Life and Death

Waiting, waiting, waiting. I feel like there’s been a lot of waiting for the past 6 weeks. Waiting for Olive to calve and as a result; waiting for more milk so I can a). meet my CSA orders and b). sell some milk at the market, waiting to write a blog post about it, waiting to move two of my nearly dry cows out of the milking herd, waiting to know if Olive was going to have a heifer or a bull, waiting to know if she was going to have an easy birth or a hard one like last time, waiting for her to bloody calve!

So we waited and we waited. She was due on the 27th of Dec but showed no signs of calving or bagging up (udder growing/filling), other than being enormous. After 8 days I had a feel, there was definitely something in there! I was sure she was loosening up in preparation. We waited. Day 23 I had another feel, yep no question, there is definitely something like a small head in the pipeline. All this time Olive showed no sign of being sick and so we were happy to let her do it her way. Then 24 days after her due date we got a organics derogation to induce her. Our amazing vet Nadia came out and had a feel before planning to inject her. She then pulled out the small remains of a calf which had probably died a few months ago. All that was left was possibly the neck, a couple of feet and some ribs. Olive had shed the rest herself without me noticing and all without showing the slightest sign of something being wrong.

All that remained

So I have a healthy cow, tick, no difficult birth, tick, no need to induce, tick, however, my most consistent milkers is not in milk or in calf. A bad place to be as a dairy cow! I’ve been told many times to put her on a truck, however I’m going to give Olive another go. In a month she should be good to go back with the bull and then we wait, nine long months!

As a result of this I’ve put in my order for a new pregnant milker. Another Illawara dairy shorthorn who we’ll need to have on the property for six months for her milk to be certified organic.

Then we have Joyce. Dream cow! Calving extraordinaire.

Joyce and Willow

Two days before she’s due I drive up the driveway to see Joyce with her perfect little heifer. This cow never skips a beat. Joyce is the Buffy family line so Willow is the obvious choice for a red head. Joyce was back on the line this morning, no training required and one massive bag of colostrum which Willow has hardly made a dint on.

First day back in the milking parlour.

The first 5 days of lactation, the milk is kept out of the vat until it settles into straight milk not colostrum. As of Friday this week we will have a decent amount more milk going into the vat and out to our customers. Hopefully with the cooler weather this next week the other milkers will also increase their yield. They’ve had a drop over these hot few days, putting their energy into staying cool under the trees and not being super excited about eating.

Thank you everyone for being patient and understanding while our supply is low. Working with such a small herd leaves me very vulnerable to drops in milk. Thanks for supporting small scale dairy!

5 thoughts on “Life and Death”

  1. Wow, I was feeling overwhelmed but then I read your blog and realised that maybe I need to toughen up a bit. Hang in there, and just take the next step forward. That’s what I’ve been telling myself. I gather you are doing just that. Take care and thank you for sharing!

  2. Tessa, I often take it for granted that I will get my milk week after week to enjoy. Little do I think about the hard work, unpredictability and sheer grit that you do and have. Please know that if I don’t get my milk, I will be just fine. Thank you for sharing your plight and heart wrenching news. I am so proud to be your customer and I will always be loyal and I appreciate all that you do. THANK YOU.

  3. Duang’s comment is just how I feel. Although I live too far away to be your customer… Life and death is how it is. And heartache and joy for those of you working in the space. If only we were all so closely connected to our produce. Our appreciation would be SO much greater. I wish I knew the name of the cow who produced the milk I drank. And the person who worked day and night to help that cow to produce that milk and to get it to me. You are champs Tess and Oli! xx And Joyce, and Olive and all the rest of you beautiful cow. xxx Thank you!

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