Sunday, January 9, 2011



The gentle Jersey cow and her calf sired by a Miniature Hereford bull

In August, 2009, we lost a good friend. It needn't have happened but it did. In the days following this tragedy it was discovered he had some cattle grazing on a small block of land and I was asked to go and see what was there. To my dismay I found the older stock in such poor condition they were virtually worthless and had they been sent to the Works they would have gone down the chute. Apparently our friend was making regular checks on these animals but with the deterioration of his health these ceased. Those who could have helped knew nothing about it.

I was then asked to deal with the cattle so with the assistance of a livestock agent they were sorted up and the young ones sent off to the saleyards. Then there was the dilemma with the older cows. To put them on a truck where they could face a long journey and then go through the stress of being in unfamiliar surroundings with only one end in sight seemed heartless so on went my thinking cap.

A bit of discussion with sympathetic local dairy farmers resulted in a decision for me to buy the cows, get them back into decent condition and then put them into a milking shed once they had calved. Although it cost me quite a bit of money to achieve this it worked out for all of them except a gentle little Jersey cow which had everyone fooled. First of all we thought she had calved and lost the calf as she had a bit of milk but after a week in the shed the milk yield did not build up so she was turned out with some yearling heifers running with a bull to give her another chance.
Jersey's first calf on left at seven months of age - a year younger than the mini on right!
I was just dealing with the arrival of my first Miniature Hereford calves when I got a phone call to say the Jersey cow had calved! There had been a weaner Hereford bull in her previous herd which resulted in the unexpected new arrival. We brought her home and started looking for another calf to put on her as she had so much milk but with such a late calving there was nothing newborn around. We did, however, have a Jersey/Ayrshire cross heifer calf among our hand feeders which was a month old so we introduced it to the new mother who allowed it to suckle providing her calf was the first she could smell!

The summer of 2009/2010 became a bad drought so the little Jersey was grazed with a group of Miniature Hereford heifers running with a mini bull. After such a rocky few months we were not sure what her future would be so once the calves were weaned she went back into the main Hereford herd.
The drought had knocked her hard as she couldn't convert the sparse feed available as well as the beef cows so we had to hope she got her fair share of hay and minerals through the winter and spring.

Dairy cattle which have had several calves are inclined to have big bellies and to pick whether the Jersey was in calf or not was impossible until early December when she started springing up. This fitted in with the dates she had been with the Miniature Hereford bull and sure enough, on December 15th she produced a small, fawn-coloured bull calf with a mostly white face, speckled white feet and a white tip on its tail. Once again she had loads of milk so the hunt went on to find another calf for her.
Christmas Day foster calf
Just as we thought we were out of luck the phone rang with a message that there was a little Jersey bull available from a late calver which was going into the milking shed. We picked this calf up on Christmas Day. Two days of “mothering on” was all that was needed. The cow can also be hand milked and she is going to a friend's lifestyle block where he wants to use her as a house/nurse cow for which she is ideally suited. She is likely to be spoiled “rotten” at this place which she thoroughly deserves and we will continue to use a Miniature Hereford bull over her each season. This cross makes an ideal freezer pack but we don't tell her that! The friend we lost was proud of his pedigree Jerseys in particular so we are happy to have saved this one for him.
All mothered up out in the paddock
With a couple of changes of words the following poem, found in a Hereford Sale Complex in Southland, seems to epitomise this little Jersey cow.

I know of a sweet Jersey cow,
Whose behaviour was rash, I'll allow.
One hot, summer day
She wandered away
But no-one reproaches her now!

She met a fine Hereford bull
Who liked pretty girls as a rule
He said to her, “Dear,
There's nothing to fear
Come under the trees where it's cool.”

And now they have reason to laugh,
For the cow has a white-headed calf,
Gaining pounds every day
The Hereford way
And reducing expenses by half!