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January 5, 2013

Oh By Gosh By Golly!

Wowzers, another holiday and New Year has passed, time certainly does march on whether we like it or not!

The holiday season found us with the college adults home, fun food preparation, a few quiet moments, and lots of laughter. I am thankful for every minute.

We have added to the pet family this holiday season, please welcome Pirate a 4 yr old Smooth Collie that came to us via Texas Collie & Sheltie Rescue. He is a sweetie!

The holiday also brought the inevitable freezing temps that require turning off and draining water pipes to the barns and livestock, not an enjoyable part of the season!

An idea, a spark of a plan has been gnawing at the back of my mind for awhile, it is time to set it free.
We have decided to move our milking herd, and our labor to a "seasonal dairy" schedule. This means in the next year we will work to change our herd and our schedule to milk in the months when grass is more readily available, ie: warmer weather, more fresh grass, more nutritious milk, faster growing calves and fewer freezing milking sessions for us. (We would still have to turn off water to save pipes, but we do not have to milk or wash up in freezing temps.)

The plan is simplistic: cows are bred to calve in the early spring, dried up in early winter and during the worst of winter they are on "dry cow" schedule, thus the cows and calves get the best pasture to grow/produce on, and we are not milking in the worst weather of the year.

Previously we have scheduled breeding so the calves come opposite each other, allowing us to have fresh milk all year. This is not really the most natural for the cattle, though it is a good  plan for those of us that love fresh milk. We have already notified the share holders of the potential change for next year. Our offer is to allow share holders to pick up a certain amount of additional milk in the last few months of milking so that they can freeze it for the dry time use. This is precisely what we will be doing, (because commercial milk is an abomination), we don't have room to store all our milk and the share holder's too. The replies have been mixed. (Our current contract states that there will be a dry time, and boarding fees are year round, just as cattle care is year round.) I know some will drop off and buy store milk, some have asked if they can just join for the fresh period, a few have been supportive and a couple have not responded at all. Oy.

What this means for the farm is that we need to sell Partytime (because she is on a fall calving schedule). That is a tough lump to swallow, as she is so personable and enjoyable and several share members state she has the best milk. The alternative is to keep her, keep milking her, or dry her off and then breed in May (the time to breed for Feb-March calves); the risk is, will she gain too much weight (if dry), and economically is it smart or feasible to carry a cow that isn't producing at all for a full year?  I do let my emotions get wrapped around every issue and this one is no exception. It is hard, but for our farm, the cows health, our sanity...we all need some down time.

She has been listed for sale, if you or anyone you know are interested, let me know or forward them the blog or my email.

Wishing you a great day, and an early Spring!

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