Monday, March 21, 2011

A fresh face on the farm (well, soon)

Ever since our Jersey Matilda lost a second quarter through the magic disappearing teat technique (it turned out the cartilage collapsed, by the way - irreversible), Don and I have discussed the idea of getting another Jersey cow.

But how to find one? Most mature cows we find for sale are culls. Matilda - much as I adore her - was a cull. Commercial dairy cows, I learned, only have a working life of four or five years. No dairy would sell a healthy young four-quartered cow, at least for anything short of a fortune.

We won't get rid of Matilda, of course. She makes beautiful calves and she's such a beloved member of the herd that she has a place on our farm for life.

But Don's been keeping an eye on Craig's List for Jerseys. We've called about a couple of animals, but either they were culls or they were too expensive.

So yesterday he called me over to his computer and showed me a new listing on Craig's List: a five-month-old Jersey heifer. The photos showed both her and her tiny udder (meaning, the sellers are cognizant about her milking potential). The price was reasonable. I immediately called and left a message and frankly didn't expect a call back - surely someone had snapped this little girl up already?

But no, the sellers returned the call a few hours later and said she was still available. All my questions were satisfactorily answered. Don and I decided to take a trip up and see her. Today.

In fact, we made a "date" of it. Don and I seldom have time together without kids along, so we left the kids at home (with a host of chores to do, poor things). It was going to be an all-day excursion because this nice homeschooling family lived on the other side of nowhere, a three-hour one-way drive.

It was a grey and rainy day. We had never traveled to the interior parts of the extreme northeast corner of Washington State before, so it was interesting to see the terrain. Once we escaped from the intensity of Spokane, the land alternated between flat open areas, steep mountains, and agricultural valleys. Yep, other side of nowhere.

We passed this drop-dead gorgeous farm on the way - I just had to take a snapshot - and it's for sale! (Too bad it was right on the road.) Anyone want a little piece of paradise in northeast Washington?

We arrived at last at the seller's farm and met our little girl. She was enchanting - healthy, leggy, good udder potential, sweet-natured, halter-broken.

Obviously the animals on this farm are well-cared for. We met the mother Jersey and while her udder wasn't quite as tight as I would have liked, it was nothing like the pendulous blob poor Matilda's udder has become. The calf's father was a high-quality A.I. (artificial insemination) bull. The nice thing about A.I. is you can choose the sire's qualities according to what you're breeding for - and can even select the gender of the calf. Amazing.

The only disadvantage we saw is the heifer hasn't been dehorned. At five months old, it's far too late to use dehorning paste, so we're faced with either the horrors of manual dehorning, or having a horned Jersey. We're not sure yet which route we'll take.

See her horn buds?

She has a very sweet disposition and, just like Matilda, wants to lick us (hence this unflattering shot of her tongue).

The bottom line is, we bought her. We paid about half down, got a receipt, and left for the long drive home, pausing first to admire the vistas from the seller's farm.

We'll probably pick the calf up next Monday. First we need to find someone's horse trailer we can borrow to bring her home, and we also need to make arrangements to stop at a vet's in Washington to get the necessary Bang's vaccination, health certificate, and brand inspection required by law to transport livestock over state lines.

On the drive home we passed some "Burma Shave"-style signs with the Ten Commandments posted by a church, which I thought was clever.

We haven't decided on a name yet, though Older Daughter suggested "Polly" which is growing on me. (I was looking for something old-fashioned, like Matilda's name.)

Oh, and the kids did all their chores too. The house looked lovely when we got home.


  1. Perhaps Pollyanna?


  2. Well, let's see...Older Daughter likes want something, say "Esther"...I have an idea...


    Jeff - Tucson

  3. I think you should call her Junior! lol

    She looks so much like a good Jersey girl should!

    Congratulations y'all!


  4. More old fashioned than "Polly?!!"

    Clever, Jeff. Very!

    Bill Smith

  5. I think she'd enjoy a flowery name. Rosebud. Or Lilac.


    LOL @ Jeff

  6. Good luck with your new little girl..I'm all for getting rid of the horns. My sister just got her cow dehorned, she said it was interesting looking into the sinus cavity, just do it when it's still cold so you don't have to worry about flies getting in.

  7. I missed the last line... Good on the girls for working through their honey-do lists.

  8. How exciting! She's a beauty too. I like the name Polly, very cute! Congrats on your new future milker...dreaming of our own here. :) Someday.

  9. I like Polly. Penelope is another good P name.

  10. One more: Looks like you've settled on Polly as a name as you are already tagging her posts as Polly. :)

  11. Polly gets my vote! I'm all for old-fashioned names--we have cats named Matilda, Jemima, Sally and Clementine.


  12. I'm partial to Polly...we had an angus/jersey mix on the home place and she gave the richest milk you can imagine.

  13. Clementine was my immediate thought as a name compatible with Matilda! She is a real beauty.

    We purchased a Jersey from up around your neck of the woods from a man who buys and sells Jerseys! She was not a bargain, but she is a very good, healthy, young cow. In your opinion, what is a "fair" price for a young (under 5 years) healthy, proven Jersey? I haven't seen anything that is not, as you say, a "cull" for less than $1500. That seems like so high! But then again, where we live, one gallon of raw milk costs $16! Not to mention the cost of raw cream, butter, cheese...the contents of my refrigerator is worth a fortune! :)

  14. I look at that face and see "Margaret"
    Love your blog!

  15. I think you should call ahead to the vet's office and ask about the dehorning. Maybe they could burn them at this point with a special dehorning iron. It's worth asking about!

  16. On the day we bring her home, the calf will already be taken from her mama, put into a horse trailer, and bumped for three hours over roads to a strange new place. On the way she'll be given a health inspection and a shot in the neck (Bang's vaccination). Dehorning manually requires lopping off the horns and burning the horn buds with a hot iron. It's traumatic for the calf (and not a lot of fun for the people either) and I think she'll be going through enough.

    We dehorned manually for years and hated it every time - that's why we now use dehorning paste. We'll probably bring our own vet in to dehorn after the heifer gets used to us and her new home.

    - Patrice

  17. We had a Jersey in the back yard when I was growing up. She was NOT dehormed. She was gentle and sweet and never hurt anyone. She had a white star in the middle of her forehead...and was named StarBaby.

  18. What a beautiful little gal! We've had Jersey's for years (we have 8 right now) and never dehorned them. Over the years, we've not had even one be aggressive with their horns. Our cows get along with each other just fine and spend their days together in the pasture chewing their cud.

    Cindy in KY

  19. Minerva is a good old fashioned name. Matilda and Minerva, sounds good together, besides it was my grandmother's name who was a wonderful Jersey farmer. They are the best kind of cow to have, gentle, good mamas, milk with great cream. Your baby is beautiful. Congrats for finding her.


  20. I remember seeing peculiar Burma Shave type signs on the western side of the Cascades when I was up there. Never made it to NE Washington yet but Lord willing I will.

  21. She is so lovely. She looks like a little version of my Dolly. Polly is a cute name. I love it.

    We know some people who raise Dexters and they had a few that didn't get dehorned early enough, so they looked into other ways of doing it and found out that they could band their horns. It works just like castration banding. They use a tight rubberband (it may even be the same size as the elastrators) and the horns just fall off after a while. Now they do that most of the time on purpose. I can't imagine if my jersey had horns, because she likes to bump us with her poll all the time. Ouch! is all I can think of if she had horns.

    So happy for you!