Thursday, August 18, 2016
Kissing the Cows Goodbye
We had hoped we'd be able to find individual farms/families wishing to own our milk cows, but fact of the matter is this; in Illinois the small family dairy farm is rapidly disappearing. Most dairy farms are in Northern Illinois, closer the the Cheddar Curtain, and the few families who used to own 1-5 milk cows have ceased doing so.
This is in part due to the new Raw Milk Regulations passed in July of this year by IDPH (another future blog post I promise) and in part to homesteaders recognizing that owning a milk cow, is a lot of work.
Here on The Poor Farm we will always keep our own milk cow for our own purposes but the herd we sold on contract in Chatsworth, are going the way of farm history. Only two have been sold to individuals, the rest have gone the route of the sale barn, which means hamburger. Three were sold last week this way, three more went yesterday and three more go today.
The good news is the lessening of our work load between the two farms, less cows means less milking, less cleanup, less pasture maintenance, less gas money, less stress.
The sad news, the burden of saying goodbye, rests on my husbands shoulders. A few of the cows are 12, 13 and 14 years old. All of them were born on that farm, had their first calves there, produced thousands of gallons of milk for us there, which allowed us to raise four of our own "calves." Some were gentle enough to be taken to town fairs and demonstrations where youngsters had their chance to milk their first cow, to see and feel where milk really comes from. We benefited from the milk, the sales of the milk, and the burger made after a cow got too old to produce. From their beginning to their humane end, these animals were a huge part of our family and telling them goodbye now, has proven to be much harder than it was in April 2015 when we sold the farm and all the livestock on contract.
We thought we were passing on our livestock to someone who would care about for and for them, as we did. We were so mistaken. When we left the Chatsworth farm the animals were all, after years of work, certified organic, 100% grass fed, and free of all antibiotics or hormones. Their market value was on ave. $2500 each.
Now, after a year of being fed copious amounts of grain, given antibiotics and hormones (all in the name of increasing milk production) the value of these animals has plummeted to between $800-$1500. But to us, regardless of "market value" they remain priceless.
Last night Keith brought up to The Poor Farm, our old milker, Puppette.
We were told by employees down at Chatsworth in July she had given birth to a still born calf and did not "clean out well" They said she was treated by antibiotics but they could not remember what kind or for how long. The cow records we gave them and had returned, did not include this info. When we saw Puppette in July, she was in bad shape. Barely able to stand, left in a manure sodden barn on concrete. She was a sick girl.
Keith got her on pasture down there, as soon as we had possession of the farm again, and she started to improve. He also started milking her again when she was strong enough. This gave her purpose, we believe, but because we don't know the last day she was injected with antibiotics (we left all our organic treatments on the farm but they were left unused) we can't take her to the sale barn yet. Thirty days free of drugs is the law, so our 30 days started July 29.
She is here now, so we can care for her better, even though her expiration date is approaching. We want her to feel better. We hate seeing sick cows being unloaded at sale barns, we find it disgusting, so Puppette gets to recover fully on The Poor Farm with Mucca as her temporary pasture buddy, before we say our final goodbye to her.
It's the least we can do for an animal who has been nothing but kind and gentle all her life, even to those humans who did not have her best interests at heart.