The Hard Stuff

Let’s just say you’ve caught the bug. Tired of that watered down beverage the grocery store labels “Milk” you bite the bullet and bring home your first cow. You’ve got the pasture all fenced, the barn warm and waiting, and a black-faced Jersey by your elbow giving you sloppy, slobbery kisses.  So now what? Standing at the gate a little worm of doubt suddenly gnaws your mind as you wonder what in the world are you going to do with that great big animal?

What indeed. But there’s something to be said about determination. It is both a will and a way, and when the hard stuff starts knockin’ around it’s time to draw on those determined boxing gloves.

Any extensive research on raising the family cow for the one-cow family will provide the ground basics – i.e. which breed is best; purchasing the cow; feed requirements; handling and grooming; perhaps some books will even give overviews on calving 101 and health related issues. But what books and articles don’t give is individual experience.

So what’s some of the hard stuff you might encounter on the journey to a rural paradise?

Let me fill you in:


~Vacations – are limited when you own livestock. However, for those who really love their vacations there’s a glimmer of hope: take it when the cow has been dried off.
~Learning to hand milk – sore, stiff hands for weeks
~Endless piles of washing – jars, rags, tote, milk bottles, buckets
~Hay – stacking 200 bales by hand , not to mention buying extra in times of drought
~Sickness – staying up all night with a calf who had pneumonia
                      running around the yard at 11 pm dragging a stubborn heifer who had bloat
                     fighting mastitis in 4 quarters
                     dealing with udder rot for a whole season
~Flies – Ugh!
~Mucking out the cow pen in the spring – a 2 foot deep oozing, soupy, stinking mess
~Heats – if one doesn’t own a bull there’s always the problem of knowing when she’s ready to be bred; hence the constant relays between house and barn. And then of course there’s the stubborn ones who have silent cycles and it’s a missed phone call to the AI tech
~Giving an injection – perhaps the hardest job on the farm
~Maintaining fences – a chore in itself
~Weather – caring for your dairy cow in winter, be it 30 or -30
~Managing pasture – because the cow farmer is really a grass farmer
But let’s face it. While most of the hard stuff is daunting it is also defeatable, depending on one’s dose of determination. Learning to successfully raise the family cow is a process – it doesn’t click all at once and you know the whole shebang. No. You learn as you go. Because really, it’s an adventure. And the adventure never taken is the story never told.

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