Swiss Miss


After posting this photo the other day–

–there were questions about how Glory Bee manages to milk Beulah Petunia. Believe it or not, she doesn’t have to get down on her hooves and knees.

She manages standing up!

And that puts her in just the right position for mommy to lick her bum. And mommy just LOVES to lick her baby’s bum!


Anyway, warding off the usual questions about BP….. She is bright-eyed, energetic, eats well, has access to all the food she can eat every single day. She looked pretty much like this when we got her. She’s a Jersey.

Check out this link to the ideal Jersey cow. Notice the major protruding hip bones. That bone structure supports their large udders.

This photo was taken on April 12, 2010, the day we brought Beulah Petunia home.

I don’t think I could brag that she’s any fatter now, or at least not much.

Is BP skinnier than the ideal Jersey? MAYBE! She was seen by a vet soon after we got her. I asked him if she looked thin to him. He said, “Maybe. But she’s a Jersey. She’s healthy.” She has hay (or grass, depending on the season) available at all times, she gets feed every day, and has access to minerals. Like all grazing-type animals, she eats practically non-stop, except when she sits down to chew her cud and watch Judge Judy in the afternoon.

One time I took Clover to the vet and asked him if he thought she was skinny. I used to worry all the time that Clover was thinner than the other goats. I was afraid she was wasting away! The vet patted me on the head and told me she fine. He said, “Animals are like people. Some are thinner than others, but that doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with them.”

Here’s a body conditioning page for dairy cattle. Notice that even the average dairy cow has protruding bones. Not as much as BP’s, but maybe they haven’t lived BP’s hard life. We don’t actually know how old she is, either.

One of my favorite (!) comments about BP was sometime last fall when someone commented that she would surely be dead before the winter was over. I was just going to find her skeleton. In the woods!

Beulah Petunia: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Glory Bee is half Brown Swiss. Brown Swiss is believed to be the oldest dairy breed in the world (at least according to the Brown Swiss association) and they have the highest fat-to-protein ratio, making them great cheesemaking milk cows. They are BIG dairy cows, and don’t have as much of the protruding hip bone structure as Jerseys do. They have an overall bulkier bone structure to support their udders.

You can see a typical Brown Swiss here. In my opinion, they are really much nicer-looking cows than Jerseys (due to the bone structure).

Glory Bee is not yet even seven months old, so I don’t know for sure what she will look like when she’s fully matured, but so far it appears that she will have the body style of a Brown Swiss.

When you stand at their heads, looking down their bodies, you can see a basic difference in their body types.

Even if BP had more meat on her bones, Glory Bee’s body is structured in a more solid, muscular form, like a Brown Swiss. Even a fat Jersey has protrusions because they are just built that way.

Another look–Beulah Petunia’s body:

Glory Bee’s body:

Glory Bee eats grass/hay, and enjoys feed, too, as well as continuing to drink mommy milk when she has her turns with BP. BP shows no signs of being interested in kicking her off. For the time being, I plan to continue as we have been. Glory Bee looks healthy to me, so I think we’re doing something right with her. Beulah Petunia looks as she’s always looked, which is not like a beauty queen. But she’s a good cow, and after a working girl’s life in a dairy, this is the first baby she’s ever gotten to keep, and I’m not going to take her away.

We plan to breed BP this summer for a spring baby (and a winter off milking while she’s dried up, yay, no milking in the snow!). After that, I’m not sure. By next year, we may breed Glory Bee and retire BP. Or just breed BP to have a baby to sell. I don’t know yet. I will probably move on to Glory Bee as the milk cow. She’s younger, and taking BP out of steady milking other than nursing calves might be good for her. We won’t be keeping any more calves. This is a two-cow farm. (At least as long as BP is alive.) I’m not looking to build a herd. Glory Bee is the keeper baby, and I feel so lucky with her. What a bonus we got when we got BP–a perfect and GORGEOUS half Jersey, half Brown Swiss girl tucked away as a surprise. I might be biased, but I think Glory Bee is about the prettiest cow I’ve ever seen.

Can’t wait till I start milking her and she kicks me over the hill the first couple times.

