Last Monday, Dan had to go out of town for work. He wasn't sure if he'd be gone for the day or for the better part of the week. While I am very comfortable with all the animals, things always seem to go a bit goofy when I'm here alone. I admit, I checked outside more than usual just to make sure the horses and cows were inside the pasture fence. I also knew I had a very pregnant cow in the barn, but since Dan didn't say anything when he did morning chores, I didn't check on her during the day. At evening chore time, I entered the barn and turned on the lights. Finni was up, but definitely wet in the back end. Oh NO! I thought, what if she has trouble, I'm here by myself, she's a first time mom and you never know how that will go, what if she won't take care of the baby, what if she gets super protective with those horns?!? So many thoughts went through my head. Then I looked into the stall. There was a half-dry calf on the ground already, no help needed. As I poured water into Finni's empty bucket, the calf jumped to its feet. I could tell that the calf was strong and by the look of its belly, it had already nursed, so Finni became a mom, and a good one, during the afternoon without any pesky humans around. I also saw that we have a little heifer, a girl. I was elated and couldn't wait to tell Dan. He was just as excited as I, and also relieved that everything went smoothly. Even though he got home very late that night, he couldn't wait to walk down to the barn and meet our new little girl, who I have named Pixie.
One of the main reasons we got Dexters was to provide milk for ourselves. We're not interested in becoming a dairy or selling any milk, it's simply too much on top of what we already do, but we have been excited about doing this for ourselves for some time. We waited a few days, because the milk is actually colostrum for the first three days, and we weren't interested in drinking that, and it's so important for the calf's health that she gets lots of it for her immune system to start up properly. So, on Thursday, we set out, stainless milk pail in hand, to see how Finni would take this new adventure. I love Finni, and think it's awesome that she had horns, she just looks like an old-fashioned family cow. But I've seen wool hanging from the ends of them when the sheep got too close to her feed outside- she knows just how to use them, and they are pointy! I remembered how Lil kicked when we tried to milk her last year, all I could think was that this time, there would be danger from both ends! Why did I think a horned milk cow would be such a cool idea? So we tied Finni up very short, and Dan agreed to try milking her at first, both because he's milked by hand many times and I haven't, and so if anyone got kicked, it would be him, not me. (Who says chivalry is dead?) My job was to give Finni small amounts of feed to distract her and keep her calm. The first day, it was a bit hard because she kept knocking her feeder off of the boards and getting upset when it landed out of her reach. We fixed this the next day by using a rubber pan that sits on the ground. We've milked nightly since and Finni has never once kicked. She doesn't even swish her tail and hit Dan with it, which is another common thing cows do when they aren't happy to be milked. She has been a perfectly cooperative lady so far. The only downside has been that we aren't getting much milk, but we had not tried separating her from the calf. We're planning on keeping them separate for a few hours, milking Finni so we get a decent amount, then letting the calf nurse naturally for the rest of the day. This way, we'll get milk and so will the calf- we won't have to bottle feed her expensive milk replacer. We're having fun with this new adventure, and I am thrilled that my little cow has taken to supplying us with milk so gently!
Dan & Finni on our first try