Wednesday, November 13, 2013

meet Shirley

Life has been restored to somewhat more normality this week. Last week was quite a week! Daniel took the kids on school camp while I held the fort here (with Violet). There was the cow to milk, the calf to put away at night, of which I had never attempted before (fortunately he has learned to like buckets), a new calf to bottle feed (more on that later) as well as some spring cleaning to be done. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to Spring clean with most of the household away. Not such a great idea when I found myself up way past midnight trying to get the floors finished. But it is done, which is a good feeling I must say. Dust bunnies and dirty hand prints all gone.

The weather turned extra warm, the too-small water tank emptied, and so I had to hand cart bucket loads of water on the back of the ute for the cows. It wasn't easy and would probably have looked quite funny if anyone was around. Let's just say half the water didn't make it.

But back to the brand new calf. Meet little Shirley. She is now a little over two weeks and is a Jersey x Holstein. We are bottle raising her at home, and Julia has happily taken up bottle feeding duties. Daniel picked her up from a working dairy the day before school camp. This was a lot earlier than originally planned, but her owner was going away.  All their first calving heifers are bred to a Jersey bull which makes for smaller first calves. Since they keep only a Holstein herd they sell off the baby crosses.

Now, a one and a half week old calf with mild scours (which is almost inevitable when you move them) on my relatively inexperienced own was not an ideal scenario. There was much book and internet research, electrolytes given, a homemade fly repellant concocted, some Bessie milk to supplement the milk replacer, a little slippery elm and a daily egg yolk mixed in. Happily the scours have completely gone. But I can't quite get rid of the flies.

She is a lively, friendly little thing with plenty of energy. Her white patch on her back leg reminds me of a dancing cat! We are training her to lead (a calf halter has been ordered) and she is beginning to nibble on grass. Our water tank/firewood storage area has become a temporary calf pen for the summer. It will be quite some time before she will have a calf and be in milk, and meanwhile we hope to get her as used to people as possible. We have a half acre of grass here with half of that being abundant with grass right now. Hopefully next summer she will be able to keep it down. In the future we have several options of nearby paddocks from kindly neighbours, and at some stage Bessie will likely be brought to this area also.

I breathed a sigh of relief when Daniel and the kids came home. You never really know what you are capable of though until you have no choice in the matter. While I am sure this is probably a part of everyday for some people, and I do take my hat off to them, it certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. I never really pictured myself shoveling manure, hauling water, milking and bottle feeding cows all on my own. Usually Daniel is around to help with the heavier duty things. My hair is always messy these days and I know I will never have nice nails again (not that I ever really did), but the funny thing is I don't really care that much.

It's strange the direction life takes you in. Sometimes it can all feel a little overwhelming, with the steep learning curves, with the hard physical work, on top of everything else, but I don't think I would have it any other way.