The pipe layer (aka the country preg checker said, “She’s not bred.” Yesterday evening, I had the professional preg checker to the farm.
Unfortunately, but as expected, the vet confirmed the country preg checker’s findings. BP is not bred.
1. Get a bull. Theoretically, I’d like to have a bull. I like to keep “a boy” on the farm for breeding purposes for all my animals. It just makes life easier. I have Jack for Poky, Mr. Pibb for the goat girls, and even the young ram lamb who may step in for Mr. Cotswold now that he’s gone. But I don’t have a bull, and I don’t plan to get a bull. Bulls can be expensive to buy and to keep, and they can also be dangerous and constitute a liability. Our farm really can’t support a bull–we have enough trouble supporting BP and Glory Bee with the pasture we have available.
2. Go to a bull. I’ve tried this! All summer! I had BP at Skip’s farm for three heats. I saw the bull breed her–but it didn’t take. Maybe BP is too old, who knows. I can take her back to Skip’s–and take Glory Bee with her for good measure. Glory Bee is almost 13 months. She’ll be 15 months in December, the most often recommended time to start breeding a heifer–but I may not be able to get back and forth to Skip’s farm easily in December–and in fact, if I don’t take them to Skip’s farm this month or next month, it will probably be March or April before I can try to get anyone bred again that way. For one thing, I have to get them back and forth, and for another, I have to be able to get there every day to milk BP. I could keep BP here and send Glory Bee–but….. Skip has chronic fencing issues. I have no concerns about taking BP there by herself or taking BP there with Glory Bee, but I have serious concerns about taking Glory Bee there alone. She would be a high risk for escaping and wandering around, looking for her mother, who would be a mile away. She could get lost or walk down the road and be hit by a car coming around a curve. Glory Bee is the most valuable animal on my farm. Not to mention, I’m quite attached to her. Having her out wandering around could also be a liability. Skip’s farm isn’t secure enough, and it’s the only farm close enough to walk a cow. If I go this route again, I will have to take BP with Glory Bee and give them both a shot at getting bred–and milk at Skip’s while they’re there. The time window to do that is fast closing as winter approaches. It’s a hassle taking the cows there and back, and an even bigger hassle for daily milking.
3. Be the bull. A.I. (artificial insemination for those of you with artificial intelligence on your minds!) is hard to come by here. This is not dairy country. It’s beef country. Farmers with beef cattle here keep their own bulls in the herd. There’s no demand for A.I. here, and A.I. isn’t readily available. (This is a chicken and egg thing–either there’s no demand because it’s not available, or it’s not available because there’s no demand.) Very few people even keep a family cow here. (I had to ask them to stock milk filters at the little store because I couldn’t find milk filters in the entire county anywhere.) The vet doesn’t–and won’t–do A.I. I’ve been asking around and so far can’t find anyone who knows how to do it other than the country preg checker, who lays pipe for a living and is out of town working most of the time. A.I. has to be done in a timely manner. It’s a “drop everything and go to the cow” type of thing. The country preg checker is not readily available. I’ve had a few conversations with a Genex representative about A.I. training. It would cost time and money to get the training and get a tank (liquid nitrogen tank to keep the semen straws), but it would make me completely self-sufficient for my cows. I love my cows, and intend to keep a milk cow as long as I can hobble across the farm.
Those are my choices. I have to do something or eventually I will have two cows and no milk and no new calves.
On another topic, the vet also gave shots to Glory Bee. She thrashed around, swinging her face against the fence of the goat yard where we had her tied up to a post and worked off her calf weaner, but by the time she went back to BP-land she’d had her shots and had her calf weaner put back on. (So there, you bad baby.) BP also had a shot for leptospira. We don’t know anything about her vaccination history other than that she has a brucellosis tag, so he gave her one now and left another for a booster in four weeks. Does anyone out there know if it’s safe to use the milk after vaccinating a cow for leptospira? The vet didn’t know. The label on the vaccination said not to slaughter a cow vaccinated for leptospira for 14 days and recommended vaccinating dairy cows during their dry period. It’s not BP’s dry period, but we went ahead with it. (She doesn’t exhibit any physical symptoms of leptospira; it was done as a preventative.) If you shouldn’t slaughter a cow within 14 days of the vaccine, does that mean I shouldn’t use her milk for 14 days? The label didn’t address this at all and I’ve googled mercilessly without finding an answer. The only thing I can find as to why the vaccine is usually given during the dry period is to increase the immunity given to the subsequent calf (assuming the cow is dried off because she’s about to give birth).
I’m beginning to realize that keeping a family cow is so unusual anymore that finding support of various kinds (from milk filters to breeding) is amazingly difficult. Milk and butter and cheese are basic staples in the diets of most people, but we are so dependent on the store and on milk and butter and cheese that has been trucked a thousand miles that the infrastructure for supporting a family cow has all but disappeared from even the most rural communities.
If there were to be some kind of major catastrophe interrupting the distribution of goods, I guess everybody’s coming to my house.