We were having a problem with flies on Puzzle causing her to fidget and sometimes kick during milking. Matt Colvin pointed us to a tip about using cheap mint mouthwash as a fly spray for cows. It works, at least to some extent for some milkers. Maggie, who is best with the cows, says she sprays the mouthwash to spray Puzzle’s underside, which chases the flies away from areas where Puzzle can’t flick them with her tail. Chris and Matthew claim they aren’t getting near as good results, but short of putting the situation under a microscope we can’t say if they are doing it wrong, or they have different standards for when the kicking/fidgeting problem is solved, or maybe Puzzle just responds to them differently.
Progress has been slow on getting the perimeter fence up, mostly because it is a two-person job and has been hard for me to find time to get out and help Chris with it. But until it is done we won’t be able to start strip-grazing the cows on larger paddocks, and until then the kids will continue to struggle with moving the electric-netting paddock every two days. So Maggie is going to take over as Chris’s helper on that job, since she is more available than me (and in truth my role isn’t very demanding, just time-consuming). If we were only dealing with Puzzle and Dory (and even Chuck, who is now about six months old) we could probably use just single-strand electric fencing to keep them in even before the perimeter fence is done. But the younger calves are rambunctious (or “stinkers,” in the kids words) and barely even respect the netting.
Although there is a lot of potential beef out in the field, none of it will be ready to slaughter for another year or so. In the meantime we’re arranging with a neighbor to split a cow that a friend of his has raised. The split will be 25% for him and 75% for us, which means we’ll probably have to buy another small freezer to store it all along with the rest of the stuff we freeze.
On Thursday Dory had her calf. Up till then there wasn’t much in the way of signs, except that her udder had swollen to such a size that we were concerned. Whoever did the Thursday morning milking reported that there was no change in Dory; ninety minutes later Maggie looked out the window and saw a new calf in the field. (Picture after the jump.)
The vacuum pump for our portable milker is being repaired, so for now we have two cows that need hand-milking. Dory was very swollen, and at some point in the milking her milk would come out pink, which of course worried us. Nothing we could find in our books or on the internet talked about it specifically. But at church Sunday we talked to some expert milkers, who told us that it wasn’t anything to worry about; probably the calf had just butted his mother’s udder too hard while nursing and burst a blood vessel. Just keep discarding the milk until the bleeding stops. Another thing we’ve added to our list of cow knowledge that doesn’t seem to be written down anywhere.