Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Weaning (again)

At last, a picture of Flora's new calf!  We've hardly seen him.  He hides until he has to nurse.  They are both doing well.  It's hard to tell now that the other calves are so grown up, but he seems like a rather large calf.

And speaking of them....

They are being weaned (again).  Yesterday at the farm was a HARD day.  I think it took a few years off my life, or at least a few months.  It's funny how life can seem so simple and care-free at times, and then suddenly seem like a vaguely associated string of minor catastrophes.

Weaning is awful.  I hate weaning.  I can totally understand why dairies sell the little boogers at birth so they don't have to deal with them.  I always realize how inadequate and poorly built our fences are when we are weaning.  Sappho has been the most awful and elusive.  The last time we weaned them, she kept leaping out of everything.  The smug looks she gave me when we arrived and found her next to Matilda, drinking all the milk, made me want to smite her with something.  She's BAD.

It was very convenient the day before when we weaned them, because they all ran straight to the extra-sturdy weaning paddock with top boards we had built when we had this same problem with Isla.  It was no problem to ignore their wails of despair and move the mamas out to a fresh line of grass.

But yesterday when we arrived, we saw only two calves in the paddock.  Sappho had gotten out and was in the larger paddock, mooing hoarsely.  And horror of horrors....Matilda was in the garden!!

That prompted us to dash out of the truck and apprehend her.  Luckily, the incredibly lush rye grass between the beds seemed to have distracted her away from the bush beans, and nothing was wrong except some superficial hoof-damage.  Apparently she had leaped over three fences to get there, which seems like a shocking amount of inconvenience for stupid Sappho.

She was at least very easy to get out of the garden, but when I grabbed her halter and tried to lead her into the milking paddock, she balked and whirled around.  I had not had time to get my shoes on, so was cautious of getting my toes stepped on.  She dragged me across a spot of thistles and blackberries until I gave up and let go.  In the end, we managed to convince her with some barley (she is disdaining the current batch of peanut hay - it has larger stems than she likes.  She is a peanut hay connoisseur).  It was easy then to get Sappho back in with the other calves.  After Matilda was brought back to the pasture, Sappho launched herself off of a pallet on the ground and jumped clear over the fence - top boards and all - and landed ungracefully on her chin.  It didn't seem to bother her at all, and she jumped up and went on mooing her head off.

When Geranium was brought down to milk (naturally we aren't bothering with Chestnut at all), Sappho tried to nurse on her, and was very firmly and satisfactorily put in her place by being tossed aside with a very emphatic head-butt.

In the end we managed three gallons of milk yesterday, and sore wrists, and the calves are (as far as I know) still weaned.  Not too bad, but I can't help feeling like this whole milking thing is more than I can manage.  The ancient Egyptians started off milking antelope.  They must have been crazy.  I always feel like this when we first start milking again.  The goats seemed like this, and now they are good as gold and jump up in the milking stand, eager to be milked.

The worst part, I think, about weaning is the noise.  The calves were practically shouting at me the whole time I was trying to milk.  It must be in the same frequency that children's voices manage when they are tired and hungry - evolutionarily calculated to create anxiety and stress.  It was so loud, when I adjusted my hat, I found it was vibrating.

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