Behind the Scenes with Henrietta

It’s been a long , cold winter across Minnesota, but Etta (the blog cow of Cow Spots and Tales) has just kept working hard doing what she does best.

Being a dairy cow!

I caught up with her at the feed bunk yesterday as she was having lunch with her red-headed friend. She let me snap a photo, and she was even kind enough to answer a few questions.

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Q: So, how has the winter been treating you this year?

Etta: It’s been long but pretty good from my perspective. I’m glad I’m an indoor cow that lives in a barn because there were some really cold nights for sure! In some ways winter is nice because all the flies and bugs are dead so they can’t bother us. I never get too hot in the winter, and the sun still shines through the curtains on nice days. I am looking forward to all the curtains and doors being opened up for the summer though.

The other bad thing about winter is that sometimes if it’s snowing and the weather is really bad it takes longer for fresh feed to get to my pen in the morning. I try to be patient though, because I always know it will be coming. Usually I can hear you guys pushing the snow away for the tractor and feed wagon to get through, and then I know feed is close behind.

Q: It sounds like you have a good attitude about the seasons, Etta! Speaking of seasons, I hear you’re expecting a baby this summer. Is that right?

Etta: Yes, that’s right. I’m due on August 8 with my second calf. I don’t know whether it’s a bull or heifer; I’m looking forward to being surprised. Most of the cows around here have a baby about once a year, so I’m glad to stay on schedule.

Q: Does that mean you’ll get some vacation time during the hot days of July?

Etta: I sure will. All cows “dry up,” or quit giving milk for 1-2 months prior to having another calf. At this farm the normal dry period is 45 days, so in late June I will quit giving milk and spend my days just eating and resting until baby arrives.

Q: How has this lactation (your first period of producing milk) been going?

Etta: I feel I’m doing really well. So far, I’ve given 16,180 pounds of milk (about 2,000 gallons) this lactation. The barn computer keeps track of that number so I don’t have to remember it.

Every month, someone comes out from the Dairy Herd Improvement Association to monitor and test all of our milk. On his last test day, I gave 70 pounds of milk (just under 9 gallons), and my milk had 4.2% fat and 3.0% protein. I also had a low somatic cell count, which is a measure of udder health.

Things are going really well if I do say so myself!

Q: That’s great. It sounds like your milk production is in line with the other first-lactation cows.

Etta: Yes, I think so. The older cows give a little more on average, but I’m not worried about that. After my next calf I’ll likely give more milk too!

Q: That sounds good. Are there any other happenings you want to share with our readers?

Etta: Well, my days are pretty easy and I’m happy for that. I like being milked in the parlor three times each day, and I’ve made lots of friends in pen 2 where I live. I’ve been vaccinated a few times this winter, and that has helped keep me healthy.

On April 1, my heifer calf Sophia will turn eight months old. I can’t believe how fast the time goes! I think that’s all for now.

Thanks Etta, for taking the time to share with our readers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this inside look into the life of a dairy cow on our farm. If you’ve got any of your own questions for Etta, please leave them in the comments. I’ll make sure to include them in our next Q&A.

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Etta in the milking parlor. Apparently I caught her sticking out her tongue while she was chewing her cud.

About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
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14 Responses to Behind the Scenes with Henrietta

  1. Rebecca says:

    Cute! Hi, Etta! Glad she could take some time out of her schedule to talk to us. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think you’ve told us before but now I can’t find it: How many dairy cows do you have on the farm?

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      Yes, Etta likes sharing when she can. ๐Ÿ™‚
      We have around seven hundred milk cows, plus the hutch babies and smaller group pens of calves. Once the heifer calves are weaned, grouped, and several months older they go to another farm site and come back to us before they have their first calf. (Around 2 years old.) We also keep a few steer calves to raise as feeders or for beef.

  2. LifeisBeachyKeen says:

    That was super cute!

    How many gallons of milk does your farm make per day? I had no clue how many gallons if milk one cow could make! That is interesting!

    • Lisa says:

      Glad you enjoyed!

      I don’t really know why, but dairy farms usually think about and measure milk in pounds. I did some quick math for you; each day the milk truck picks up about 6,500 gallons from our farm.

      • Jena says:

        WOW! That is a lot of milk. Is that 7 days a week?
        How much is a gallon of milk where you are?
        I’m wondering if it’s more expensive here because it has to be transported so far? I have no idea if there are dairy farms in FL…. I think it was $4.19/gal last time I bought milk – which was 2 weeks ago or so – Who knows what it’s up to now.

      • Lisa says:

        Absolutely; 365 days a year. Milk volume might vary a little bit depending on how many cows are dry and how many calves we are having, but the truck always comes twice each day to pick up. It’s also less in really hot weather because the cows use more energy to keep cool and less energy is available to make milk!

        Milk here is usually 3.79-3.99/gallon. Your question got me thinking about the 2013 dairy statistics that just came out. I’m a nerd & could read them for hours. Anyhow, in Florida for 2013, there are 130 dairy farms licensed to sell milk, and Florida produced about 2.4 billion lbs of milk. Your state is #19 in milk production. Minnesota is #8 with 3,800 farms and over 9 billion lbs of milk.

        Too much info, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

        The full stats are here if you want to read more… http://www.progressivedairy.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=11872:2013-us-dairy-stats

      • Lisa says:

        As for the price of milk, I’ll bet a lot of your milk may come from Florida, but pricing depends on the retailer, the processing company, and lots of market factors. It seems like if we as farmers are getting paid a little more for milk, the price jumps in the store too. But when the price paid to us gets dropped, the price in the store still stays about the same.

        I still think there are a lot of nutrients in milk for the money!

  3. Cute! By the way, I love that cow in the first picture with Etta…her small above her nose makes me think of Marilyn Monroe. She’s very stylish ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I love this! What a cute and fun way to write about farm life! I may have to write a blog similar to this! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m definitely going to have to share this post!

    • Lisa says:

      Glad you like it ! Please feel free to use the idea. I started writing & it just came out like this, so I’m pleasantly surprised by all the feedback. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Jena says:

    That is really interesting! I guess the cost of milk is just like everything else – it just fluctuates. I just get sticker shock every time I buy a gallon..which is not all that often. I’ve been banned from milk (and beef) because Paisley had a reaction to it – at least that is what her pediatrician tells me. I think it’s actually the beef more than the milk; but i’ve been avoiding both (EXCEPT COFFEE CREAMER, bc they can’t take my coffee away). I’m planning on blogging about that soon.

    • Lisa says:

      Good luck with the food allergy stuff. That sounds rough. Sometimes I think doctors are too quick to ban foods & assume, but I know everyone’s situation is different. With those restrictions, make sure you’re getting enough protein & iron, too.

  6. Glad Etta is doing well. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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