Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Welcome to the Farm Rosie!

We got a cow!

So as many of you may have heard we recently got a cow.  Her name is Roseanne, but we're calling her Rosie.  Rosie was the wife of Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings which works out nicely. Yes, we're nerds. 

She is a 3 year old Jersey Cow who was raised by a farmer and her two daughters here in Michigan. The girls usually train horses and worked with the cow just like they do their horses.  The result is a great cow!  She has been halter trained, which allows you to lead her around on a rope like the best trained animal you can imagine.  The girls also hand milked her last year, so she is very accustomed to be handled and touched.  The girls even would saddle her up and ride her around their yard! She is already bred, due later this summer/fall to a Simmental breed bull.  The Simmental is a dual purpose breed that grows a bit quicker than the Jersey breed which means it should be a great calf regardless of sex.

We had a lot of motivations for having a dairy cow here on the farm.  Obviously we are very excited about raw milk.  (We'll get together a whole post about raw milk later and sorry we won't be selling.)  The most financially important benefit is the feed benefit to our hogs.

A cow can thrive on our pasture alone with no other feed inputs over the summer.  Meanwhile a single hog can easily eat 600-800 lbs of feed over the same time period.  Once Rosie comes into milk she will easily produce 20 to as much as 45+ pounds of milk a day, or about 2.5-5 gallons a day!  Sara and myself use currently 2 gallons a week, meaning we have to deal with an excess of at least 10 gallons a week.  Luckily for us, milk is an almost perfect food for hogs, with the exact right types of proteins as well as reputed to result in the best flavored meat possible!

Most important to Sara, and certainly I am excited as well, is cheese and butter.  We cannot wait to make our own homemade butter from the sweet fresh cream of our Jersey cow.  Jersey's are reputed to have the highest butterfat content milk, which means really yummy!

Lastly the cow is an actual compost machine.  She takes in greens and extrudes soil building manure which will greatly enrich our compost pile and all of our land.  This is why we will thank her while we shovel out her stall!

Of course as Joel Salatin tells us "Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong first."  In the spirit of this, the first morning, I failed to secure the stall well enough and went in to check our new chicks. Just long enough for her to get herself out of the stall and mosey to the barn door where Ender, our 6 month old farm dog, found her.  Ender had not yet been formally introduced to Rosie, and did his job as farm dog and began barking at the giant strange creature in his barn.  This resulted in a game of chase around the farm which wasn't always Ender chasing the cow and both of their tails were wagging away the whole time as Sara and I ran around in a borderline panic.  Ender chasing Rosie,  Rosie chasing Ender, Sara chasing Ender, me trying to run and get in front of them all.  It was a disaster.   

To Rosie's credit, she never tested the fence line and respected it as a barrier. Eventually, tired of trotting along, she settled down in the woods.   We grabbed Ender, and as soon as he was not hounding her, she immediately allowed me to walk up and guide her back to her stall.

This was a very stressful situation that could have went far worse, and that certainly taught us to make sure the stall is secure.  Afterwards once everyone was secured, we were certainly laughing at ourselves.  Since then Ender has been getting controlled visits with Rosie and has done great today!

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