Glory Bee: “Don’t hate me because I’m such a stinker!”

Cows can be a lot of work, but calves are huge helpers if you keep them with their mothers. It’s healthy for them, and allows you to not have to milk every day. It’s almost a year now since I got BP for my birthday and I’ve learned a lot–some of it the hard way. But in the end, I’ve learned this–

I love my cows.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on April 8, 2011  

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55 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 4-8

    My friend has raised milk cows for about 25 years now. One of the things she commented to me that she does, besides putting a halter on them as soon as they’re born, is to handle them a LOT. ESPECIALLY their udders. That way, when you go to milk them, it’s not perceived as a “violation”. lol She says that every day, she handles their teats, legs, and hooves as well as walks them on a lead. That way, moving or vet treatment is easier because they’re used to it.

    My not be too late to start touching GB’s udder and teats to get her used to you doing it.

    You don’t want another CLOVER for a milk animal! lol ‘Cause if Clover whipped you, I don’t want to think about what GB could choose to do! She’s quite the rascal! (I think CLOVER has been giving her LESSONS! In the dark. AFTER you and BP have gone to BED.)

  2. 4-8

    The only cow prettier than a Holstein (I’m predjudiced) is a Brown Swiss, and you surely have a great Swiss Miss in Miss Glory Bee. She’s ready for her closeup, Ms DeMille. As for Ms BP, well she may not win a cow beauty contest, but she sure does look like the dairy pin-up of a Jersey, good points and hip, fine barrel. Jerseys tend to weigh about 500 pounds less than other breeds of dairy cows. It’s too bad that you sometimes feel you have to defend BP’s looks. One look at in those eyes, and the milk in the bucket. and you can see that she’s happy at Stringtown Rising

  3. 4-8

    Darlene, gave you some good advice about future milking of GB!
    Get her gentled down and used the touch now before she gets much older. Of course there is always the old rope around the hip and what I call the groin area that works too.

    My shorthorn is a little like the Brown Swiss; she has a less boney body and could exist just as a member of the beef herd if need be.

    She has now graduated to the old Milk Parlor metal stanchion to keep her immobile while milking.

  4. 4-8

    I love your cows too!! Thanks for sharing.

  5. 4-8

    I think they are both the cutest cows.I would love to touch there noses lol and give them grass from the other side of the fence.

  6. 4-8

    I love your cows and sure have learned a lot reading about them! Thank you, Suzanne, and thank you to all the kind friends of Stringtown who help educate the readers, like me! I don’t own a dairy cow, but it is my dream to, one day.

  7. 4-8

    I love my cows too!

  8. 4-8

    I too think Glory Bee is the most beautiful cow in the world (I think she knows it too!)

  9. 4-8

    By the way… we have two VERY different Jersey cows. One puts ALL she has has into her milk (and is “thin”)and boy do we have CREAM! And the other WEARS her nutrition and gives us Holstein milk! So, there you have it. BP is a WORKING girl! Putting it ALL in her milk (for you) and onto her baby! You’ll see when you dry her off, she will put the meat on – as reserve for her next calf :-)

  10. 4-8

    We love your cows too!!!

  11. 4-8

    Hugs Granny Trace

  12. 4-8

    They both have the most beautiful and happy faces ever! Good job!! :snoopy:

  13. 4-8

    You did receive the perfect milk cow and momma cow in BP. And hopefully GB will be the perfect offspring and future milk cow and momma cow. :)

  14. 4-8

    I want a cow! :moo:

  15. 4-8

    I love your cows – and I think BP is gorgeous. Currently I live vicariously through you and your farm, as there’s no place for livestock in our small back yard (or in this neighborhood). Brown Swiss are pretty, but Jerseys have always been my favorites. :)

  16. 4-8

    They’re both happy, healthy and thriving. Another thing to keep in mind is that while some people think she’s too skinny, the truth is, if she were too heavy, (or even much heavier than she is since this seems to be her “normal” weight) she’d probably be unhealthy, and have problems due to THAT!

  17. 4-8

    I’m shocked someone would say she’d be dead over the winter.

