Cows. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

I’ve had so many questions about BP and Glory Bee! They’re here! You saw them come in the livestock trailer! You saw them eating round bales off the truck! But I know, there are so many other questions than merely if they are alive. By the way, I’ve lost count now of the number of people in the past month who have told me that their cow just plop, keeled over dead all of a sudden. I have to go count heads every morning.




I’ve been meaning to write a post about the cows–my plans, dreams, musings–when I got the time to put it all down. Which is why I didn’t want to toss off a quick answer to questions. So here is the long answer.

Sassafras Farm offers opportunities that were out of reach and unrealistic at Stringtown Rising. I have lots of ideas, but I’m going to take it slow because I don’t want to get in over my head here. I’m currently using maybe around five percent of the available pasture for animals on this farm. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that I want to keep the animals close to the barn for the winter, and two, fencing repairs and/or electric wire additions need to be made in a number of the fields before I can move animals to them.

However, the extensive amount of pasture that is available once fencing repairs, electric wire additions, and so on are completed makes things possible that weren’t possible before. Such as acquiring a bull.

No, BP isn’t pregnant. The country preg checker and the vet agree on this, and she hasn’t been exposed to a bull since then, so I think it’s safe to say she isn’t bred. I haven’t had her checked, but to my knowledge, Glory Bee is not bred either. (I wasn’t particularly trying to breed her, but she did go visiting with BP the last time she went over to Skip’s farm.) Tired of trying to get BP to a bull when she was in heat, I considered AI (artificial insemination) or even learning to do AI myself. The simplest way to get animals pregnant is to keep the stud around, of course. And now that’s possible, so that is the direction I’m moving. I was considering getting a bull soon after moving to Sassafras Farm, but I’ve rethought that idea now. Cows are pregnant for nine months. I don’t want a fall or winter calf. I would prefer a spring or summer calf. I’m going to wait until later in the spring or in the early summer to bring a bull here, and hope for a better result in the timeline for calves.

I was considering getting a Jersey bull, but have also reconsidered that idea as I am turning over the notion of keeping a small herd of beef cattle. I have plenty of pasture for it, and can make some productive use of my farm that way. It will also open some various benefits/opportunities to me as a “real” farmer. I’ll probably start with the bull and see how it goes. I’ll be looking into an appropriate beef bull to work with my milking girls.

And about the milking. While I was in the middle of making a bunch of other tough decisions in October, I made a tough call on that one, too. I was getting ready to move not just a household–but an entire farm.

I sat down with BP and said, “I don’t think I can do this right now, sweetie.”

And she said, “I know you can’t, Woman. You would never have made it in a dairy.”

Before I moved, I dried her off. At that time, Glory Bee was on her second calf weaner, which she managed to throw off several days before the move. Miraculously, she seemed to be finally “cured” of her milking and she hasn’t bothered BP a bit. Weaned, at fourteen months! It’s a big accomplishment! REALLY. MAYBE. I don’t watch the cows 24/7, so I can’t be sure she’s not sneakin’.

Gorgeous creature.

So, I may be out of fresh cow’s milk for at least a solid year as I won’t be bringing a bull here until spring at the earliest. Drying off a cow that’s not bred is a hard decision, but now that I’ve lived through the past two months, I know that I made the right one. There’s a huge amount of work involved in moving an entire farm, and I needed to let go of what I could let go for the short-term and put my energies and focus on the long-term. While I miss the milk, and all that I make from the milk (and I do have some stocks of butter and cheese and milk put away, of course, that will last me for awhile), the time off milking a cow will be put to good use as I get my pastures set up, acquire a bull, consider a possible small herd, and create a well-planned milking parlor.

I’ve never had a well-planned milking parlor.

Here, I have the opportunity to create a milking parlor and prepare it in advance. I’ve milked, by hand and by machine, for a good while now, and have the working knowledge to plan a space that I didn’t have when I first brought BP home. I have a barn with water and electric here. I intend to commandeer one of the large stalls, clean it out, furnish it with a milk stand, a work table, shelves to keep various needs. A place to wash my hands, a place to wash equipment, to keep udder wash and udder cream, a cart to carry my milk back to the house, and more. I will have a clean, dry milking parlor, crafted with experience behind me. A year gives me time to put everything in place, and get it how I want it. In the meantime, if I can get set up enough to do it, I’m considering milking one of the goats. Since milking a cow provides so much milk, you kinda lose interest in milking goats. This year off for the cows gives me an opportunity to dive back into goat cheese. My milking machine can be converted to milk goats, so this, too, will be a different experience than I had before (when I hand-milked Clover), and will give me some baby steps along the way as I craft and fine-tune my parlor for the cows.

