Going In Again


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.


  1. wvbetty says:

    Suzanne, have you looked for a vet in the Greenbrier County area? Lots of cattle and dairy herds up there, so maybe there is someone who can help you. I could make some calls, if you strike out.

  2. lattelady says:

    Suzanne, you sound pretty frazzled. Here is a hug {{{Suzanne}}} and a mental cup of good strong coffee.

  3. Flowerpower says:

    Suzanne there is a commercial dairy farm not far from my house and I know the guy who runs it. I will try and ask him today for you. Surely he would know. :happyflower:

  4. ataylor says:

    Would it be possible to bring the bull to your farm temporarily?

  5. Dbunny says:

    It is clear that BP is wanting to be a career cow now, and wishes not for the shackles of single parenthood. :cowsleep:

  6. IowaCowgirl says:

    One vaccinates during dry time since it is a pregnancy protection vaccine. I couldn’t find any mention of milk discard about the vaccine. You no doubt used a killed vaccine, right? There wouldn’t be a problem in that case. Did you use Vira Shield?


  7. sallysweetwater says:

    Suzanne, if it was me, I would learn how to do it myself!! You can do it!! I think it would be well worth the expense, and maybe you’ll come out cheaper in the end because you won’t have to pay someone to do it. And since you’ll be a professional you can hang your shingle and be “Suzanne, the AI-er”!!!

  8. Flowerpower says:

    Ok….just called the man…he thinks I am nuts! He’s right.
    He was at the coffee shop with a vet….they say its OK to drink the milk. Go forth and milk!

  9. wvbetty says:

    Suzanne, I would think you could ask a Greenbrier County vet about the milk/vaccination issues, as well as find someone to help with A.I.

  10. SarahGrace says:

    Suzanne, I may know someone who does AI. He works during the day so I’ll try getting a hold of him this evening or tomorrow evening. It might be tomorrow evening as I’ll be gone tonight.

  11. Cheryl LeMay says:

    I know this doesn’t help but around here (WI) farmers do rent out their bulls so don’t count that out if you can overcome the other issues.

  12. cabynfevr says:

    “If there were to be some kind of major catastrophe interrupting the distribution of goods, I guess everybody’s coming to my house.”

    A truer statement has never been printed! That is a sad fact of life in this country. I think it’s turning around slowly and that’s why there is a boom in canning, chicken keeping, etc. It makes me think of the stories my mother told of the great depression. “Poor country people” always had gardens and farm animals so when it hit they hardly noticed. It was the “townies” and city people that were devastated and were in soup lines. Yet another service your blog provides…know how to become a little more self sufficient!

  13. denisestone says:


    I am in Advanced Dairy Management at Fresno State University (California). Just last Thursday we covered the topic, “is it safe to vaccinate a dry cow?” Typically, NO, it in NOT safe. Drying a cow off is very stressful to a cow, and her immune system can be weakened as a result. Vaccinating a cow is also stressful as well. Combine these two, and you could wind up with a DEAD cow. So, it is better that you vaccinated her now before you dried her off. You always want to reduce (or spread apart) the stressors (weaning, drying, vaccines, moving, etc.) Once she is acclimated, a week or two, then she is safe to dry off. Your vet should have told you this. I worry for your sake that your vet is not very knowledgeable in cows.

    As to your other question, you need to throw away her milk for the next 10 milkings, normally that would be 5 days (5 * 2). Since you only milk once a day, I’d be safe rather than sorry and toss the milk for 10 days. The vaccinated milk should not be consumed. Milk her, but toss it out. By the 11th milking, she will be good to go. (This information also came direct from my instructor who has been working in the dairy industry for 35+ years. He is very knowledgeable.) By California law in fact, the period is 5 days / 10 milkings. Hope this helps.

    Lastly, if you are near a university, check to see if they have an Ag or animal science program, and then befriend the instructors and students. For example, I have been trained to do AI and to preg check, but I am 2000 miles away. There must be a school closer to you that teaches this.


    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Thanks, Denise! I wish you were here!!

      Conflicting advice! Well, I called the vet to ask him the brand of the vaccine but had to leave a message. I contacted the manufacturers of Vira-Shield, in case that was the one, and they said there was no milk discard required after the vaccination. Meanwhile, I heard back from the vet and discovered the brand was Triangle 9, not Vira-Shield. I contacted the manufacturers of Triangle 9 and this is what I got back (am impressed, by the way, at the fast response by both makers):

      Thank you for your question.

      There is no milk withdrawal following vaccination with Triangle 9, but there is a 21 day meat withdrawal.

      If there is anything else we can help with concerning our products, please do not hesitate to contact us.

      Steven T. Grubbs, DVM, PhD, DACVIM
      Veterinarian, Technical Services
      Cattle and Equine Segment
      Boehringer-Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.

  14. Claudia W says:

    Go to this site. I don’t have cows, but she does, and I have learned a lot about cows from her. There is a lot of knowledge to be gleaned from her blog!

  15. B1ueDogsMom says:

    Have you considered bringing a bull to stay there awhile… a ‘rent-a-bull’? (If they have them there.) I remember when I was stationed in Germany, the “bull-farmer” would walk his bull through the streets (leading the bull by the ring in his nose) to the “cow-farmer’s” farm.

  16. Flowerpower says:

    Whooosh! You have been around the world…glad they answered your question fast!