    Since you don’t know anything about her past, it could be true that she was milking constantly like in an industrialized milk setting. I’ve seen farms where the cows have mastitis, and are emaciated.. but as long as they put out enough milk, the farmer doesn’t care about their health. Once they stop putting out enough milk, whether they are skinny or not, it’s off to slaughter with them. I’ve actually seen emaciated cows laying in the pastures with their utters so full of milk that they are trying desperately to milk themselves! Oh, the agony.

    Since Jersey’s put out one of the highest percentages of fat content in their milk, then it will take more out of their body. It’s true that milking cows need different vitamins/minerals/healthy fats while they are milking, much the same way as a breastfeeding woman needs more vitamins/minerals/healthy fats too.

    Over time she may gain weight, or she may not. She might just be a skinny cow, but if she did have a past in an industrialized milk farm then sometimes the damage has already been done, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

    As long as she is healthy and happy, then no one should have a word to say about it. She looks beautiful to me. :)

  18. 4-8

    We all love your cows and they are both beautiful. Thank you for sharing your wonderful farm with those of us who can only dream.

  19. 4-8

    Erica, the one thing we DO know about her is that she came from a dairy. The man we bought her from said he bought her from a dairy.

  20. 4-8

    I love your cows too. I think BP looks like a older lady Jersey is supposed to look. I have no experience with Brown Swiss so I can’t say anything constructive about Glory Bee, other than she is a very pretty calf.

  21. 4-8

    Very informative and delightful piece. Thanks for continuing to educate and amuse. I love my cows, too!

  22. 4-8

    I learn somethng new every time I read your blog. Your, ‘girls’ sure have cute faces. I love the white outlines around their eyes and lips.

  23. 4-8

    Cows would nurse their babies forever if given the chance – even as an adult. At this point GB is a teenager in cow years. If you plan on keeping both of them, you’ll have to separate them to wean them for a time, probably at least a week or two, otherwise that enormous calf will be nursing from her mama years from now. Dairy calves can be weaned at 8 – 12 weeks, and we wean our meat calves at 7 months. After that age, it begins to be a drain on the cow. GB is certainly a beauty.

  24. 4-8

    I am so glad Beautiful Beaulah Petunia has the life she has now. I feel so bad hearing about how “the industry” treats animals. ALL life is precious and cows should be treated with love, honor and dignity! You are doing a great job with your animals; keep up the good work.

  25. 4-8

    I give you so much credit dealing with the nasty people that write to you. I get ticked and it’s not even me or my farm they’re commenting on! I’m not sure what kind of people irritate me more…the ignorant ones that know nothing about farming (or usually life in general) but feel the need to comment anyway, the ones with a little knowledge that think they know EVERYTHING there is to know about EVERYTHING ot the ones with real knowledge that choose to be nasty instead of sharing that so called knowledge in a truly beneficial way! GRRRRR!! lol Anyway, I think both the girls are beautiful and a fat cow is not something to aspire to! I have Labs and I’ve been fortunate not to have weight problems with them, which is a chronic problem with most due to slow metabolisms, lack of exercise and over-feeding. You should hear the comments I get! Are you sure he’s a lab? He’s awfully thin! Do you feed him enough? Is he sick? Drives me crazy!!

  26. 4-8

    … more thing, the boney structure of a cow is normal, look at her face in the picture after the “dead before spring” comment. That is the picture of a healthy, happy cow! Her eyes are clear and bright, not sunken and dull. No deep hollows over the eye socket…. ok, ok, I’m obsessive!! :dancingmonster:

  27. 4-8

    I love when you talk about the cows! My husband and I are planning our own little farm (5-year plan) and I really want to get a Jersey cow. Everyone else I talk to says it’s too much work and too much feed and too much everything for a small farm, so reading your accounts of cow-having really helps me feel better about my choice! My grandma had a small dairy (about 20 head) and I’ve always wanted a little Jersey of my own. :)

  28. 4-8

    I think it’s wonderful that you keep BP and GB together. And obviously you care very well for both animals. Mean commenters can suck it! :)

  29. 4-8

    I don’t comment much but I do have to say that I love reading about your cows. Their eyes are always so bright, so kind, and their coats look so healthy and thick. You are doing an amazing job and you have some knowledgeable readers for support. Beef cows have a lot of meat on their bones, milk cows don’t! Keep up the good work and tHanks for sharing your adventures!

