Our Jersey cow, Isla, has fertility issues. Still not milking at age four, she has been AI'd numerous times and was the only cow that Explorer's father, Richard, didn't manage to breed. She has spent almost an entire year with Explorer, who has successfully impregnated all the other mamas. Our AI guy told us she must be infertile, and suggested a hormonal fertility treatment that is routinely used for dairy and beef cattle to make it easy to AI massive amounts of cows on the same day.
But at his next visit when we thought Isla was in heat, he changed his mind. She was acting like a crazy beast. We couldn't get her to come close to the headgate. She was charging around, kicking her heels and throwing her horns around. The AI guy didn't want to get anywhere near her. He mentioned that the fertility treatment involved getting her to behave several times, and hinted strongly at putting her in the freezer.
Isla was the first calf born on our farm....she is beautiful and very healthy other than her apparent infertility. We love her, but of course we can't have a pet COW, and she is very fat ("grass fed and finished"). Last fall Ethan started calling her unfavorable names, like Beefla and Beef Island. We decided that this winter she'll be the next beef.
The more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be too bad. (She would be such a great milk cow!). I've read that infertility in animals can be two things - copper deficiency or vitamin A deficiency. I can look at her and see she's got plenty of copper (copper deficient animals will get a curl at the end of their hair, making their coat look rough, due to being unable to make a certain copper-dependant protein. They will also have a light back and be very thin and unthrifty in the winter, and parasite prone in the summer. Her and her five chins are certainly not unthrifty). Since she was a calf she has suffered occasionally from a drippy eye, and even had conjunctivitis several times. That made me think she probably needed more vitamin A.
Fortunately, a few months ago my mom bought a huge bottle of fermented animal-grade cod liver oil, hoping to use it for herself because it was relatively cheap. It smelled so incredibly foul she gave it to me for the animals. So I have a great natural vitamin A supplement on hand now. I recalled a lecture by a natural vet I heard a few years ago that mentioned using red clover tincture and other herbs to cure infertility in cattle. Red clover is also used by people with apparent success. So I started mixing her up an herbal "fertility treatment" with red clover, red raspberry, fenugreek, maca, licorice, cod liver oil, barley and molasses.
The first time Isla smelled it, the reek of the cod liver oil made her jump back. But eventually the molasses won out, and she eagerly comes over to eat it now. So that part was easy. And then -
On Friday Ethan noticed Isla was standing around kind of funny -
It soon became apparent why:
(caution, slightly graphic pictures. I culled out the most appalling, but I thought I should still have a warning. My kids sure aren't going to need a "Birds and the Bees" talk!)
Isla was in heat!
I think this was the first time she's properly been in heat. It was hard to tell, because she is a very coquettish cow, and she gets very overexcited about the other cows being in heat. I think often we mistakenly thought she was the one when it was someone else she was reacting to. This is the first time we've actually seen a bull breed her. When she was in with Richard we saw him try a few times to mount, but never really got down to business or pursued her much.
Of course this doesn't mean it will take, but at least it's an encouraging start. We'll see if she cycles again in three weeks. Meanwhile, I'm keeping up her Herbal Fertility Treatment. I still have plenty of herbs. The whole thing cost under $50 total, I can use whatever herbs she doesn't (although Ethan says he doesn't want me to touch the stuff, seeing how effective it was) and we never had to get her in the headgate. If it doesn't work in the end, it will at least make the beef taste better.
Isla's Daily Herbal Fertility Treatment
2 large handfuls of dried red raspberry leaf
2 large handfuls of dried red clover blossoms
1/4 cup of ground fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup of shredded licorice root
1/4 cup of ground maca root
1 1/2 cups of steam rolled barley
1-2 Tablespoons of cod liver oil
2-4 Tablespoons of molasses
Stuff the red raspberry and clover blossoms into a quart mason jar. Boil water and pour just enough to soak into the herbs. Cap and leave to cool on the counter for half the day. Meanwhile - mix the other herbs with the barley. Stir in the cod liver oil and mix well. Drizzle in the molasses and stir until the barley is coated. Then mix in the soaked herbs.