brown cow face head close up

Up to Speed: Holly

One Year Ago:

Meet Holly. You’ll have to excuse her terrified expression. You see, she’s six years old and has never been off the Amish farm where she was born until now. She had just had her first trailer ride and this was probably her first photo session.

It took one bag of milk replacer at $50 for 25 pounds of processed calf feed and I simply couldn’t stand the thought of nourishing the little heifer I hope will provide my family with a future decade of milk with it.

Dried whey, soy flour, animal fat (preserved with BHA, BHT, citric acid & ethoxyquin), dried whey protein concentrate, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, L-lysine, dried skimmed milk, lecithin, sodium silico aluminate, DL-methionine, ethoxylated mono-diglycerides, propylene glycol, ferrous sulfate, magnesium sulfate, choline chloride, artificial flavor, vitamin E supplement, maltodextrin, selenium yeast, brewer’s dried yeast, zinc sulfate, vitamin A supplement, manganese sulfate, vitamin D3 supplement, copper sulfate, ascorbic acid, niacin supplement, calcium pantothenate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), biotin, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, calcium iodate, folic acid, cobalt sulfate.

I know a lot of those are vitamins (that she probably can’t absorb) but there are also some obvious red flags (like BHA, BHT, soy, propylene glycol, maltodextrin, artificial flavor) that are commonly known unnatural and unhealthy additives.

And with that price tag added to what it might cost to enter into a milk share (the only legal way to get raw milk in our state) it seemed like a nurse cow might earn her keep pretty quickly.

A check of Craigslist turned up nothing in the way of Dexters. We now have the acreage to support a Jersey and there were certainly many more options available to us, ranging in price from $200-$1100, but among those only a handful were mid-lactation. Bill called on them and we narrowed the field down to one cow who was about 3 hours away. Before we went that route though, we thought it best for him to go down to the Amish grocer at the bottom of the hill and find out who the local dairy farmers were.

He got some names and met with one in his barn that evening at milking time. The farmer is Amish, has about 50 head of Jersey cattle, grazes rotationally, offers grain only at milking (just like we do) and he and Bill hit it off. He took pity on us and offered us one of his herd, Holly, a shortbred cow who has a mild case of mastitis in one of her rear quarters. This is her second case of mastitis she’s had in her life and they both felt that she’d be an ideal nurse cow for us knowing the calf sucking would help clear the infection right up. He said he’d take $500 for her, less than he’d get from the slaughterhouse and only $25 more than a check of overpayment that had just come in the mail from our previous mortgage.

We waited a couple days, prayed about it, asked for advice from you all on Facebook and when Maby was 6 days old, her new mama came home to live with us.

Ben (well all the little ones really) have become experts at signaling while Daddy backs up trailers over the course of the last month! Cracks me up!

We put Holly in a stall with Maby and gathered around to watch. Maby smelled her and literally danced in circles around her for about 5 minutes! It was precious to see her excitement.

(Feed & email readers may need to click through to see all of the cuteness of those first moments together.)

After she calmed down, Maby started licking Holly all over. She knew there was milk nearby, but couldn’t figure out just where to get it from. After a few minutes though, she struck gold and found her source of nourishment.

Even though in the past couple of years we did once a day milking until it was time to start weaning the calf where we then switched over to twice a day for the duration of Maybelle’s lactation, this time we’re keeping Holly on the schedule that she’s used to and bringing her in at 6am & 6 pm. We’re keeping all of the morning milk and have been getting about 3 1/2 gallons from only 3 quarters. Maby then stays with her all day, drinking as she pleases. At night, we’re bringing her into the stanchion and letting the calf do most of the milking before we separate her from Holly for the next 12 hours. Holly gets brushed while she munches some grain and hay and when the calf is done, Bill & Jared finish milking her out. If she still looks full, they’ll wash her down and save the milk, if not the chickens (or the microbes in the garden) get a treat.

We checked the infection last night and it is improving and nearly gone!

We are so grateful for the Provision!

Even though it’s a difficult 3 months drinking water with breakfast while we wait for a cow to freshen, the seasonality of milk has truly has made me appreciate the gift of it all the more! It is so indescribably delicious and refreshing and it feels very satisfying knowing that I’m giving my baby’s (born and unborn) one of the most abundant and nutritious substances our farm can produce!

That said, I’m seriously having a great deal of trouble keeping up with her milk!

Maybelle never gave that much at one milking (at her peak she was at 2 gallons in 12 hours). I’ve made ricotta which tasted wonderful, but the yield was low, yogurt, cultured some of the milk, and tried my hand at butter making. The first batch turned out beautifully (shown above), the second I tried to culture and it was pale and tastes off to me.

Today, my second batch of mozzarella is going. I thought the first one wasn’t quite right. The whey separated too fast while the curd was forming after adding rennet and then the mass was a little loose and grainy. This second batch had the same thing happen to it. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong- if I should let the rennet work it’s magic longer- although that’s not going to help with the whey separating during that step… Or if her milk is on the acidic side already and I need to add less citric acid. The rennet is newly purchased. Perhaps I should stop being cheap and spring for animal rennet. It’s said to have more consistent results and if there is one thing that drives me crazy about cheesemaking, it’s inconsistency.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to getting some feeder pigs soon so they can help me keep up!

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  1. Yay! I am so glad that Maby has a new “mama”. 🙂
    This makes me want a dairy cow all the more! How much pasture do you think a jersey would need?

    I too, can’t WAIT for you to take a ton of pictures of your new homestead. How exciting!

    And the cat relieving himself in your sons lap…. oh. my. word….. I about gagged! It was the worm thing that got to me….. so gross. I chuckled as I read it aloud to my children. 🙂

    Take care and I look forward to *visiting* with you as you post here on your blog.


  2. How wonderful! What a perfect solution! I know what you mean about ‘swimming’ in milk. Yeah. Looking forward to it and dreading the worl all at the same time! 🙂

  3. Oh my goodness ~ Holly is AMAZING Quinn! When Bessy was put in with the adopted calf she was rushing around & around trying to get away from the calf & butting it with her head. We thought the calf would end up dead. Yours is a perfect adoption!!! I hope you enjoy all that milk & let us know how you use it ~ you are always full of wonderful ideas!
    Have a wonderful day
    I have a calf to check on & then school to get going ( shouldn’t blog in the morning I know, but I checked my email & there your post was & I just had to catch up on my commenting…)