I have a story about something that happened to me….but (as usual) I am going to take you in a big circle to get to my point. Hang on please and lets begin……
I was originally asked to write here at NotDabblingInNormal because…well…I am not your “average” citizen. Average by most standards I mean. Some of the things that get me comments or double takes from your more average citizens are that:
I drive and enjoy two very old vehicles. Both long since paid off but both cared for and running well. Even with the “cash for clunkers” incentive ….I don’t need or want a car payment. Blah! Raspberries!
I don’t own a cell phone (I know! Weird!)
I also don’t pay for my kids to have one! (I know! Double weird!!)
I can and preserve my produce both by boiling water bath and pressure canning which leaves us open for the “oh your survivalists” comments. No….but we do like home canned food free of preservatives(??)
I stop on the sides of the road and haul peoples bags of leaves into my car (for my garden).
My husband and I will stop and dig ashes out of people’s burn piles (with permission if needed) to add potash to our garden.
I regularly check piles of trash out and often haul home odds and ends.
I prefer non electric appliances or ways of doing things.
We don’t have cable, though we do have internet and we rarely watch t.v. (No…I can’t tell you a thing about, or comment on, the latest reality show).
I am o.k with silence.
We have lived very often with home that were in continual states of remodel. We always preferred to pay cash if at all possible as we have worked our way through a whole house remodel. This does have a tendency to drag out a project on occasion instead of giving us the “instant satisfaction” everyone is so accustom to.
So..as you can see I (and my family) are a bit different than most “average” Americans. I know many of you are similar or else you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
Recently though my husband and I found ourselves “following the crowd”. When we figured it out we had a very good laugh at ourselves and decided to change the way we were going. Let me explain.
For those of you who don’t know…I have a dairy cow.
I don’t often speak of her because I am a skeptic when it comes to the government livestock programs and just prefer not to talk to much about it. It’s one of those “under the radar things” if you want to call it that. I know..odd.
Through out time, since our marriage, my husband and I have owned quite a number of animals, cows included, but this was (and is) our first dairy cow. She’s great and not long after purchasing her she gave birth to a wonderful little female calf who is just the bee’s knees. The calf is sweet, fun, loving….she should make a fabulous second milk cow for us in the future.
From the very start, when we originally considered purchasing a milk cow we knew we would share mom’s milk with our calf. No bottle feeding for us thank you very much. I have bottle fed animals before and it is no picnic and I did not want to do it with a calf. Besides…mom’s milk is much more perfectly balanced than the formula and no matter what the distributors say replacer is not the same nor does it have the absolute best vitamin/mineral balance. I know this for a fact…but won’t go into it here because that is not what this is about.
We also couldn’t be tied down 100% because we have older family members that live in various states. We are a small family…and have responsibilities. We also like to travel.
Anyway…starting at 4 days old we penned up our little calfina at night and in the morning milked her mom and then let the calf nurse her share. After that she went to the pasture to spend the day with mom nursing at her leisure whenever she wanted to. It worked fabulously for us. At first, when our calf was small we also milked in the evening, without bothering to separate the calf, because mom had so much milk and kept good weight on. As little miss calf got larger and needed more to eat, we quit milking in the evening because we didn’t want mom to get too thin and truly….we hated milking in the evening. We either had to be late everywhere or come home early or make a not so quick stop before going on to somewhere else. Quite annoying really. And not something we particularly enjoyed at all. We are really busy in the evening…much more so than any other time of the day. This was another plus of keeping our calf with her mom. We were only “tied” down in the morning. A time when we are normally at home anyway. After that the day was ours with no commitments to milking.
So…we eventually gave up that evening milking when the calf was about 2 months if I remember correctly (which I may not). And it was no problem, even though we did worry about it at first. We worried that production would drop. But even with our milk addicted son we found that the gallon and a half we got in the morning was plenty to drink, bake and make cheese/yogurt/butter etc. And of course the calf and mom worked out the rest of the issue just as they were suppose to and as nature intended for them to.
Now…coming to the point. Recently we decided that Little Miss Can’t be Wrong (that’s her full name) was ready to be weaned. She is basically 5 months old. So we began little things to get them ready for weaning like longer separations and a bit of routine change. However, as we began separating mom and calf we were having a few problems like too much milk and teat stripping (both taken care of by the calf for us previously). We also were not looking forward to returning to the evening milking which we would have to do without Miss there to take care of it for us. There are of course a number of people and dairies that do once a day milking but everyone of them will tell you they had to work through issues and cull cows while working into it. Some cows can handle once a day…and some can’t. We weren’t sure if ours would be able to…and weren’t going to risk our only milk cow to find out.
In addition we were developing behavioral issues with our cow because she was adamant that her calf WAS going to be with her. We had trouble with her coming in to her milking stand which had never been a problem before. And trouble taking her back out to pasture….which had never been a problem before. She also started moving away from us when we went to attach a lead rope, something she had not done even from day one of bringing her home.
When I asked Matron Of Husbandry recently her opinion on a few things having to do with these issues she pointed out that she didn’t wean her dairy calves until they were about 8 or 9 months old. She felt they got optimum nutrition this way and would go on to be long lived cows instead of like commercial dairy cows that live only to about 6 to 8 years.
That age is also the natural age that a cow weans her calf in a “wild” environment. (And we knew this….but forgot it maybe??) Matron went on to point out that she was by no means telling me her way was the only way and I had to do what worked for me and she would help me as best she could. Now…I do what I think works for me without being overly concerned about what others think. I also often ask opinions from many people….I like to hear what others think and get differing perspectives. That does not mean I automatically follow them just because though. On the other hand I am by no means NOT open to changing the way I do something when given another opinion because you just never know what you might learn. Even if you use only part of their idea it might improve your own situation immensely.
So…thinking on what she said to me I asked my husband that evening this question: “Why exactly does Miss need to be weaned?”
After a lengthy pause his reply was: “I don’t know….because that’s how it’s suppose to be??”
So there you have it folks. A very long story to point out that even us “not so normal” people sometimes fall into the trap of doing what society has set as the supposed “correct” way to do something even if it may not be. In this case “society” stands for the people who handle calves commercially. Depending on what future is in store for the animal, calves still on their mothers are weaned anywhere from 103 days (about 3 and ½ months) up to about 8 months. Usually 5 to 6 is the most common though.
But our calf is not going on to a commercial place or middle man, nor do we need to sell her for money or to make room or any of the other reasons that you might need to wean a calf of this age for. It’s funny that we avoided the pit of “pull the calf at day two and bottle feed it” but we almost stepped into the mucky mire of this one. As I said…we had a good laugh at our selves. I think our cows are also happy that we have changed our mind. They look much more relaxed already and momma cow seems to be losing some of her attitude already.
This was an excellent situation to remind me that if I don’t pay attention I will find myself following the crowd and NOT using my brain.
Brain use is good. Especially when it’s your own brain being used.
As I always say to my kids: Think outside the box…there’s lots of unused space out there.
Fabulous week to all of you! Enjoy the coming fall weather before it gets cold