Shades of Ireland

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Holly's Story

Since there has been a sudden influx of readers who aren't my facebook friends, I thought I might explain how I came to have "Queen Holly".

To most of my friends and neighbors, I am known as "The Goat Lady". I have not always been flattered by that nickname. I have owned and milked dairy goats for most of the last ....... 25 years. When people ask me how many I have, I never tell them because my husband is usually nearby. I am certainly not going to write it here because on occasion he reads this. I will say that my herd is dramatically smaller since our move to this farm. I have freshened as many as 40 one year. I never really cared anything about milking a cow. Cows kick much harder than goats.

A few years ago my teenage daughter decided that she wanted a Milking Shorthorn for a 4-H project. One of her 4-H buddies just happened to have some for sale. We ended up with two heifers, Red and Wilma. When these two beauties freshened, Salena was more than faithful to milk them twice a day--- every day. We rigged up the goat milking machine for them since they gave soooooo much milk. After a while, we grafted some nurse calves on them to help reduce the flow.
I got used the routine but never felt comfortable around them..... they sometimes kicked, knocked you around, and were just so big and........ cow-ish!

This is Seth babysitting Wilma at the county fair last July. She is a real beauty and due to freshen in just a few weeks. Like most animals on our farm, she is also pretty spoiled..... Red will freshen much later in the summer.

I then happened upon a pair of Jerseys milk cows for sale. They were a mother-daughter duo. The mother, Nana, was 10 years old and quite a headstrong cow. Not really tame enough to pet and hard to catch but pretty easily milked--- by Salena. Her daughter, Pauline, was 8 and a much smaller petite beauty. A friend had a houseful of kids and they really needed a small gentle milk cow--- so I reluctantly sold Pauline. In March, two years ago, there was a terrible snowstorm-- sort of like the one today--- and Nana slipped and broke her hip.
Just before Christmas, Neil and I went to the stockyards on cow sale day to eat at their resturant for lunch. That is our idea of a date. My daughter worked in the office and automatically handed us a buyer number. We laughed because we weren't planning on buying anything. Ha, ha, ha......

Bottle calves and few cows with calves had ben run through the ring, when suddenly they pushed in this Jersey milk cow and two little dinky calves. She looked terrible---- a slobbering, walking skeleton. The little calves were pitiful and looked even worse than she did. I grabbed Neil's arm and began nudging him pretty hard.  Neil leaned forward and put his head down..... He knew where this was going. Under his breath, he told me to sit still and he would bid on her but not the calves...... We still are not sure what happened but somehow, they suddenly put up the "no sale" and pushed her out. I stood right up and headed down the stairs and every old man in the sale barn started grinning at me-- they all knew that I was going to dicker for that cow.
All that I am going to say is that it was  unpleasant dealing with the man who had brought her to the sale. When it was over, I went home to get my stock trailer. I did not buy the calves because quite honestly, they were too far gone.
When Seth and I came back to get her, I had no idea what kind of cow we were getting. The guy on horse back pushed her down the alleyway to the load out chute. He had many unkind things to say about her former owner but I assured him that better days were ahead for this poor girl. Seth walked up to her and put a halter on her. He lead her up to the trailer but she did not want to get on so I got behind her and pushed---me with my ingrained fear of being kicked by a cow. She loaded right up and we went home.

The entire time, she was slobbering profusely and constantly working her tongue around in her mouth. I thought that her water source had been frozen and that she had frostbitten her tongue trying to get water. She also had a large swelling under her jaws...... I decided toplay it safe and gave her a shot of LA200 (tetracycline). She wanted to eat and drink but simply couldn't....... I began to have a strong feeling that something was seriously wrong and hit the internet. She looked exactly like the pictures of cows with wooden tongue. Luckily, it said that if you treated it early with LA200, it was curable. Severe cases needed and IV drug from the vet. Untreated-- they starve to death. It was 2 days before Christmas and I just felt that it was best to haul her in to the vet and get the IV. She was in terrible shape and it would just be my luck that she would go down on Christmas morning -- HO, ho, ho..... in to the vet we go.

 This vet also works the salebarn and had inspected this cow. He knew that she had it..... this was some kind of an inside deal and there was supposed to be a buyer at the sale specifically for her. The buyer asked the vet for his opinion and when he realized that she was sick-- he backed out.
Since I had given her the shot, she was already improving but after the IV, she really got well fast. I bought a bag of rabbit pellets so she could eat those smaller pellets and hauled her buckets of warm water. This picture was taken a few days later when she began to look like she might make it after all.

All during this ordeal, she had to be milked. I broke all the rules for buying a milk cow. I am already leary of milking bovines and here I brought home one that we had no idea if she had ever been milked! We didn't have any kind of a set up--- heck--- I didn't even have a clean milk bucket. We plopped down a pan of feed and Seth braced himself as he hung onto the lead rope. Being the old, fat, stiff-jointed woman that I am, I eased down and hastily rubbed her udder. She made no move so I got a little braver. It quickly became obvious that as long as there was soft feed in front of her, milking was not a problem.  Sometime, somewhere in her past, she had been somebody's gentle milk cow.

Over the next few days, she totally stole my heart. She was miserably sick and was so incredibly sweet. I was hooked and named her Holly. I was still very timid about getting down there so close to those hind legs to milk. She is pretty small...... Finally I just gave up and got down on my knees and began milking her. Her udder was a chapped, cut up mess and very sore. If I got a sore spot,she would pick up her foot but not kick..... As the udder healed up, I switched to the machine. One quarter is dead, and one is too badly damaged to milk with the machine. So we devised a system. I use the goat milker on the two good teats and hand milk the mangled one. She gives 3-4 gallons a day.

Now days, Holly is standing at gate demanding to be let in RIGHT NOW! I still don't restrain her and often while I am down there on my knees in a totally vulnerable position, it occurs to me that she could kick me into next week..... I find myself leaning my forehead against her flank... I make sure that the milkers are warm before I attach them, I also have the udder balm warming while we are milking. Seth disgustedly hauls a bucket of warm water for her to drink after her meal.

She makes me very happy.

This picture was taken a couple of weeks after she arrived. Whole different attitude! The sale barn markings and tags had not worn off yet. She is much more beautiful now......and about 100 pound heavier. She also plans to go to the county fair with Red and Wilma this year.

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