Winter is winding down at last! We have enjoyed the warmer temperatures and sunshine the last few days. The deep cold and deep snow of this particular season have been challenging—a real reminder of what winter in northern Michigan really is supposed to be!
The cows have done fairly well. Winter is a special challenge for dairy cows because so much of their energy goes into milk rather than fat, so the farmer’s job is to provide the extra energy they need. Typically, March is what the native people called the “hunger month.” It’s a time when the winter has used an animal’s resources and the feed supplies in nature are most difficult to get. On top of that, their bodies seem to go through a cleansing time as they prepare for the flush of fresh food in April and May. The girls are liking the sunshine and warmth, though. They like to just stand in the yard with their broad sides to the afternoon sun, eyes closed, chewing contentedly on their cud. If a cow could smile, they would be.
The production has fluctuated quite a bit as we’ve managed them through this winter. We had a surge in January after the bit of warmth in December, but now we’re down two and a quarter cows and the production is much slower. Our dairy herd share holders have enjoyed the benefits of the surges, but also felt the pinch of the decrease–all part of farming. Penny has been dried off as she is about 2 months away from calving and needs the time to nourish herself and her calf going into a fresh lactation cycle. We’ve had issues with frostbite and mastitis which have also negatively impacted the milk supply. The little pigs like the milk we dump, but we’d rather put it in jars!
So, we’ve had to ask, how do you treat a frostbit cow teat? It’s something we’ve never experienced in all our years with goats and cows. We dug into our books and consulted our bookkeeper (whose family runs a dairy farm). What we came up with is simply massaging a “burns and wounds” herbal cream into the affected area, adding a drop of tea tree oil if there is any cracking. So far it seems to be working well.
Spring really is around the corner! I heard the chickadee singing her spring song this week, and we are enjoying the splashy puddles in the yard. Dorothy even did a spring dance in bare feet on a 3 ft. square bit of dirt she found. We’re all looking forward to summer’s green grass!