18 May 2014


Sasha and her baby Jerky are doing really well! 

The calf was pretty wobbly for the first few days but he is happily running around the pasture now and being adorable. 
Sasha is reliably giving me three litres of milk per day, and I know for sure the calf is getting his fill ... He only drinks from one side of Sasha's udder, the other side swells up so big he can't get a decent mouthful ... Which is why I help out with milking. I know what that fullness feels like, having once been a dairy provider myself!

Sasha gets about four pounds of alfalfa and beet pulp in a bowl when she is being milked: the supplement to her diet helps her keep production up without the potential negative effects (and added cost) of grain feeding. Four pounds is two scoops each of beet pulp and alfalfa pellets and three of alfalfa cubes, roughly, and costs about a dollar. Alfalfa and beet pulp are high in calcium and protein, and especially this time of year, when the hay is older and weathered and the grass really hasn't picked up yet growth wise, it's good to be sure Sasha has plenty of solid nutrition to support regaining her body condition after calving plus milk production. I'm trying to track how much I feed her and how much milk we get as well as how quickly the calf grows in order to get a clear idea of what her nutritional requirements are during lactation. She will get a little less once the grass comes in to better growth, as she will provide herself with enough nutrition out in the pasture, but there'll always be something in the dish ... Keeps her happy while I milk, and it's good for her. 

Lots of people keep Dexters, but not too many do the house cow share milking thing, so I'm trying to do my bit for the collective pool of knowledge by tracking and sharing what we do. 

All but two of the sheep have found new homes, so I've been giving lots of thought to our best options going forward. My present plan is to buy the new milk progesterone test (which helps identify when a cow is in heat as well as confirming a pregnancy) and then have Sasha bred with sex-selected Jersey semen: this gives us a 90% chance of having a heifer calf, which we can then raise as our second milk cow. If all goes well, we will do this again (and again) and raise Dexter/Jersey cross house cows for sale to other small holders: halter broke and trained, they will be a good addition to the farm revenues, but not be a whole lot of work, and we have the advantage of being able to keep our little herd closed, improving bio security. 

That's the current thinking, anyway. It might change ... But I think we will give it a try and see how things go. Sasha is such a great dual purpose cow, I'd love to share her legacy with others. :)

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