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.
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.