  30. 4-8

    I think you do well with BP & GB. I live in a valley that is noted for the raising of Alfalfa hay. That is the one kind of feed that would be wonderful for BP. Most everyone here uses a mix of Alfalfa/grass bales. So much better than just grass hay.
    Way more nutrients. Alfalfa does cost more. Also wondered if dairy cows have to be wormed. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t do a great job in their care. I agree you can see that they are a happy pair.

  31. 4-8

    I have learned through the years raising dairy goats that most people don’t even realize that there are “dairy” goats/cows and “meat” goats/cows. It is a shame that people are so removed from their food source that they have no idea what a dairy cow should look like. They put everything into the milk pail while a beef cow puts everything on her hips, so to speak. As you also said bone and body structure is different in all of the breeds.
    We as livestock care takers have the extra responsibilty of educating the people who think they are animal experts from owning a dog or a cat. I have to deal with people at fairs who talk about the skinny goats in the barn and how EVERY single person there must not feed their goats. I also have the added bonus of people telling me how cruel it is for me to cut off my goat’s ears and how I should be so ashamed. I smile and patiently explain to them that they are born that way, they are the only breed of goat without an external ear flap, and the breed is called a Lamancha if they care to research it further.
    Perhaps as more people want to learn about where their food comes from they will learn too, about the wonderful animals that produce it and the years, thought, and hard work that went into producing the breeds that were tailored to meet these needs.

  32. 4-8

    We luv you Glory Bee!

  33. 4-8

    Suzanne, I don’t think you are fair to BP. Sure, her back side is not too lovely but her face is beautiful!

  34. 4-8

    Thank you so much for teaching me this today. I am one of the ones that worries when I see animals I think are too thin. Now I know! :)

  35. 4-8

    Oh, and I think your cows are beautiful. I love them all! :heart:

  36. 4-8

    Good post, Suzanne, sorry you have the burden of having to educate so many people about the facts of farming life. You have a wonderful following of knowledgeable commenters, but not everyone reads the comments, so it falls on you to do all the explaining. Good job with this one. Hope the target readers saw, and read, it. None of us are born knowing everything, we have to learn from one another.

  37. 4-8

    Oooops, me again. I just remembered something I learned about cows licking one another. Maybe it was in one of James Harriot’s books, I don’t remember, but one or more cows seemed to go blind and they didn’t know why until the vet asked if they had noticed the cows licking each other. Yes, they had. Seems there was something about swallowing hair that caused it. Mystery to me, but just in case you notice anything strange like that going on with *our* BP, I wanted you to know about it. As they say: forewarned is forearmed.

  38. 4-8

    Beautiful well loved girls Suzanne all credit to you. You certainly do a grand job.

  39. 4-8

    Where you said “this is the first baby she’s ever gotten to keep” then followed up with the pic of them snuggling…awww how sweet. I think BP is beautiful!

    One of these days I’m gonna have a milk cow… Just as soon as I get someplace to put it! For now, I will just have to find a dairy share to buy in on. :cowsleep:

  40. 4-8

    Barbee, I love James Harriot! They did a great job on the TV series (I think) as well.

    I think both of your cows are lovely, even if Glory Bee is a little stinker. It just adds to her charm lol. When you were talking about milking her, I was thinking, “Oh sheesh THAT’S gonna be an ordeal!” Can’t blame you for loving your cows though, they have such beautiful faces and that BP seems like the sweetest girl. I’m so glad she came to live on your farm instead of still living in a dairy.

  41. 4-8

    Don’t worry Suzanne! Since all my does had their babies this spring, you would think they are being starved compared to what they looked like prior to being bred. Feeding kids/calves takes alot out of them. Some of our best beef cow mothers look terrible when they have calves on. They put everything into those babies and it doesn’t seem to matter how much extra you give them.

  42. 4-8

    Since BP never got to keep a calf before, maybe she doesn’t know about weaning. Maybe factory raised animals don’t learn normal herd behavior. At what age would a calf in a wild herd be weaned? Just wondering.

