I'm a Gambler

I have never bought a lottery ticked in my life and would not typically call myself a gambler. The truth is, if you farm, you are somewhat of a gambler. A farmer can be educated about the best farming methods, about the animals they raise, and put in a lot of hard work only to have a natural disaster destroy the crops or an unexpected illness take the life of animals. We do everything in our power to "stack the odds" in our favor but when it comes down to the game, it's pretty much a matter of luck in the end.

This time, I decided to gamble and put my money on a gal named Sugar. Sugar is a 3/4 Jersey and 1/4 Dutch Belted heifer that started her life on my friend's little homestead and made her way to me when she was two months old. Since my breeding plan for my Jerseys is to some day have all registered Miniature Jerseys in my herd, I did not buy Sugar with the intentions of keeping her. When she was around eight months old I sold her along with another heifer to a nice family in West Virginia. It turns out that Sugar had a few things come up that were not in her favor. For one thing, she is quite shy. She is not mean or aggressive but timid and does not seek human contact. In addition, her owners tried several times to have her artificially inseminated and it appeared that she was not getting bred. The final straw came when it was believed that she was nursing on Scarlette her herd mate.

Now in most situations, especially with the fear that she might be an adult cow that would nurse on other adult cows, she would have immediately been shipped to the butcher and become beef. When Sugar's owners decided to try to sell her, I could not get her out of my mind. My gut just kept telling me that this girl needed to be given a chance. I waited a while thinking maybe someone else would buy her, but when there were no immediate takers, I could not get past the feeling that I just had to give her a chance.

Granted, it's a big gamble and a winner has not yet been declared. This gamble could go either way at this point. However, I am greatly encouraged by the way things are progressing.

First, Sugar had been put in with our two Angus bulls so that they could have a shot at breeding her. The day came for her to cycle and she did not. That tells me that either she was actually bred the last AI attempt or she is not going to breed. She has been thoroughly checked by a Veterinarian in West Virginia and was declared reproductively sound. I actually had her checked before I sold her by my vet here and he also declared her to be reproductively sound. So, I am waging my bets that she is already bred.

The next thing we did was to bring Sugar to the house and put her in with the lactating dairy cows. I wanted to know right away if she was indeed a bovine that was going to be trying to nurse on the cows. I watched her diligently for several days and never did I see any attempt by her to nurse any of the cows. I have watched a number of times as she stood close to Emmy while she nursed her calf Ezekiel. This gave Sugar every opportunity to reach down and try to nurse as well. However, she has never made an attempt while I was watching. Because I obviously can't watch them all the time, I have been faithful to make sure that all of the cows are still giving their normal amount of milk. If any of the cows came up seriously lacking in milk production for a day, then I would suspect that Sugar might be stealing milk. However, the milk production has been has been better than ever. I'm still holding my breath but I gambling that this girl is not going to be a problem.

Finally, we have the timidity to deal with. We are working on that. At first, Sugar would not let us even get close enough to catch her. We knew that her former owners had the same problem with her, but we also knew that once caught, she actually leads well thanks to all the great work they did with her. Not having a stanchion at her former home, made it even more difficult to work with her. We were able to lure her into the stanchion for the first time with food and with Mike and I both guiding and encouraging her. She did great. As soon as she was in the headgate she settled right in and let us rub her, brush her and even touch her udder. She never lifted a foot and seemed to rather enjoy our touch.

We then hit about a 36 hour snag where she would not come into the stanchion. We had to finally resort to going into the field with a bucket of feed, lure her to the feed and then walk her into the stanchion. This was not a horrible experience for Sugar or for us, but lets just say she was still hesitant about coming in.

I am happy to say that in the last two days she has made tremendous strides in the right direction. One time she actually walked in voluntarily when I simply looked at her, showed her the feed and then walked away and ignored her. The last two days, she has allowed us to approach her, put a hand on her halter and walk her to the stanchion without a lead rope and without any struggle. Once in the stanchion, she is always the perfect lady and ...............well, as sweet as Sugar.

Yesterday was really a great day. I released her from the stanchion and she turned around and walked out. Then she came back. She sniffed around the milking shed for a few minutes and then she walked up to me and sniffed me. I stood very still. She walked out again and I watched her. She then turned around, sniffed the shed again and then came back to me. After sniffing me again she proceeded to walk away. At this point, she turned around and looked at me and I thought she was going to come back for the third time, but instead she walked slowly away as if she were processing everything she had just experienced.

I am greatly encouraged and really hoping that everything works out for Sugar. I do not know yet if she is bred and hesitate to do biotracking on her because she has a great fear of needles. I am thinking I will just keep her in with our little Jersey bull and wait to see if she cycles. If she does not, the next time I have the vet out, I will have him palpate her. I'm not in any hurry. I've placed my bets on Sugar. Let's hope the gamble pays off!


Joelle said...

Tammy, I am thrilled that Sugar is doing so well! I really think she kept a spot in her heart for you - you've already gotten further with her in a few days than we did in a year. We were happy to have her and hated to see her go, but I think your gamble is going to be a win for all of us in the long run.

Tammy Renee' Cupp said...

Thank you, Joelle. I wish Sugar would have worked out for you all. I am encouraged by the progress we have made. Thanks for taking such good care of her. She is a beautiful girl and in great shape!

adkmilkmaid said...

Tammy, I'm so glad you got her back and are able to give her a second chance. Few cows get that and I just have this gut sense that Sugar might be one of those who really luck out. And even if you have to ship her down the road, you will have given her every possible opportunity. I am so happy for her and for you. Best of luck and warmest hopes.

Amy Lagerquist said...

What great progress! We have a 7-year old Highland cow who hasn't been worked with much and similar - timid but not agressive. Your work gives me hope that Natalie will come around, too!

WeldrBrat said...

You have the touch, Missy! I just love reading these kind of 'learning lesson' posts! Looks like she's almost wrapped around your finger! I know very little about dairy cows. But I do know one thing... there's so much that plays into healthy quantities of milk production. Behaviors can get in the way. And it looks like you are working on some pretty important ones that are showing wonderful signs of coming success! Great job!!! Thanks for sharing!