And so there is the cow situation. I’m committed to my cows, and I can’t wait to get back to milking a cow–and yet I will wait. In the meantime, BP and Glory Bee are eating their round bales, chewing their cud, and growing lazy at Sassafras Farm. BP’s probably going to forget how to work!

BP: “Shoo.”


  1. bonita says:

    So glad to see BP and GB, they look like they’re gonna get fat and sassy at SF. BP always looks so sweet and GB just can’t seem to cover up that slightly evil glint in her eye! You’ve answered my question about what use you’ll put that acreage to. I thought perhaps you might rent out pasture to neighbors until you get your footing. Non-resident visiting bull(s) could be a temp solution, too, but you sound as if you’ve got things well in hand.
    Give those two bovines kisses from us CITR followers, they were missed.

  2. WVSue says:

    Taking it a bit slower does seem a wise choice while you are in such a large transitional phase. If you are like me, the possibilites of what you can do are running amok in your mind but those ideas can get out of hand fast and before you know it you have more on your plate than you can handle. Your farm looks and sounds wonderful so enjoying it to the fullest by choosing quality projects will only enhance it with tons of fun along the way. Loving what you do is what life is all about anyway so I know you are well on your way!

  3. CATRAY44 says:

    Yahoo! I think that all sounds very wise!

  4. lattelady says:

    Thank you. I truly appreciate the bovine update.

  5. Old Geezer says:

    It looks like GB is turning into a camel!

  6. Dottie says:

    Happy to see the GIRLS again. BP looks content and beautiful as always and GB looks like she’s making BIG plans. Can’t wait to see what she’s plotting. It’s going to be interesting to watch the bad babies baby.

    Is it safe to have a bull? I have visions of MEAN ROOSTER
    times a million.

  7. Tawanka says:

    I worked for my cousin on her dairy farm for a couple of summers. You might want to hire yourself out to someone for a season to learn what’s involved in milking cows. It’s exhausting,it ties you down twice a day, you know how knee deep in poop you will be but it will have to be periodically scooped and spread over the fields. You will need a lot more heavy equipment and a truck to feed every winter day. And flies, the flies will be horrendous. Your farm will not be near as pretty as it is now. Stick to goats.

  8. Glenda says:

    Thanks for the update; I have been wondering.

    I think you made a wise decision. Take it slow and easy this time around.
    Get the pastures good and tight and then buy the extra cows. Chasing animals around isn’t my idea of a good time!

  9. brookdale says:

    Thanks for the cow update. I was wondering if you were still milking, with everything you’ve been doing with the move and all. Wise choice! You have all winter to plan. (That’s what farmers do, use the winter to plan and get ready for the spring.) Best wishes to you and your family.

  10. Andrea.tat says:

    Sounds like you’ve got a good plan, it’s always better when you can hold back and map things out (which I never realize until I’m knee deep into something :p) BP will enjoy a year being queen of the farm while not having to do anything!

    I have confidence you shall find a sexy stud that’s not totally unnaproachable for your ladies! The second bull I remember my grandparents’ having with their beef cattle was actually really sweet. The first one I remember… not so much.

  11. steakandeggs says:

    Sounds to me you have given the cows a lot of thought. Planning to have spring calves is a good ideal. It’s really just round the corner. This should give BP a rest so she will ready for a bull. Just remember to put a bull in a couple of months before want the calves. I had some cows that will bred every 11 months and some will take up to 14 to 15 months.

    Dottie: Most bulls are safe. I had roosters I was more afraid of the any bull I have ever had. We have a Charolais bull now. He is so gentle the only time I think he may hurt me is when I have a bucket of feed, and then only because he will walk all over me to get the feed. He really loves feed. Of course he is still a bull, and with any bull I keep my eye on him. Any bull can hurt you.

  12. Remudamom says:

    I see you’ve already been warned about bulls. Just remember to watch your back. Please.

