Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Our Herd

I am so filled with joy every day when I see our cows grazing together in the orchard, or taking a nap under the trees...

When Wags was three days old, our foster calf for Lucy, who was then 3 weeks old and named Sweetheart, was delivered. Sweetheart was cold and hungry and wet and covered in manure from the calf pen.

Sweetheart on Day 1 here (3 weeks old) - we have since changed her name to Poppy!

At first Lucy was not interested in her new charge at all and pushed her away. So my daughter Abby and I led the calf to the milking shed and washed her off with warm water and rags. We dried her with old towels, as it was a cool, rainy day. Then we led Lucy in to milk out some of the excess colostrum (just as we had the day before). When she was in place having her snack of grain, hay, minerals and molasses we encouraged Sweetheart forward to feed from Lucy's udder. She fed with gusto, having been kept away from the nurse cows at the dairy that morning to make the mothering-on process easier for us. After awhile we thought that Sweetheart might be taking too much milk, and get a tummy ache, so we took her back to the shelter where Wags was waiting. Honey was in an adjoining paddock at this point, in case she got jealous of the calves and hurt them, or tried to feed from Lucy.

Once Lucy had finished her food, we took her back to the calves. When Sweetheart saw Lucy come into the paddock, she snuck around between her back legs and drank more milk, and Lucy let her! We were so relieved! She then collapsed for a nap in the hay beside Wags.

Lucy feeding her two babies. She is so patient! It rained for two weeks after Wags was born, hence the muddy paddock entrance!

I continued to watch Lucy and the calves carefully each day - checking the calves' health and bowel movements (Wags was scouring for awhile), checking Lucy's udder and generally observing their interactions with each other.

Wags is a big boy now! He's 1.5 weeks old in this photo, and so very cute.

After two weeks Honey went back to sleep in the main cow paddock at night too, as well as grazing alongside Lucy by day, with or without the calves. She watches the calves during the day, resting alongside them, calling out to them and seeming to help Lucy care for them.

The name Sweetheart was too confusing as I use it as a term of endearment when speaking to the other cattle, and possibly even the hubby and kids! I hadn't noticed before she arrived, but I'm mentioning her name a lot more often than I'm actually speaking to or about her... So after a week of trying it out, we had a family vote and re-named the foster calf Poppy.

We're about to start milking Lucy again now that the calves are doing really well and the colostrum has gone. It will be interesting to share milk with two calves, as last time we only had Honey to share with. The times I milked out excess colostrum (to prevent mastitis and to have some in the fridge and freezer in case a calf was ill), Lucy was very accepting of being milked. In fact she wandered into the bails of her own accord one day during her time grazing in the house paddock.

Honey and Poppy (was Sweetheart) resting together in the afternoon. Honey is Lucy's foster calf from last year, and 7 months old now.

I remember when Lucy came here and she was quite lonely - calling at the fence for some cow friends. Now she has her own herd - a son and two foster daughters - and she seems very, very content.


Clare said...

You have such beautiful girls! (And boy)
I love reading your cow adventures :)

Amber said...

That is so so beautiful, she looks so happy and what a sweet sweet post. I love your herd, they are just lovely..xx

indigomumma said...

Bel I always love seeing your farming adventures in my google reader previews. You have a life of such beauty and it is very inspiring. I have passed to you the 'beautiful blogger award' ( for sharing all your adventures xxx