Today, I say good-bye to Elsie, Georgie and Hannah. As you, my plucky readers, know, I’ve not been being able to wean Hannah off Elsie. Neither heifer nor cow wants their Mommy/Daughter time to end. With Hannah only days away from being 6 months old, this weaning process has now taken half her life. That’s three months with Elsie locked away from her little herd when cows are herd animals and need to be with other cows.
Two weeks ago, I had to stare at the fact that nothing was going to work. I started looking at my options. I could either dry up Elsie so there’d be no option but for Hannah to give up, but that meant no milk to sell and no way to offset the cost of their hay. Also, there’s another calf on the way, so I’d find myself in the same dilemma in another seven months.
Option two, was finding a place for Elsie to stay for a month or two, so Mama would be out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind for Hannah. That was pie-in-the-sky, because there was no guarantee Hannah wouldn’t recognize her mother when Elsie came back and I’d be in the same situation. And again, I was left buying hay for two unproductive animals while Elsie was gone.
The last option was to sell Elsie. Again, that left me supporting two unproductive animals until Hannah has her first calf, some 18 months from now. That’s when I realized I had to sell them all. I reached out to my dairy friend Becky in Williamson Valley. She, like me, is passionate about Jersey cows. Addicted, maybe, because at first, she told me she didn’t need another cow. Then a week later, she emailed back and asked for Elsie’s bio. I gave it to her and was completely honest, that Elsie is stubborn, food aggressive, I’m not entirely certain she’s pregnant, she’s antsy in the stanchion, doesn’t care for hand milking (Becky only hand milks) and fiercely protective of her babies, even if one baby is an orphan unrelated to her.
God bless Becky. She still bit. She and her milking assistant came to see Elsie and fell in love. Then Becky asked if I’d consider selling Hannah as well. I replied with “Only if you also take Georgie.”
Within minutes the two of them were arranging their three new animals. Elsie will be kept with a couple of their in-milk cows who will be less likely to bully a newcomer (thus setting off Elsie’s “bossy” tendencies), while Hannah will be paired with another heifer around her own age who has the unlikely name of “Hannah”. Meanwhile, Georgie will be kept with another little steer who’s been lonely as he’s younger than the other steers and needs a playmate. That was all I needed to know I’d made the right decision.
If I needed confirmation, I got it yesterday. I brought Elsie up to milk her, got the milker set up and turned on the vacuum pump. The pulsator started clicking, but the teat cups wouldn’t hold. That’s right, the ancient old vacuum pump failed as I watched. It was a message from the Universe…I was done with milking, even if I didn’t like it.
How perfect. I released Hannah and Georgie. They raced up to the stanchion to join Elsie. Hannah latched onto immediately and did the milking for me while Elsie spent a full hour grooming Georgie. They spent the rest of the day doing what a cow herd does here–grazing, terrorizing turkeys, trying to steal the chicken food hidden under the coop, trying to break into the hay storage and generally running rampant over the property. A great day was had by all. I left them together in the corral for the night and will keep them penned until the truck comes around ten this morning.
I’m very sad. I’ll miss them all incredibly, but it would be far sadder and much more stressful, not to mention expensive, for me to keep them here. Listening to Elsie mourn over being kept by herself day in and day out has been very difficult.
The best part…Becky left me with the promise that I can buy them back any time I want.