Monday, June 11, 2012

Family Cow Chronicles Vol. 1

It never occurred to me that keeping a cow so close to the city would be challenging in the ways it has been.  Not that she is a challenge herself, or that we don't have enough space for her, it's just that it is extremely difficult to find the services we need for her close by.  And transporting a cow is not the same as making a quick trip to the vet with a goat.  Not the same at all.  Very few people keep a family cow these days so even just finding someone experienced to talk to was difficult, although I now have a small handful of wonderful people who have been so generous and knowledgeable, having patience with my unending questions.

I have been learning ALOT about cows lately.  Like how they bellow their heads off when they are coming into heat (every 21 days).  Yes, our beautiful Ginger, who was bred in February to a strapping Jersey bull, went back into heat!  We have learned that it is not uncommon for this to happen when a heifer is bred so young.  All in all, it was best for Ginger to grow a little more before we bred her again and best for us because we could breed her to a mini jersey bull, which is what we wanted.  So, with alot of research, I found a very
knowledgeable artificial insemination technician who came up from Hollister to breed her last week.  Artificial insemination is a whole world of information...where to purchase the semen, whether to breed on the natural heat or do a fixed AI, these are all things we have been discussing and feeling rather like cow nerds.  But oh, it's all so fascinating.

hoof trimming at the Cotati Large Animal Hospital
Meanwhile, before we bred Ginger we took the opportunity to get her all ship shape with vaccines, a little hoof trim, and the not so little procedure of removing her horns.   The horn removal was traumatic for her and a hard, emotional decision to make.  But since I'm the one who is working with her on a daily basis and her horns were only going to get bigger, I opted to have them removed.  She was already beginning to push up against my legs and those horns hurt! The first day or so after the procedure she was not quite herself, but it's been several weeks and she is almost all healed up.

Getting Ginger in the stanchion
The artificial insemination was quick and went smoothly.  We ended up using semen from here.  Bob Honey is the sire.  Supposedly he passed away years ago but his semen lives on in a liquid nitrogen tank. Ginger was bred on her natural heat so we will wait 21 days and if she does not go back into heat then we can safely assume she's pregnant. If she does go back into heat we will do a fixed AI, which is where the technician inserts something called a CIDR.  After seven days the CIDR is removed and then 54 hours later the cow is inseminated. Most people who practice fixed AI do so to synchronize estrus in their herd, causing the whole herd to go into heat at the same time, making insemination easier for the farmer. 

AI technician inserting the semen
Like I said, we are learning so much and falling deeper in love with Ginger every day.  Stay tuned for more Family Cow Chronicles to come.  

PS.  A special book given to me...Caring For Cows, by Valerie Porter.  (Specifically about holistic and organic animal husbandry.)

Photo By Lori Eanes

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