Ellie Watch

This is my Ellie girl.

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She is a 4 year old Guernsey/Jersey cross…and I love her. I know it sounds ridiculous to hear someone say they love a cow…but I do, and I’m not ashamed to say it…well, not entirely ashamed 😉 I think I would die if something happened to this girl, which is why I stayed at home while Farmerman and the kiddos are off fishing at the coast. You see, Ellie is due with her second calf on August 7th, and just like a woman’s pregnancy, she could calve up to two weeks before and two weeks after her due date…and I do not want to leave her just in case she needs help during, or more importantly, after calving.

What??…I am NOT obsessed. I am only getting up a couple times throughout the night and frantically searching the paddock for her with the flashlight. And who doesn’t go trekking through their land in temps of 100+ to look for their cow multiple times a day because she hasn’t been seen for the last 30 minutes?? And then, when the cow is found, who doesn’t rub her belly trying to “bump” the calf to make sure the sweet little booger is still wiggling around, meaning it is still alive…totally non-obsessive behavior, right…RIGHT??!!
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You see, we don’t have a bull on our farm yet which can be considered a blessing and a curse. A curse because we have to be able to pay attention to all the girls cycles and know when to take them to the vet so they can be artificially inseminated (AI’d). A blessing because it’s one less mouth to feed and we don’t have to deal with, well, a bull who could be sweet as pie one day and fly into a murderous rage the next. Also, AI takes all the guesswork out of it so you know the exact date your cow should calve…which is wonderful and terrifying all at the same time. We brought Ellie home October 29th, and the nice dairy we bought her from AI’d her on the 27th…omgosh…I’ve been calculating her due date from the 29th, not the 27th…so she is actually due on the 4th!! Ok, now I am freaking out a little bit more than I had been the last month or so.

And my freaking out is at a little more elevated level anyway because this is what my “milking equipment” used to look like…
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And this is what it looks like now….eeek!!
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Since the beginning I have hand milked, which was great when I was milking a Dexter once a day and getting no more than half a gallon leaving the rest for her calf. I love to hand milk; there is just something about it that is just, well, satisfying. You go up with an empty bucket, work your arms to death, and are back in the house in 30 minutes with a full bucket of frothy milk…there aren’t many other things as instantly gratifying as that!

Granted, it can end up terribly sometimes…like when the cow kicks the bucket and spills all the milk all over the floor. I’ve also always figured that any time saved by machine milking would be made up for in the cleaning of the machine…and considering we drink our milk raw, proper sanitation is a huge deal. I know my hands are clean when I milk cause I can see ’em…I can’t see in all the parts and pieces of the machine.

Ellie came to us 4 months into her lactation and without her calf. This meant I had to milk 2 to 2½ gallons, twice a day…every day. My forearms became awfully Popeye-esque, apparently I twitched milked in my sleep, I lost all sensation in my thumbs, pointer & middle fingers, and I thought I was going to die…but I could give an ah-mazing back rub and I could do this awesome thing that made it look like I had worms under my skin on the back of my hand when I gripped the steering wheel quickly and repeatedly and it totally grossed freaked the kids out. You know, it really is the little things that count…and what can I say…I’m a glass half full kinda gal 😉 

Toward the end of Ellie’s lactation we dropped back to milking 2 gallons only once a day, and thankfully this allowed for my left hand to regain all its sensation. However, my right hand was still numb up until the end of May when I stopped milking in preparation for her next lactation. Oh, and did I mention a cow’s production increases on her second lactation??

So, I finally faced the reality that I needed to buy a machine…like, last week. And being from the family that I’m from, and the one I married into, I couldn’t just go out and buy a brand new machine. Pfft…not when there are so many good deals on used, rebuilt machines on ebay! I’ve been able to Frankenstein this thing together like nobody’s business, well, with the help of the good folks at the Keeping a Family Cow forum.

And while I am unreasonably terrified and intimidated by using, and cleaning, and hauling, this machine, I’m pretty sure I will hear a huge sigh of relief the first time Ellie hears that pump kick on. After the initial couple days adjustment period she put up with hand milking like a champ, but I could tell that she would get a tad irritated by the amount of time it took me to milk her out…being an ex-dairy girl, she was used to getting to business and then getting on with her day. I am terribly sad that the 30 minutes of peace and quiet in the barn that I cherish will be filled with the sound of my vacuum pump working away, but from what I hear I will wonder why I didn’t get a machine sooner.

And in spite of Boy 1’s efforts to spike it up with hair gel yesterday, Ellie’s smooth bangs poll hair are hinting to a little boy bumping around in there.  But oh my, how I would love a little spotted mini-Ellie running around the farm!  So, wish us luck and send some little heifer(girl) thoughts this way…will update with pictures after the big event 😉

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