Crofting Life, Livestock

Milkcow Blues Boogie

This is the story of a wee Shetland coo.

Dryope came to us from Yorkshire having been on a farm where the herdess was a cheese maker. She was our very first cow and she has always been the matriarch of the herd. She may not be a fine, prize cow, but she comes to a whistle, we use her to help guide other cattle who may be nervous, and she is our milking cow.

To do this we just take her surplus (this is a lot easier than not milking and then having a cow with mastitis that needs medical intervention and hand milked to remove clots to enable both the calf and cow a trouble free feed). Her calf is not taken off, she comes in, gets a treat, a mini milker is used and then off she goes back to the field.

From this brief daily share session, we get plenty of milk (and a good layer of cream). Enough in fact to try all kinds of things: everything from hot chocolates, custard, ice-cream, cheese, and butter. For the calves that we share her with, she has had six and has fostered one (the Saler that is now also milked). Two of her calves have stayed with us, two have gone to new owners, and several (after a couple of years frolicking our fields), have provided us, and others, with beef.

We winter cattle inside to avoid heavy poaching. This gives us dung which goes back to the fields for making grass (and hay). It also goes to the veg garden and orchard to give the plants the needed nutrients for growing fruit and veg.

As she was from a milking herd she had to patiently wait while we clumsily learned what to do. Over the past couple of years, our dairy knowledge has increased significantly. But this is Dryope’s last year though. The past couple of winters her age has been showing. She struggles more to get up and down. Her movement is slow. In cow terms, she is doing remarkable, as she is a fair age. She will be missed but the idea of forcing her through another cold, harsh winter is not pleasant.

At the moment though, she is grazing the grass close to the house while she watches her heifer calf, a bonnie wee thing, bound about the field. The ice cream maker is on nearly every day and the cheese making equipment are back out again while we enjoy having her.

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