  13. Flowerpower says:

    I had noticed you hadn’t said anything much about the girls…but you have been so busy. I had seen them in the pictures and I knew they had been moved for sure. Having a resident bull would solve some problems and create others. That decision is totally up to you.
    I am quite sure that cookies can soothe any savage beast! :happyflower:

  14. lberry says:

    😕 Speaking as someone who has a few Cows, beef Shorthorns mostly for kids to show, AI is easier than dealing w a bull and his drama. Fences you think are sturdy enough they laugh at. AI takes a regiment thats spans 10 days or so but you only need to do something on a few of them rest is waiting time. Whoever AI s will know if her heat is good and 21 days later a simple (you can do it) tube of tail blood goes to lab (under 5.00 a cow) and you know results in 3 days tops by email. :moo:

  15. Pete says:

    Just to back up what Suzanne has already shared – AI is just not as common here in WV as it is in other parts of the country. Could be any number of reasons for that, but the bottom line is that the usual practice here is to have only a few head of cattle and let nature take it’s course.

  16. LK says:

    I have heard that dairy bulls are usually crazy and mean, more so than most beef bulls and if they want to go through something, they just do. We were told this from a dairy farmer who used to have some bulls for his dairy herd and also from other cattle farmers.

    My husband says that he has been followed around like a puppy dog by a HUGE (sorry, don’t remember his weight) bull, so close that he could feel his breath on the back of his neck. (me…ACK!) He said that he was told, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly,” so he figured that he would just continue to feed those cattle, but just to be a bit more watchful. He said that even a big, friendly bull who wants to rub up against you or maybe even play can be dangerous. Yeah, no kidding. He also said that if you want them to move, you wait on them. If it takes a while to get them loaded, so be it, and that is what I remember as a kid. There is no pushing a bull.

    The dairy farmer that we got our jerseys from bred to black angus for his jersey/beef cross. He says that they make good house cows (he means they give a more moderate amount of milk) for people who wish to have both beef and milk, and are VERY popular. They make a good stocky animal and they look VERY nice too. I really love the look of a black angus on green hills. BEAUTIFUL!

    If we breed to beef, that will be our choice. If we go dairy this next time, we are considering guernsey.

  17. Bev in CA says:

    Even with the acreage you have it doesn’t take much to over graze. You know feed gets expensive. You will need a steel chute for times you have to medicate, etc. Some bull breeds are noted for their disposition. My concensus is that most bull are dangerous and there is no room for error.

  18. Jersey Lady says:

    Have you given up on AIing BP and GB? The Vet can give shots to bring them both in heat at the same time and then the dairy guy in your area can come breed them. There is no watching for heat or anything. That is how we did our Lily&RoseHeifers so they will both be fresh and ready to sell at the same time in May. EasyPeasy and they both settled on the first try.

  19. Jane L says:

    Sounds good to me! Are you going to hire a farmhand to give you some help? I love your ideas for your place, and I applaud your courage and gumption:) Don’t be afraid – that’s what this post says to me.

  20. InHiminTX says:

    Suzanne, my grandfather had a dairy in Lousiana. He had jerseys. He said that the meanest animal on earth is a jersey bull. Most dairies do not keep a bull. They do AI. I don’t know about other breeds of dairy cattle, but Jersey bulls are notorious for being vicious. Our son-in-law has a little dairy (like you are contemplating) with about 8 cows and he had kept a young bull, planning to use it. Before it was old enough to breed the cows, it gored one of the cows so severely that it threw her over a fence and seriously hurt her. He got rid of the bull and they are going the AI route. On the other hand, jersey cows are some of the best natured animals on the planet. Go figure. Beef bulls are very different from dairy bulls. They are big clumsy, goofy guys and they make nice pets. Using an angus bull has several advantages. Angus have smaller heads and therefore it is easier for heifers to deliver a calf that has been sired by an angus. Angus are easy-keepers, needing less feed to stay fat. Angus beef is considered the best by most consumers. So, the idea of having an angus bull makes sense. Having a jersey bull doesn’t.

  21. Diane Gordon says:

    Good to see BP and Glory Bee! BP has had a busy couple of years and she says that she needs a vacation!

