Monday, April 16, 2012

Adventures With Lucy the Family Cow

Yes, Lucy and not Molly.
There was a gut feeling that led us to Lucy, so we decided to follow that instinct and go with Lucy instead.
But, I am rushing ahead.

This weekend I taught the Basic Bee Keeper's Course and it was really, really good. I had a group of 5 families and they were all lovely and friendly.

Indiana was a trooper and spent about 3 hours the day before helping me inspect hives and move nucs into full hive bodies. We also assembled our observation hive. It was awesome and the kids loved watching the bees.

I know what to include or delete from my course next year and that made the day a learning experience for me as well.

Here is a quick video I made showing the queen laying eggs.

Afterwards we invited some friends over and had a little cook out on the deck.

After we gorged on cheeseburgers, Indiana got the fire pit lit and we had smores.

It was a great day and so we followed it with another great day of driving  a couple of hours to pick up Lucy.

We bought her from a commercial dairy that was culling their older heifers. Now, usually a commercial dairy will cull heifers when they are about 4 but this dairy had some heifers as old as 12! I liked that they kept a low number of heifers (about 100) and they also kept them on pasture. Yep, pasture.  It's unusual but explains why their heifers are still going strong past the age of 4.

This is Lucy as soon as we got her home and unloaded. We were able to rent a stock trailer from the local farmer's coop for $35, which is a good deal if you ask me.
We were only home about an hour before we had to milk Lucy, too. comes the fun part, right?

This is the part where I must explain that this heifer was not used to being around dogs, lots of kids, and chickens and goats. She was in a new environment and I was not sure how she would milk.

Remember that gut feeling we had? Glad we had it because Lucy is 9 years old and pretty much easy going. She let ALL of us have a shot at milking and stood there still in a strange place to allow me and Journee to finish milking her....for a little over an hour! I do not believe a young cow would have tolerated it well.

This morning I was able to get more milk from her, but she moved around quite a bit more. I kept having to move my bucket out of the way. I think she was nervous because it was dark out and the bulldog was lying next to the fence. He wasn't doing anything but his presence made her nervous. Once it was daylight she calmed down.

She has also started following me around. I think she likes us:-)

This evening Journee helped me milk and it went pretty good. She has finally started eating her grain I give her and we went and got a wee bit more so she would be nice and still. She doesn't move much, but occasionally lifts a leg a bit. She's giving us almost 3 gallons, which I think is great since we are new at hand milking. She is also due to calve the first of August, so we will have to dry her up June 1st. She's late in her lactation. Did I mention my hands are a little sore?

She's fitting in and we don't mind the work.
I told a farmer friend today that  Lucy was following me around and that I think she loves me.
Here was his response,

" The beginning of a love affair not understood and sadly missed by most in life. Being connected with your food source and knowing your animals and soil in a personal and husbandry way is fullfilling in a strange but paradoxical sense, like it's work but only if you consider it work...or you take care of them and they take care of you. Its intended or required stewardship is lost by being too civilized."

That, my friends sums it up. I had many, many people tell me only the negative aspects of getting my Lucy. All the work, the early mornings, the loss of vacation times, etc, etc.
I guess they never stopped to consider the love affair, the stewardship, or the connection. Or perhaps they don't realize it even exists because they are too busy being civilized.

Either way, the love affair has begun and so have the adventures with Lucy.

I hope you stick around to experience it with us!


  1. Lucy is beautiful, what a lovely colour!
    It would be great if everyone could/would go back to these traditional ways of feeding themselves rather than leaving it to factories and corps.

  2. hi I was just reading this post. My family is thinking about getting a cow and I was wondering how long it takes to hand milk one?

    1. Hi! The length of time to hand milk a cow depends on the cow and the person milking. Usually it takes 15-30 minutes. I do suggest a book, "Keeping a Family Cow." It will have a ton of information you will need. Congratulations on your family cow endeavor!


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