Monday, November 4, 2013

Remember the Animals Work for YOU!

Boots busy at work entertaining her Humans!

You know how sometimes a phrase will really stick in your head?  This post is about one of those phrases....Something said to me that most likely the speaker had no idea the impact of his words.

This goes back to March 2012 when we bought our family milk cow, Bambi.  We purchased Bambi from a dear farming family.  We had been buying a veggie CSA and also sides of grassfed beef from the Vaughn family of Rocky Glade Farm for many years.  They were our farmers and also our friends.  Buying a milk cow from them was the next natural step for us. 

When Bambi became available we were not quite ready.  (Are you ever completely prepared for a full-grown member of the bovine family to arrive?!!) 

On my quest to be as ready as possible, I started asking Jim Vaughn (farmer extraordinaire!) many questions.  He patiently answered me.  Thank goodness he didn't point out what a compete dodo brain I was because I would most certainly have lost my nerve. 

One thing I asked Jim about was Bambi's schedule.  You know I wanted to do this right, so I was planning to adjust my world to whatever was needed to care for Bambi. 

Jim's words were priceless.

"You don't work for the animals. 
The animals work for you."

Total light-bulb moment for me! 

In my heart, I still really wanted to know Bambi's schedule, but Jim (in great wisdom) never told me.  He wanted us to adapt Bambi to our family, not the other way around. 

As a homesteader, I am forever grateful for Jim's words of wisdom.  Applying this truth has led to many wonderful discoveries.

Becky receives a thorough cleaning from Bambi.

I'll use Bambi as an example of this. 
** Did you know that you don't have to milk a cow twice a day? 
You need to adjust their milking schedule and production to fit your needs!

** Did you know that there's no rule saying you have to milk in the morning? 
Mornings aren't good for my schedule right now, so I milk in the afternoon!

** Did you know that with some planning, you can even skip days of milking altogether?! 
Planning is the key.

** Did you know that it's absolutely fine to leave the calf with her mama to raise and skip all the complications of separating the two and feeding with a bottle? 
That's what we do!  We aren't a commercial dairy farm--there's no reason for us to act like one unless that's what fits our needs.

Bambi delivered her calf in September.  I knew that we did not have a use for 1-2 gallons of milk per day.  I have milked Bambi enough to keep her from getting mastitis, but not so much that her milk production increased. 

Just because we have a milk cow does not mean that we have to push her to full capacity with regards to milk production.  If we don't need that much milk, it's really a waste of time and resources to obtain so much.  It takes nutritional energy for Bambi to produce milk.  I would prefer she use that energy to keep her own body in good condition and prepare for her next pregnancy.  Having more milk than we can use takes up my time and energy, too.  Having a fridge full of milk is a blessing if you can use it.  If you can't, it becomes exhausting trying to find uses for an overabundance of the white stuff! (remember, more is arriving every day!)

Udder Check--back teats look a little tight--will milk just
a bit to relieve the pressure.

About 2 weeks ago, I decreased our daily milking to every other day.  I was able to do this because the calf has grown and is able to handle more of Bambi's milk production for her own growing body.  I still monitor Bambi every day.  If one of the teats is engorged (typically one of the back teats since they aren't as easy for the calf to nurse from), I milk just a bit out of it.  "Just a bit" is key here.  I'm just wanting to relieve the pressure, not stimulate increased production.

In the near future, we will need to separate Bambi and her calf the night before I want to milk her.  They will be next to each other, just not close enough for the calf to nurse. 

All of this is a natural progression as the calf grows and consumes more milk.  Don't worry about stealing milk from the calf.  The calf is already eating grass and drinking water just fine.  Having mama's milk is a bonus for her health and nutrition.  She'll still get plenty of milk even on the days that I milk Bambi.

I hope this encourages you to Let the Animals Work for You!  (Thanks Jim!)

many blessings,

But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.     Matthew 6:33-34

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