Dairy Truths

When cows don’t get pregnant

As a dairy farm the success of our business depends on selling milk. Cows need to produce milk to secure a place in our barn. This is that line that as a farmer I hoover over; to one side I make business decisions because my livelihood depends on it, to the other side I let my heart fall in love with each of my cows and treat them as such. It can be a very real struggle to not consider these cows my pets.

When all is good — a cow will calve, she will enter her natural heat cycle, she will become bred by our bull within 2-4 months, she will be confirmed pregnant by our veterinarian, we will stop milking her two months before her due date, she will deliver and the cycle begins again.

We are a bull bred herd, meaning we run a bull with our cattle to breed them on their heat cycle. A heifer is a female who has not yet delivered a calf. Once she has delivered a calf she is often called a first lactation heifer but is technically a cow. These names are just ways for us to communicate about the general age of an animal.

  • Heifer – female newborn to roughly 24 months of age.
  • First lactation heifer – female who delivered her first calf.
  • Cow – female that is producing milk.
  • Lactation – the number of milk cycles, or pregnancies, they are in. Example, #49 is in her 5th lactation, she had delivered 5 times.

When a cow doesn’t get pregnant her lactation gets longer and longer and longer. Her milk production will decrease, her body condition may become unhealthy to become pregnant, and eventually we have to decide if she is still contributing enough to offset the cost of her being here.

We have to look at the amount of milk she is providing and determine if it’s enough to pay for the cost of her feed and her space in the barn.

We generally have 20-30 heifers deliver their first calf and move into the milking herd, logically we need to make sure they have feed space and resting room — larger, older cows will push younger ones out of the way. If we want to keep a decent balance then the cows not producing enough milk and not pregnant are actually hindering our younger cows from doing well.

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It’s hard to make the decision to cull, or sell, a member of our herd. Even the day we sold Liger, the very cow I despised, I hesitated and held my head down. But the reality is that cows don’t live forever and I cannot afford to keep a barn of pets.

When a cow can’t become pregnant anymore she becomes part of the beef supply. She will provide a healthy and nutritious food for families.

My children ask, and I explain as such: we give our animals the very best life we can while they are here, and if we treat them with kindness and allow them to live in a healthy environment we also owe them a humane end, and I’m proud of the life we’ve shared with them.

If you have any questions please leave a comment. Xo, Nicole

for fun

Cows that didn’t make the nice list

The big day is almost here and before that jolly ‘ol elf decides to spoil my Ladies with extra grain, I’ve made a list. Yeah THAT kind of list, and trust me — I’ve checked it twice!! There were some cows around the farm this year that have not been very nice. This decision was made by the elf in charge here on the farm (…me) and no outside opinions were considered by the other elves.

You might think, “Wow! I thought she was a sucker for all her animals” but dear friend, it must be pointed out that I think less of some — in fact, this list came together in about 55 seconds.

The following jerk cows, in my opinion, need a lump of coal in their stalls!

#153 – Peanut // While she’s a spunky little heifer who Brad likes to play around with, that doesn’t save her from coming in at #10. Never fails, when I’m getting cows in from the holding pen she is right behind me with her head down, until I look at her and then she backs off. I don’t play like that Peanut.

#84 – occasionally referred to as Nikki // She ONLY comes in on the left side of the parlor. She INSISTS on being in the last group and when the last group ends on the right guess who screws that all up??? #9

#89 – Roo // She’s just like her mother, Piglet, and takes forever to milk out the back right quarter. When she gets a little pissy, she kicks back. Taking the #8 spot because it ain’t my fault she’s lopsided.

#131 – the pet // She was always the heifer that wanted attention when it was bedding day, we were buds. THEN she delivered her calf and when I tried convincing her to go into the parlor she switched gears on me and my wrist got pinched. She is #7 this year and currently resides back in with the heifers because she was giving so little milk I begged Snapchat followers to convince Brad into letting me keep her for hopefully a better second lactation. Stupid pet.

#118 – Moe, but nobody calls her that // She kicks. Automatic naughty list, #6!

#141 // You would think she is starving, like every. day! She cannot leave the barn to milk until she’s shoved as much feed as possible in her face. She’s #5 because it’s annoying, she will literally push her way to the front of the herd and be done milking in a few minutes…fill your stupid face then.

#60 // Ohmygod! The slowest milker e-v-e-r. #4

#61 – Eyeliner // She won’t be first in the parlor. She will stand in the doorway, blocking any other cows from entering…#3

The Jersey bull – Charmer // That guy’s a mean little shit, he’s got a lot of aggression. In at #2 Brad is the ONLY one who deals with him.

#80 – Liger // If you’ve followed the blog for any length of time, you know I loathe this cow and it should be NO surprise that she is #1

…it’s also no surprise that #49 will be getting all the love this Christmas #justsaying

Merry Christmas, Nicole