babies/

After a cow on our farm joins the milking group she is milked 3 times a day. If this is her first baby she will be milked 3 times a day for her entire lactation. A lacatation is the period of time a cow is milked for between babies. Most cows are milked a little less than a year before going on a 2 month break to rest up for the birth of their next calf. If the cow has had more than one baby they will only be milked 3 times a day for the first 100 days of her lactation, then they will be put on a schedule to be milked twice a day until it’s time for them to go dry. Dry is the term used to describe their break period before birth, meaning that their udder is dry and not producing milk at this time.

The amount of times a cow is milked per day varies from farm to farm. Some milk twice a day, some milk three times a day and some are split like us. Either way is a good practice. It just depends on which management style works best for that farm. Here is why we milk like we do: https://ofkidsandcows.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/hi-ho-hi-ho-back-to-3x-we-go/

Farmers measure the amount of milk their cows give in pounds. The only time milk is ever measured or sold in gallons is at the store. On average our cows give 24,500 pounds of milk a lactation. That’s 2,848 gallons of milk in a year!

If we break it down in to a day by day basis, our ladies each give us about 75 pounds of tasty milk daily. We have almost 990 gallons of milk leave our farm every day!

Once a month we measure how much each individual cow gives. This helps us to make many management decisions. It also insures that all the cows are giving high quality milk. Some of our best cows last month gave over 125 pounds a day. The most we’ve ever had a cow give in one day is 160 pounds, you’ll get to “meet” her in a blog a little later this month.

Some of our ladies being milked. You can notice a meter measuring how much milk she is giving in the middle of the picture.

Some of our ladies being milked. You can notice a meter measuring how much milk she is giving in the middle of the picture.

** With June being dairy month, if you have any questions relating to dairy cows feel free to leave them in the comments section. I will answer them for you as quickly as I can!**