This year’s calves are growing nicely and milking has been going well. The calves are brought in to the barn at lunchtime and penned with hay, water and feed then the three cows, Winnie and Ace come in about 6pm.
Each calf gets let out in turn – they know the order, so it’s very calm – and as s/he feeds from one quarter, the milking machine goes on the other three. If we don’t let the calf suckle, the cows hold up their milk.
The nursing calf makes the cow let down her milk; we haven’t found a better way of doing this. It works fine with the machine, because it excludes calf slaver. Not sure milking into a bucket would be clean enough.
Across the three cows, we’re taking about ten litres a day, which means Dan can make cheddar every two or three days.
In previous years, we’ve stopped milking when the bull went in with the cows when the calves were around eight weeks old but Ace has proved to have such a good temperament that we’ve been able to continue and he just comes in with the cows, gets tied up and gets his wee bucket of sugar beet too.
A2 gene testing
We have been testing the breeding cattle for the A2 gene. The results have not been what we all had hoped for – Blizzard, Annie and Rosie are all A1/A1 – but Winnie is A1/A2.
Hair samples from Ace and the two 2017 heifer calves are away for testing now.
Since Winnie has the A2 gene, Mak must have carried it so I’m hoping that the two heifers this year also have it.
Reducing the herd
We’re selling Winnie (and Paddy, this year’s steer calf) to friends of ours who are starting a small herd and want a house cow.
Winnie has such a good temperament, we were keen for her to go to a milking home. She’s going with the caveat that her calves are tested for A2 and we have an option to buy any back. Winnie and Paddy will go when she’s PD’d in calf and Paddy is old enough to wean, so early December. They will be company for each other.
So we’re buying in two pure Shetland steers to run on for beef. We have a buyer interested in Panda (Xena) and Missy (Xanthe) but we’re waiting on the gene testing before we finalise any sale.
We have offered to fund A2 testing of the Shetland semen held by RBST and hope that the SCHBS will also test its bulls too.