  22. Kelly in TX says:

    Being from Texas, too, I second the recommendation by InHiminTX for black angus if you want to go the beef route. They can be quite gentle and are not gigantic but have a very nice return on your feed investment. Gald to see the girls are enjoying their new digs.

  23. Window On The Prairie says:

    Beef cows?? Now you’re talking my language. We have 50+ of them including a couple of bulls. Ours is a cow/calf operation. The cows are bred every summer, they have their calves in March and April, and then the calves are sold the following January at auction. I have a bunch of posts on my blog about our cattle if you’re interested.

  24. luckyfarmlisa says:

    Check out British White cows. We have a small family dairy and did try the Jersey Bull. Any comments about them being too mean are accurate. We raised ours from birth – loved him so very much until his manly hormones turned him into a blankety blank overnight. The British White is a wonderful dual purpose animal – even if you get females from your Jersey mamas, you will be very happy.

  25. Murphala says:

    :moo: Good to see the cows back on the blog. They make me happy. :happyflower:

  26. steakandeggs says:

    Our first bull was full-blood reg. Black Angus bull. When we sold him he was 2100 pounds. That’s a lot of hamburger meat. Like LK said just let a bull go at his on speed. Some breeds are gentle and some are not. I found that the bulls we had loaded easier than the calves. The bull and cows go to the vet if sick or need shots.

    I heard that Jersey bulls are mean too. My great uncle had a dairy. My mother told us that he had a Jersey bull that ran off a bank into the stock tank and drown. Must have been one crazy bull. He said he was a really nice bull and sure hated to lose him. Bet he was thinking about how much money he had lost.

  27. Tawanka says:

    OMG I did not mean to offend you. You have been my favorite website for 2 years. I know how hard the milking was for you during the winters and rains. Milking 1 cow and milking a herd is night and day. I saw how hard it was on my cousin. She had no “man” on the place but built a milk parlor to milk 50 cows a day by herself. She suffered a broken leg and broken ankles at various times pushing cows around. It is one of the hardest jobs I can think of. Have you ever considered alpacas? I hear their wool is extremely profitable and they hum. I think that would be so pleasant. Best of luck.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Tawanka, thanks. I do not intend to milk a herd! I will only milk one cow. I’m not interested in having a dairy. A milk cow is for personal use to me. I do know what kind of mess cows can make if the space is limited. I’m talking about having three or four cows in about 50 times the space I had two cows at Stringtown Rising, so I think it will be okay. I’m moving toward beef cows, only keeping one cow in milk for me. Sometimes people leave comments and I can’t tell if they have read my blog enough to know what I have been doing, so don’t worry about it!

  28. MMHoney says:

    A bull is a bull- is a bull…. any way you wrap it- it is still a bull. If you calculate all of the space and feed you would find they are a liability in more ways than one. If you are going into cattle in a BIG way and had help to manage those roaring hormones but I can’t see your pretty fences doing the job. SORRY.

  29. CATRAY44 says:

    One thing I think we can be sure of… Suzanne will do her homework and she will find the way that works for her and it will be amazing to watch. I know we all consider our selves her friends, but I hope we stay respectful. Even though she shares so graciously, it is still her land, her animals and her plans to implement.

  30. tnfarmgirl says:

    From one single farm girl to another…you do have to be careful of bulls. Never keep a dairy bull – they are the most aggressive and most dangerous. A good match for a Jersey is an Angus bull – they tend to throw small babies which makes it easier for our girls to calve. They don’t tend to be aggressive – but…never turn your back on one.

    I’m so excited for you as you begin this new adventure – I began mine about 5 years ago….what a wonderful learning experience. Your farm looks beautiful. I look forward to reading more!

  31. Sheila Z says:

    Have you concidered getting a started bull calf and raising him until next fall, letting him breed your girls and then eating him? It would get the girls bred and then you wouldn’t have to keep a grown bull around for a year (with no work to do) until the next time you wanted one for breeding. Adult bulls are difficult to deal with and only having a herd of 2 cows to breed is going to make for one frustrated bull. Another thought is that you might be able to rent a bull from someone nearby. Run him in your pasture for a month or two with your girls. Glory Bee is certainly old enough now. Has anyone mentioned that it might be doubtful that your old girl will breed back again. Once they have been open for a long time they tend to go cystic and it becomes difficult to get them bred.

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