Ahhhh…..it’s that time of the year when more and more hints of fall start to creep in. The pastures are green and tall but the grass has declined in the cooler, drier weather. Matilda’s milk quantity is going down. We’ve been turning to the goats’ milk, which I usually like to make into cheese.
We do have four other dairy cows, but we have relied on Matilda only this past year. This was all because I took several months off of the farm after Clothilde was born. I knew we should have had them bred back, but I was too absorbed with the new baby to care very much, and for those few months it became Ethan’s farm. Most of the animals survived his care, but getting the cows bred was on the bottom of the list.
Last summer/fall when I started to get involved again, we tried. We felt like dealing with a bull after the awful time we had trying to get Richard the bull back in the trailer so he’d stop eating all our hay was out of our reach this time. So I ordered semen from a sexy bull named Branched Oak Balladeer Bruno and we started trying to have them AI’d. Not by us, of course. We had to call the AI guy to come out with a nitrogen tank as soon as we saw the girls mounting each other.
But it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. It meant someone had to get up super early and drive out there to meet the AI guy (usually Ethan. There would be a riot in the morning if I had. Everyone – specifically the children – expects me there always in the mornings). Then the cow who had looked likely the evening before had to be coaxed into the head gate. This is WAY more difficult than it sounds, especially if the cow is Isla. She is a real pain. Once she jumped over the fence and almost ripped it down so she wouldn’t have to get in the head gate, despite the tempting dish of rolled barley.
One of the times we tried to bring her down to be AI’d, the AI guy watched us chase her around as she kicked her heels up and shook her horns viciously at us. After about five minutes I went to tell him that we were hoping she would calm down and we could catch her, but he made it clear that the last thing he wanted to do was put on an arm-length glove and get anywhere near that crazy beast. I really couldn’t blame him.
Once the summer got going, they stopped doing their mounting behavior, and it is impossible to tell if they are in heat. Not only that, but they aren’t likely to “take” in the middle of July anyway. So I gave up and tried not to feel too crushed about it. I had thought AI would be so easy, and never-mind that ordering the straws and making arrangements with the AI guy had led to some of the most awkward phone conversations of my life with ultra-conservative country gentlemen about semen and cows mounting each other and such.
We ended up putting a weaning ring on our little bull Explorer and seeing if he could do anything where we failed. We had had him separated up until then, because he drank all of Matilda’s milk.
Now that the milk is going down, I am wishing that we had another cow milking. I’ve been spending more time watching the cows’ back ends while they graze and wondering if they look jiggly or not (signs of pregnancy). I stare at their udders and wonder if they look swollen until I have a headache. We need to have them palpated to really check, which means calling the AI guy again and trying to run them through the head gate. It is one of those things we do call someone else in for. I don’t mind cleaning chickens, but I draw the line at the arm-length glove. Especially if it also involves Isla.