    I know cats that are taken too young from their mothers don’t learn proper mothering skills. Sometimes they’ll let their kittens keep on nursing, ’cause they never learned how a mama cat weans her kittens.

    You can tell, I don’t know about cows, I know about cats. I’m guessing they’re not always the same. :help: :moo:

  43. 4-8

    Beautiful – you’re amazing!

  44. 4-8

    Great post! (I didn’t read any negative comments!) :snoopy:

    Have a great weekend, and an early(?) Happy Birthday to you, Suzanne! :heart:

  45. 4-8

    Suzanne, Your girls are beautiful. I can tell you love all of your guys. Have a great weekend!

  46. 4-8

    I loved this post! As Barbee said, I’m sorry you have to keep educating your readers on the same subject – BP’s body structure! She’s a beautiful cow, has the kindest face, and definitely produced a gorgeous calf. What more could you want, besides the obvious milk, cream and cheese?!!!

  47. 4-8

    So sorry that you have to continue to defend yourself, Suzanne. I can imagine that most of those types of comments come from people that have no life experience growing up on a farm with farm animals. People tend to project their human-ness onto animals and assume that they should be like us, be treated like us, blah, blah, blah…. You are way more gracious and patient than I could ever be. :moo:

  48. 4-8

    Wonderful post. Informative, funny and thought-provoking. I,too, am sorry that you need to defend yourself from comments that are cruel. I live on a hobby farm, but know nothing about cows and wouldn’t presume to give you advice. I love your blog, it’s the first thing I turn to when I turn the pc on. Keep up the excellent work.

  49. 4-9

    BP is thin, but since you are feeding her all that she will eat there isn’t much else you can do. There are a number of reasons she is thin, part of the way she looks is just the general character of the Jersey breed. She was also most likely raised like most dairy animals and fed milk replacer and weaned at a really young age. The rumen on these animals develops into one that generally has some problems absorbing nutrients. Also, BP looks like an older cow and these often have problems with keeping weight on. My grandfather always said that good milkers should be thin, as in, “She’s putting it all in the pail”

    I second what another comment said though, you do need to wean Glory Bea soon or she will still be nursing off anything she can get to stand still even when she is an adult cow. Some cows will even go so far as to suck off their own udder. Kind of defeats the purpose of having a milk cow.

  50. 4-10

    She looks like a Jersey to me! Bony hips and all! I haven’t been in much lately with new job and the boys being on Spring break so I’m catching up. We have 3 new baby goats, I’m going to look at a jennet for my mini donkey jack on Tuesday and I have 16 chicks in the incubator right now…..Spring on the farm and loving it!

  51. 4-10

    I’m so glad you explained that. I didn’t have a clue and thought she looked too skinny too! I learn something every time I come here :)

  52. 4-11

    Fortunately cows don’t live in the past or the future. She does not remember that all of her previous calves were taken away, and once GB is weaned, she will not remember that is her calf.
    She does need to be weaned sooner rather than later especially if you are going to breed her again. Her body needs a chance to put on some weight before she can begin to make a perfect calf.
    Please give her that benefit before you breed her again.
    They are both lovely animals , as are all the “stringtown” guys!
    My favorites are the roosters. More pix please!!!! :moo: :moo:

  53. 4-13

    If it makes you feel any better, I just had the SPCA called on me for my “abused, underfed” dairy cow. Down here in FL everyone is used to the rolly polly look of beef cattle and apparently the protruding hip bones of Jersey was cause for concern. I was raised on a dairy farm and was always taught exactly what was commented on before: if there’s meat on dairies, the milk was poor and they were sold to the FFA kids or ‘pet’ people. Ironic how people who know nothing are the ones that cause all the fuss!

  54. 4-16

    They are both beautiful!
    I want a milk cow!

  55. 5-5

    Found you the other day and am enjoying this website immensely!!! Your cows are beautiful- love Glory Bees face- so sweet!
    Have to say- I am still nursing my 12 month old baby boy- wish he would take a bit more off the hips, if you know what I mean!
    Thanks for all of the great stuff on your site! So awesome!

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