Cow Family


It was a nice warm winter day here yesterday, with the hoses thawed out and everything, and I was running water in a bucket in the goat yard watching the cows. Glory Bee and Dumplin were licking and washing and grooming and loving on Moon Pie, standing between them.
It was taking a long time to fill the bucket, and I ran back inside to get my camera, fascinated by the way they were both so lovingly working on little Moon Pie together. Of course, they about stopped by the time I got back, but then–
–Glory Bee reached across Moon Pie and started working on Dumplin.
Moon Pie was a little squished and hunkered.
But big sister gave her a little attention at the same time.
And whispered sweet nothings in her ear.
And all was right in their little cow world.

They aren’t all together all of the time, because often Glory Bee is “working out of town” (in a separate field) for milking. But I always put the cows together at least once a week–for a couple of reasons. One is to keep Moon Pie (or any latest calf) as my alternative milker, and two, because they love each other. I’ve always, as much as possible, tried to keep mothers and babies together. Not just because it’s healthier for babies to have their mama’s milk, but even when they’re grown, it’s healthier for all of them, emotionally. Animals do have emotions, and feel stress in various ways. Cows, especially dairy cows, are very family-oriented. Unlike a lot of other livestock (such as goats), they won’t kick off their babies after a few months. They’d keep letting them nurse for years if they had the chance, and they engage in a lot of nuzzling, washing, grooming of one another. They actively enjoy each other’s company. They talk about the latest episode of “The Bachelor” and what color gates they like best. Just every day stuff! And this is true of just about any type of livestock–they’re very herd- or flock-centric. Getting to know animals on a close basis is one of the wonders of living on a farm with livestock. Cows, from afar, can seem placid and dull and even dumb. But they’re actually quite smart and interesting, and they know, experience, give, and receive love.

And while it’s true that cows aren’t people….. It’s also true that they don’t know that.

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Double Date


Mobile vet Clara Mason was back at Sassafras Farm on Saturday (with her “weekend assistant” husband) to AI (artificially inseminate) Glory Bee and Dumplin. Here, she was preparing for the insemination at her truck before going to the barn. The semen arrives in a large container. Inside that container is the liquid nitrogen tank. And inside that is a package that contains the straws of frozen semen.
I had three straws of black angus semen.
The semen is loaded into a long narrow tube that is inserted into the cow’s cervix. Air is pumped in to push the semen out of the tube.

Of course, it’s a bit of a violation.
But good mother-daughter bonding time!
Glory Bee: “Close your eyes, baby. Just think of England.”
I don’t think Dumplin understood.

The papa is a revist from Night Off, a black angus bull from somewhere, who comes to woo my cows in his liquid nitrogen coach. It was like a double date for Glory Bee and Dumplin. Except only one boyfriend and he didn’t even buy them dinner.

Glory Bee had a double dose–two straws–and one for Dumplin. Dumplin is no longer a virgin. The vet told me as she was breaking her hymen. Being Dumplin’s first experience, she was a bit disturbed. The vet asked for a bale of straw to put behind her to make sure she didn’t get a kicking.
She suggested some modifications for the chute, which is my milking stall, that will help make it a safer situation for reproductive services, and I will be taking care of that as quickly as possible. I’ll either modify this one, or build a new one that is specifically for vet work. Other than her initial reaction for a few rough moments, she said Dumplin behaved very well for a first-timer! We were proud.
Even though they were given the shot of lutalyse to throw them into heat at the same time, their bodies still react individually. I was trying most to time it to be perfect for Glory Bee, but the vet said by the feel of things once she got in there, it was absolutely perfect timing on Dumplin and we might have been slightly off on Glory Bee. We’ll see in three weeks. They’re synced on their heat cycles now, and I’ll be watching them for signs of heat, especially riding.

For those of you who don’t know, any cow (male or female) will ride a cow in heat. Sometimes they even ride each other to show dominance or are just messing around. ONLY a cow in heat will stand still when being ridden, though. So that’s how I tell who is bred–or not. Whoever is standing still for riding.

Fingers crossed that that’s…..NOBODY.

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  1. IMG_4011

    January 14, 2015 - Back to the Drawing Board

    Several months ago, I had Glory Bee AI’ed (artificially inseminated) with black angus bull semen. I had mobile vet Clara Mason here yesterday to check on the results.

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    December 2, 2014 - Countdown to Puppy

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    November 3, 2014 - How Are the Girls?

    Someone pointed out that I haven’t posted a pic of the goats lately. That’s because all the girls (except for Maia) are in hiding at the moment.

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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