Thursday, May 15, 2014

Welcome Xanthorrhoea, with your abundant milk.

  Life really sucked there for a while, when i’d sold the goats, Melaleuca was dry, and no farmer would sell me a decent Jersey cow. Shop milk is absolutely awful when you’ve had the real thing. But I persisted, and harassed one poor man enough that he sold us a cow, probably to shut me up. And what a lovely example she is.


Following the Australian plant names theme, she was renamed Xanthorrhoea. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but the grass tree was the only thing we could think of that really suited her black markings. She gets Xanthe or Zan for short. She’s so quiet she makes Melaleuca look troublesome.


    She did give us a stressful initial 10 days-she wouldn’t eat anything we offered her, except grass. A fresh Jersey making 16 litres a day needs more than grass to keep that sort of production up. She’d nibble a little lucerne, but no grain. The home butcher, who was out here at the time, diagnosed depression (he called it sulking) at her change in lifestyle. We bought a couple of different feeds to try-she snubbed her nose at them. Her milk was dropping alarmingly, and we were starting to entertain the horrible notion that the cow we bought for abundance might end up dropping to six litres a day, six weeks from calving. I systematically went through our pantry until I found she liked barley. Back we went to the stockfeed, bought two types of barley, and she finally began to eat! Only small amounts, but barley with a little copra and some lucerne at least gave her some extra protein.

Then we decided that stripping her out was inefficient and rather stressful, and we’d rather go back to the calf system we had with Melaleuca, where a calf finishes her off at the end of milking. You need to give the calf a fair bit of milk, but in exchange they empty the cow very well and keep the stimulation up so she’ll keep producing more for longer. And you get beef, so really they’re just a delicious long-term milk storage option. Friends with a dairy were happy to send a Friesian bull calf our way, and Xanthe liked him. A lot. So much that she perked up, fostered him without any hesitation, and began to eat ravenously. Her milk supply rose again, so now we take six to seven litres in the morning, then the calf spends the day with her and takes the rest.

  Three weeks in she’s very interested in food-she’s not quite the walking garbage disposal that Melaleuca is, but she’s getting there. It’s been a very good lesson in cow management-and I will never again forget to ask to buy some of the feed the animal’s used to when buying something new!

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