Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The waiting game

I think I can honestly say that I am having a harder time with the waiting, for Sassafras to have her calf, than I did with birthing my own children! (Laughing but I'm serious).
With the birthing process of my own offspring, there were ultrasounds, doctors input, opinions & helpful advice from other moms, support groups, videos to be watched... Ways of KNOWING what would happen, & that ultimately my baby & I would be alright, even if the birthing process didn't go as well or in the manner that I planned.

With my silly pet cow, it's anyone's guess how long her gestation period is. There is literally a 20-day window  which this birth could fall in, (cows have been 272 - 292 days gestation) & we are in that "donut hole" right now. The vet said one date (7/12/2017), & the AI, who is an expert on miniature cattle, said a different date. (6/24/2017). Well, the 24th was here & gone, & we're still waiting.

Jill, from Prairie Homestead, studied her cow & documented in photos as well as a blog post, the changes & so forth that her standard size Jersey went through in the 2-weeks leading up to the birth. Things like the vulva swelling/becoming engorged, the udder becoming so full that she didn't know how there could be ANY MORE added or the poor thing might burst, then more being added still. She even made note of how the teets themselves resemble coke bottles in shape until just a few weeks ahead of calving, at which point they fill out to what one thinks of when thinking of a healthy udder. This observation was also made by another cattle owner I'm not familiar with, who also described them as resembling coke bottles, & stated that the wrinkles would fill out the closer she got to calving.

★ This theory was confirmed through personal observations of a friend's cow. The friend is new to cows & #2 heifer was freshening for the first time. She was going crazy not knowing how far away the birth would be, so due to the experiences gleaned from the milk route & interactions with the Amish dairy world, she called us. She was just SURE something was wrong, because the heifer was over her due date & wanted a second opinion on if everything was OK or if she was over reacting, so I was able to visualize these pre-calving signs in #2 before needing to recognize them in Sassy.
★ Going over the approximate due date isn't uncommon. Just like humans, the first time around the body is just trying to get the hang of things, so it will go over the due date sometimes.
Yet another owner, who's apparently had quite a few cows to watch this in, had observed that just prior to calving, (24 to 48 hours) the cow will begin to arch, or kink her tail in preparation for the calf to make passage. The person stated that this is a sure shot way of knowing you'll have a new calf shortly, & was confirmed by several others in the forum.

I find this all very interesting, but what I find even more interesting, is there are really not THAT many people who have been watching their cows that closely, so there isn't a ton of info out there on this. In today's day & age... It just hits me as interesting. So I've been trying to observe & take photos. The photos haven't turned out well because she's a dark brown/black, but I have good intentions.

When I bought Sassy, I intended to have a family milk cow. Nothing more. I never actually thought I would grow to love her like a pet, or that I would enjoy her as much as I do. I mean what can you do with a cow? You can't exactly play fetch with it, or cuddle up with it on your lap to read a good book... But ... Despite that, she has been very good for my battered & bruised soul. She behaves like an overgrown puppy. A 500lb, exuberant, genuinely affectionate puppy, who wants nothing more than to be petted,  brushed &/or scratched. She sometimes gets so thrilled to see me coming that she dances. Literally, dances a jig. Other times getting so happy that she rubs her head & face on me. So, I can honestly say that it's kind of nice to be so loved by an animal that she dances for you...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday, and the cat decided to have her kittens last night!  Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Old friends, new changes, better life

Several months ago when I first bought Sassy, an old friend reconnected with the family and although many things have changed since we went back & forth consistently, there are just some things about the friendship that have not changed despite having not seen her or her family in a long time.  Funny how that works!

Years ago, she was the person who would fix our computers when we screwed up this or that.  She taught me a lot about the computer world as well as helping me to get through some tough stuff that I had going on at the time.  She was married to a serious creep of an idiot, had two sons by a prior marriage, and had one daughter from the idiot.

Mom & Dad got tired of constantly needing to fix this or that, and bought a new system.  Since we no longer needed her to fix our broken down fix-r-uppers, we lost touch for a long time.

Since losing touch over the last 12-years, she was able to get away from the abusive idiot of a pedafile she was married to.  Her two sons have gone off the deep end, with one believing that he is a girl and the other being such a chronic liar that nothing is trustworthy from his mouth.  Her daughter on the other hand, is doing "OK", because our friend was able to retain custody of her and she has remarried a really decent man who has a daughter of his own from a prior marriage as well.  He supports and loves her the way she deserves to be loved, and through his support & due to some serious health issues, she has chosen to begin hobby farming in an effort to get healthier and improve the quality of life she has left to live.

Fast forward to today.  Here we are, both of us having lived through our abusive ex's, both of us deciding that we can feed and care for our families, better, through growing our own food than by buying it in a store.

