I would like to introduce you to our new family milk cow, Hilde. She is 1/2 Brown Swiss and 1/2 Jersey. The problem is the spelling of her name!
How would you spell it? Hilde, Hildie or Hildy?
My preferred spelling is "Hilde"!
So, while our family disagrees (playfully of course) about the spelling, everyone agrees that Hilde is possibly the best family milk cow we have ever had!
If you have been around awhile, you will remember Buttercup, whom we sold and Emme who was dried off in preparation for giving birth. Emme birthed twins and then contracted milk fever. Milk fever is a decreased blood calcium level. It most often occurs shortly after calving and occurs when the high demands of milk production exceeds the body's ability to mobilize calcium reserves. We knew to watch for milk fever and as soon as she showed the first symptoms, we began treatment. But, according to the vet, milk fever on top of birthing twins just took too much out of her and she did not make it. Needless to say, many tears were shed and it took time before beginning to look for another family milk cow. Farm life can be difficult and sad!
But, now we have Hilde.While milk fever is a potential for any breed, it seems more abundant in full Jerseys. With that in mind, we chose a Jersey cross.The brown Swiss and Jersey combination make for wonderfully creamy sweet milk. Hilde's milk tastes like it is sweetened and has vanilla added!
Not only is Hilde very mild tempered, she milks out in about 10 minutes! That is faster than either of our other two family milk cows! Now, we actually spend more time cleaning and sanitizing our milking machine (before and after milking) than we spend milking! No complaints about that at 6 AM ;)
When we purchased Hilde, she was from a dairy in east Texas. John and I took an overnight trip to pick her up. After narrowing it down between two cows that we liked the look of, the decision was made on size and temperament. A family milk cow needs to be gentle and easy to milk especially since the whole family is involved in the milking rotation - even the younger boys. Hilde was smaller than the other cow and even though she was nervous, we could hand milk her.
Hilde was in milk from her first calf and was bred (or pregnant). Her due date is suppose to be the middle of July which is very soon but after having our vet check her, it will be later in the fall before she calves!
In preparation for calving, we dried her off at the end of May. "Drying off" means we slowly stopped milking her so she would stop producing milk - essentially weaning. This was a few weeks earlier than necessary but it was convenient for our family vacation to Maine. After all, how many neighbors want to water your plants, feed your dogs, feed your chickens AND milk your cow?
A family milk cow, like any other family pet, becomes part of the family. Even though Hilde has only been a part of the barnyard since March of this year, she has definitely become part of the family - cowbell and all!