When we started the farm, our meandering, vague business plan was to do a sort of "homesteading plus" -- raise things we'd want to eat ourselves, plus some extra, and sell the extras, learn the ropes of raising x, y and z, decide what we liked and what there was a market for, and so on. It sounded so smart and so...manageable. We patted ourselves on the backs for not throwing ourselves and our money/credit into one or two potential money-makers.
|Money-maker Scar, who, at this very moment, is adding some souls to the pig herd. Go, mama, go!|
|What be these?|
However, we've still been interested in the self-sufficiency idea. We have a lot of people coming to the farm, which we love (and actually, at this point, REQUIRE), and having freezers full of meat and a garden full of produce is a huge help in feeding hungry farmhands. Not to mention ourselves...our city-folk appetites have probably tripled since carrying buckets and walking all day became the norm.
We still find ourselves at the grocery store fairly often. We go through a gallon of milk in 4 days, a quart of yogurt in 3, wedges of cheese disappear into eggs and roasted vegetables, and sour cream is dolloped out onto just about everything these days, from tortilla chips to eggplant dips. Some homesteading projects are worth it economically. And also, some of them are just plain fun.
This is Beulah. She is a jersey-holstein cross, and she is very cute.
She's 8 weeks old, still drinking milk replacer out of a calf nipple bucket, still not to keen on walking politely on her lead, still figuring out grazing and her long legs.
In the past week, I've been cramming to learn how to appropriately train her to be our milk cow. A lot of behaviors need to be taught when the cow is still your size (or, in our case, already slightly heavier), or you'll be stuck with 1,000 pounds of stubborn. Or worse -- 1,000 pounds of aggressive.
So, I walk Beulah to and fro through the barn yard, swatting her nose with a switch cut from the lilac bush if she gets too pushy with me. I introduce her to the pigs, the chickens, the indoors, thunderstorms, dark places, being manhandled while she is eating, generally anything I can think of that she will need to know (except, so far, the electric fence. I am at a loss as to how to do that one safely...).
So far, she doing pretty well with her milk cow training. She is definitely pushing boundaries, but she does respond quickly when I push back.
We can breed her in 10 months, she will calve in another 10 (ish), and then we will be raking in 6 gallons of milk a day for everything from butter to cheeses galore.
I've read a lot about the relationship between a farmer and her milk cow, and I have to say, it is indeed easy to fall in love with them. Especially on a farm where most of the animals will be dinners within eight months, having a working animal that will be productive and a critical part of the farmstead for ten or twelve years makes quite a different kind of impression. I am allowed to like this one.
Of course, I can't let her know that yet. Until she grows up and I'm sure that she is gentle, respectful of my personal space and keeps her kicks to herself, no doting is allowed.