She now has chickens, ducks, rabbits, cows, and dogs, and is loving the country life!!  She's smiling and laughing, has stopped smoking (due to the health issues) and seems to be genuinely happy!

[In comparison:  I have horses, cows, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats & toddlers (ha ha).]

She raises the rabbits as pets for the local feed store, the chickens lay eggs which she uses to feed her family then sells the extra to the public who may stop into her home, and raises the cattle for the milk they might produce, for her family to drink, but mainly for the meat they will produce once they come of age/weight.

Yesterday she called asking if I could come down and look at her heifer who is overdue to give birth.  I went down, and what could have been a 3-hour run, turned into 6-hours.  I looked at her cow, and I guestimate that she should give birth any time between now & tomorrow.

Because of dad being a milkman for over 24-years, I was raised around dairy cows.  Cows are, dare I say, part of who I am?  Although the cows were never my own until now, I still learned a great deal from the producers along the way.

After owning their own business for that long, my parents saw so many crazy animal drama's, equipment failures, life or death emergencies & FDA dramas... that we used to joke about how we should write a book of memoirs, and call it "As The Milk Churns" (haha).

One example of such drama's: when I was around 7-years old, we pull into a producers yard and he rushes out to the truck as we pull in, begging Dad to come help him pull a holstein calf.  They didn't have the proper equipment, the farmer wasn't properly prepared, despite it being a heifer on her first calf.  They pulled and worked to get that calf out for over 3-hours, and when they finally got it, it was dead.  The mother died shortly after from exhaustion. A sad story for sure, but an example of how although Dad wasn't properly "trained" in farm husbandry, he would always get pulled into it anyway.  It would seem that the Amish producers we served, thought that Dad would just know the answers to whatever problems they had.

Now, years later those unexpected experiences have helped me.  Have given me confidence to go on and begin my own hobby farm, and because of how calm dad was in these emergency situations, it laid the groundwork for some of my choices and how to handle emergencies better.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Today's many adventures

Interesting happenings around here today!

When I went down to check on Sassafras this morning she was feeling pretty uncomfortable because the calf was crosswise. I walked in to put her halter on for the day, & she just walks over & plants her face against my stomach & leans on me & moans.

She does this when she's uncomfortable, in pain etc.

I can't do very much about the calf being in the wrong position. So I just try to help her be as comfortable as possible. Walking her around a bit, then tied her out in the yard. Kind of figure if it works for humans maybe it will help her to...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Anticipation is building!

Although there was some doubt initially as to whether I had actually gauged the heat cycles in my mini Jersey cow correctly, I believe it is safe to announce that she is pregnant & her little bundle of joy is set to arrive sometime in late June, or early July.

If her little one is born on 7/4 it will be named Freedom, which can be either a male or female name. If it isn't born exactly on the day I'd like, it's ok. I still may be name it Freedom, but another name that's optional if it's a girl, is Honey, because Dad's honeybees paid for the some of the expenses necessary to pull this off.

I wanted to sit down & "record" some of the information I learned from the second inseminator, (Elmer Detwieler) but I didn't have time at that point, because I was trying to do to much. I thought I would have the opportunity to come back to it, but one thing led to another, as it always does, & here we are.

We've come through 7/9 months, she has approximately 60 days to go, a little less, & I have forgotten a lot of what he shared with me.

Elmer is a very unique, information rich individual. While observing her during the initial heat, that we missed** he revealed just how much information he had in his brain concerning artificial insemination, & cows in general. 30+ years, living in multiple countries as an AI, using the AI training to be a missionary... Working with lots of different breeds of cattle, & how each breed is different... The entire conversation was highly educational.

** (Elmer said it was OK, he'd rather we miss a half hearted heat & KNOW the cycle, than to guess & waste the semen straw)

Along the way, prior to beginning the process of getting her bred, I had her checked & dehorned by the vet. While he was out, the vet shared how exciting it was for him that I had gotten a mini in the first place, because it gave him a reason to go learn more about them since they're so rare. More than that though, I learned through that conversation that Rick Ultz... Yes THAT Rick Ultz, is this areas leading expert on jerseys! I was flabbergasted! Imagine the chances of that happening! All these years I've known, looked up to & respected this man, who has quietly been an expert on something that I love but never had the money to get into till last year!

As Sassy was 15-months when I got her, & of course being that young has never had a calf before, & I have never been responsible for a cow who's been bred before... We're both calving virgins so to speak. So I'm praying it all goes smoothly... Praying hard actually! ☺

I've grown to love that little cow. ❤ She's become like another child to me... & It would break my heart if something were to happen to her because of my stupidity in this matter.

But, the Lord has a plan. If he didn't, she wouldn't have fallen in my lap back when I saw the ad sin the paper. The semen shipment wouldn't have come together like it did, & nothing would have gone as smoothly as it has​...