  17. Almost Heaven, WV says:

    It is scary how reliant we are on stores for many things. I’ve been toying with the idea of a milk cow. I teach full time, hubby is at home with the lil’ one, so we are trying to figure out if it is even going to work. I try to teach my kids at school to be self sufficiant. The food is better, not to mention the satisfaction knowing that you didn’t have to pay an extra “buck” for someone to haul it to your local grocery store. I believe I was born in the wrong time period…..lol

  18. Liz Pike says:

    “If there were to be some kind of major catastrophe interrupting the distribution of goods, I guess everybody’s coming to my house.”

    I have been a country girl all my life until a few months ago. Due to temporary circumstances I am living with my daughter in the small town I grew up in, but hope to be back home to Hillsville, VA sometime next year.

    I am beside myself at the ways city people cannot support themselves in anything. I remember not too long ago, even city people kept chickens and rabbits and had gardens, but the culture has gotten so far away from doing anything for themselves it is scary.

    I keep telling my daughter, who was farm-raised, that this kind of living “ain’t right”. She’s planning on moving back to the country eventually. But man, in the meantime….it sucks.

    Which leads me back to Suzanne. Come heck or high water I’m sure you’ll find a way to get a baby in BP or Glory Bee. Cuz we country girls don’t give up ; ))

  19. judyh says:

    Suzanne, if you are not aware already, WVU Extension Service sponsored the Western West Virginia Artificial Insemination School on September 12-13, 2011 at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. The website announcement doesn’t indicate who taught the class; however, two of the contacts for the class were: John Johnson, WVU Extension Jackson County Agriculture Agent, phone: 304-372-8199 and J. J. Barrett, WVU Extension Wood County Agriculture Agent, phone: 304-424-1960. One of these agents might possibly be able to put you in contact with someone who either took this class, taught it or know someone else in the area that can do AI for you.

  20. holstein woman says:

    Boy, you have been around the world for sure. For what it is worth this is my view. When the AI tech or the Vet took that chosen work on they should know that there are going to be those days when you call and say “My cow is in heat”. They know right then by the end of the day about milking time (or before if she has a short heat cycle such as a half a day) they need to have their arm up the stem of that cow’s flower and some seman in a straw up there next. My tech comes when I call him on the same day usually at milking time because the cow is in the stanchion and he can do his duty and she won’t be the wiser until it is done for the most part. :cowsleep:

  21. lwb says:

    I too have a home milk cow. I had to “rent” a bull for my cow. I was able to rent a young bull. They are much easier to handle and cheaper to rent. I did rent an Angus bull, as there are few dairies in my part of WV as well. The problem with AI I was told was that in a herd the success rate is usually 50% and that is why most farmers also keep bulls. That made the success rate for my one cow terrible. One the plus side, my cow is pregnant and I will eat this baby. If you rent even a young bull, do have strong gate system for loading them up to leave. The bull we rented didn’t want to leave Clementine and we lost several gates to jumping. We finally just loaded them both up and Clementine went for a ride to the bull’s farm and back!!! 🙂 Good luck. I know this is very frustrating for you!!

  22. kellytorrey says:

    Do you have a Agricultural/Vocational High School nearby? I have one nearby and I know that they teach artificial insemination techniques to the senior kids in the agriculture department. It might be a place to find more info or someone who can help. They may even do it for you, at a price, as a class demostration. Maybe?

  23. EightPondFarm says:

    I do not think you want your own bull for just one (or two, maybe) cows. It is just not worth it. I think the AI option is certainly the most flexible. You can rent space in a tank if you do not want to purchase your own and you would only need the space during your usual breeding season — so might not need the top of the line long term storage. You might not even need a deep nitrogen tank if you use fresh vs. deep frozen semen. Personally, I would opt for the AI approach (actually, I already did opt for this and do AI on our cattle, horses and sheep too). If not you, then rent an AI-tech (and there are more of these around than you might think there would be). If you took a course, take one for goats and you could AI on your goats as well (most sheep breeds are a harder to do) — cattle are easy in comparison. Yes, success rates can be low — but you had a couple natural covers that did not work either — so you might even improve your odds. It is something to add to your resume as someone said earlier!!

  24. Glenda says:

    Suzanne, there is another option. Rent a bull for a couple of months. They are available in my area but might not be in yours. Wish you were near, we are letting a neighbor run their two cows in with our girls and 3 or 4 bulls. Your two would be welcome!

    The problem with rentals is they tend to wander….if your fence is very good and hot wired he might not.

    We find filters at a nearby farm supply store. Here is a hint: Grandma never bought a filter in her life!; she used white dishtowels that she hand washed hung out in the sun to bleach out. I used cloths for a while this lactation then my laziness reared its head and I resorted back to filters.

    Good luck with the breeding. Surely GB will settle first go round.

  25. SarahGrace says:

    “Here is a hint: Grandma never bought a filter in her life!”

    I bought white/cream color, thin material on clearance that I have cut up to use as milk filters and cheese cloth for my butter. I have yet to make cheese so unsure if I can use it for cheese or not. lol After using my cloth I just rinse really well, air dry, and then make a pile until I have enough that I deem it not a waste to wash in the washer without fabric softener and with an extra rinse. I do have throw away filters that I bought with my filter, but once they are used up I doubt I’ll purchase more.

  26. Runningtrails says:

    You are so right about city folks! Most of the ones I work with are surprised that I make yogurt and buttermilk, and I thought eveyrone made yogurt…

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