Saturday, July 24, 2010

Maggie's progress.

Who is Maggie? Maggie is our female bottle calf. She got her name because one day when I was feeding her, she popped the nipple off the bottle and sucked on it by itself for awhile like a pacifier before dropping it - hence, Maggie. My husband's a big fan of the Simpsons.

When I found out that my husband had gotten a beef heifer, I started making big plans. Big, four to five-year plans.

First step: Tame calf. Train to walk on lead. Gentle and get her used to being touched all over.

Enter a niece and nephew who came and stayed for a week. Their job was to take a heifer who didn't like to be touched and give me back a heifer who was friendly and could walk nicely on a lead.
That picture was taken after a week of working with her. The first day was not so pretty. Little calves are amazingly strong and that calf dragged my niece from one side of the pasture to the other. It was fun to watch the two teenagers work with her and never lose their temper and, as asked to, hand me back a gentled, trusting calf at the end of the week.
So step one has been completed.

Step two: Keep her gentled as she gets older. Breed her to a dairy bull when she's old enough.

Step three: Milk her with her calf on her side. Here is where my plan could take longer - if she has a bull calf, I'll breed her back to the dairy bull again and pray for a heifer. If she has a heifer calf, I'll work with the heifer calf like I'm working with Maggie now to gentle her.

Step four: When the heifer calf is old enough, I'll breed her.

Step five: Heifer calf has baby, becomes my 1/2 beef/ 1/2 dairy milk cow. Maggie becomes a friendly pasture cow.

It's a good plan. I think. It's a loooong plan.

And I'm not terribly attached to it, either. If our situation changes, I'll sell Maggie. If she doesn't end up gentle enough for a milk cow, I won't be too upset about it. If she keeps having bull calves, well, I'll get a new bull. ;-)

So that's Maggie, and that's her progress. She just spent two weeks with our cows and their calves which she really enjoyed (and it helped calm the cows down also, watching her come to us every morning and night to eat). Now that they've been taken to pasture in Wyoming, she's back in the goat pasture with her 'brothers' and getting walked every day again.

This plan is long, much longer than my normal garden/farm plans. I keep thinking I should make five- and ten-year plans, but to be honest, we don't have any idea where we'll be in that long - hopefully not here still. How far out do you plan on your farm/homestead/city yard?


Farmgirl_dk: said...

Oh, welcome Maggie!! I love your planning, Sarah - can't say I'm good (at all) at long range planning like this, but I sincerely like what you've got: an idea of how you'd like things to proceed and the flexibility to adapt when the need arises.
Love the pictures, your niece and nephew are adorable and what good work they do!

Sarah said...

Aren't they adorable, Danni? They were *so* much fun and they did a great job!

Jess said...

First, I love Maggie's name and the story behind it. Second, I think you have a great plan and I'm curious to see how it all plays out.

Me? Lately I can hardly even plan a week's worth of meals nevermind any long range farm plans around here. But I'll get there! :)

CCC said...

We used to milk the range cows that their calf died. Mostly it meant putting them in the chute and tying up a hind leg but I thought those beef cows gave just the right amount of milk for us. Holsteins give way too much milk unless you're feeding the excess to pigs. I've never had a little Jersey but would like all that cream for butter and such. Did you have an idea on what type of dairy bull to breed too?

Sarah said...

CCC, I was thinking Jersey or Guernsey (Holsteins are just too big for me), but my husband's been adding Montbeliards, Danish Reds and Swedish Reds to the breeding program where he works and he wants to see how those work out there.

I definitely want the cream.

Cindy's Custom Creations said...

I'm so glad this worked out that they could gentle Maggie. How is she faring now that she is back with her brothers?