The Other Farm Animals
Besides the dairy cattle we have sheep on the farm to keep the grass short in the orchard, bees, an old horse and some pigs and chickens in the summer.

The Cows

The cow herd is absolutely central to the farm and in a sense we owe them everything. In earlier times the cows pulled the wagons and plows of the settlers; they still feed and clothe us today and, above all, they sustain the fertility of the land in which all our food crops are grown.

On our farm we keep a herd of a little more than 80 milking Holsteins, one or two breeding bulls and about 80 head of young female stock or heifers. We raise the heifer calves to replenish our own herd and if we have too many we sell them to other farmers.

The baby calves are raised on whole cow's milk and after five months, when they have started to eat enough rolled grains and hay, they are weaned off milk and start living the life of a ruminant in earnest. After about two more years the heifer should give birth to her own first calf and graduate to being a milking cow.

The milking cows' feed consists primarily of fresh grass and rolled grains in the summer and alfalfa hay, silage and rolled grains in the winter. They get a mineral supplement and salt to meet their nutritional needs. During the summer months the herd spends a lot of their time in pasture, coming in only for milking. They spend most of the winter in the barn, but still go outside for fresh air and exercise.

On average each cow gives about 25 liters of milk a day and they do this for 300 days a year. They get two months off for maternity leave, what we call the 'dry period.' Then, with the arrival of the new baby calf, the cycle starts all over again. A cow has to regularly give birth to a calf to continue to produce milk. Her gestation period lasts for 9 month and 9 days. She will usually have a calf every year.