Artificial Insemination in Mini Jerseys

LateDan heifers 2015ly it seems that many people are talking about challenges they are experiencing with artificial insemination (AI) of their mini Jersey cows and heifers.   This is a serious issue for Miniature Jersey cow owners since most owners have only one or two animals and do not want, nor have the facilities to keep a bull.   So, we thought we might offer some tips to help you with your AI program.

Since you have to have calves to have fresh milk, it’s critically important that you have a plan for keeping your cow calving regularly, hopefully annually.  It is true that you can milk a cow for longer than a year if she is fit enough, but we recommend that you do not get in the habit of doing so as it puts great strain on the cow.  Plus, the calves you receive have considerable value themselves.

First off, unless you plan to take an AI class and do the insemination yourself, you have to find a competent AI tech.  AI techs can be found through your veterinarian, your local agricultural extension office, or a bull semen collection facility (there are many of these throughout the country).  We were fortunate enough to have a quality bull collection facility, Champion Genetics, just 2 hours from our farm.  We purchased frozen semen on the bulls we liked and had it shipped directly to Champion where it was stored until we needed it.  When a cow needed to be bred, we simply took her to Champion and let them perform the service.   It was easy and effective. 

Secondly, heat detection is important.  A cow should ideally be inseminated at 12 hours after the onset of standing heat, but can often become pregnant if insemination occurs as late as 24 hours after onset of heat.  Standing heat is easily detected if you have more than one cow, but if you have only one it can be more difficult.   For this reason, you may want to find a professional collection facility to perform your AI as they can put your cow with others to make heat detection much more precise.  Heat can also be induced, with the AI tech estimating the onset of standing heat – this can be an effective method.

Thirdly, the frozen semen itself needs to be of good quality.   Frozen semen is fragile and must be carefully handled.  When we sell semen it ships directly from the collection facility to wherever the purchaser is going to store it for future use.  This reduces the chance of degradation caused by heating and cooling during multiple transfers in and out of liquid nitrogen tanks.   Plus, we sell only semen that is embryo transfer quality, the highest quality rating.

Fourth, some cows simply will not breed using AI.  It’s rare, but it does happen, most often with older cows.  To help maintain your cow’s ability to conceive, we recommend that you begin breeding her as a relatively young heifer around 18 months of age, and that she be bred each year thereafter.  We never try to AI a cow on the first heat after calving, the probability of success is just too low; in fact, we usually wait until the 3rd heat cycle post-partum to maximize the probability of success.

Lastly, about sexed semen.  Sexed semen straws usually consist of 2.1 million sperm cells while regular frozen semen has 12-15 million sperm cells.  The lower sperm count, combined with the fragile nature of sexed semen, make it much more difficult to use and makes accurate heat detection critical.  For these reasons plus the higher cost, we offer sexed semen straws in very limited quantities and only to those who have already achieved success in their AI program using standard straws.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask – we want you to be successful with your AI program.

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Clostridium in Mini Jersey Calves

As I walked to the barn in the cool pre-dawn of a lovely autumn morning, I looked forward to bottle feeding our 5 day old heifer, Felicity.   Bottle feeding these little babies is something tFelicity 3 wkshat I truly enjoy and was anticipating Felicity’s normal robust feeding style.   My heart dropped to the floor when I rounded the corner of the barn and saw Felicity lying flat out on the soft bedding of her stall.  I ran to her side and found her completely unresponsive – but breathing!  Not having any idea what was happening, I grabbed her up into my lap and hugged her to me like a baby, firmly rubbing her all over.  Slowly she began to awaken and become aware of her surroundings, although she remained lethargic and barely able to stand.  Additionally I could see that she was running a high fever – I later learned that her temperature was 106 degrees!

Because my husband had already left for work, I had to complete the morning feeding and milking routine before I could rush Felicity to the hospital.  Upon arriving, our wonderful vet immediately administered IV antibiotics and Banamine for pain, assuming we were dealing with Clostridium – which as it turned out, we were.   In addition to the medications administered by the vet, we continued a protocol of oral and injected antibiotics plus Banamine for the next few days.   It wasn’t until the 2nd day of treatment that other symptoms developed, including severe bloody diarrhea which we treated by feeding her electrolytes to keep her hydrated.   I like to use Re-Sorb for the electrolytes as it can be mixed with milk – many electrolyte compounds cannot, and we believe that a scouring calf needs maximum nutrition and recovers more quickly if she is not deprived of milk while in her weakened condition.

The type of infection Felicity contracted is called Clostridium perfringens Type C.  This type of Clostridium is especially virulent in calves less than 10 days old, and often less than 5 days old, and death often occurs before the severe bloody diarrhea develops.  It can be exacerbated by excess milk in the abomasum (true stomach) from over-feeding or poor digestion. We were so blessed to have found Felicity in time to save her life, and within 3 days of her initial “event” she was bounding around her pasture, although it took over a week for her to regain the weight and strength she lost during her illness.

Every illness that our Miniature Jerseys contract, offer an opportunity to learn something.  Even though we vaccinate our cows for Clostridium to boost the value of the colostrum they produce, and we place new calves in a clean, freshly bedded stall, we knew we still had more to learn about this.  Since we bottle feed our calves from the moment they are born, we found special considerations to help prevent this from happening again in the future:

  • Adequate colostrum must be fed to the calf as soon as possible to maximize the immunity passed from dam to calf.
  • The temperature of the milk must be close to the calf’s body temperature (~101ºF).
  • If using milk replacer, it needs to be mixed thoroughly.
  • Feeding schedules must be regular and consistent.
  • Calves need to drink their milk slowly – if you feed with a bottle do not make the nipple opening too large (we tossed all the old nipples that we had opened up to making feeding quicker!). 
  • More frequent, smaller meals – we feed 3 bottles per day instead of just 2 for the first month.
  • Careful equipment hygiene (buckets, bottles, nipples, etc).

We are thankful for lessons learned, and precious lives saved.

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Mini Jersey A2A2 Bull – South House Dapper Dan

Mini Jersey Bull Semen

 At last we are beginning to see calves from our good A2/A2  miniature Jersey bull South House Dapper Dan!  As expected,  his calves are gorgeous; and with beta casein A2/A2 they will  help increase the number of A2/A2 animals in the mini  Jersey world.   

 Additionally, Dapper Dan is producing lovely deep dished  heads and small size in his offspring (see picture of Miracle  Faline).Faline 2 wks 2


As you know, there are very few A2/A2 mini Jersey cattle at this time, primarily because the animals from which the mini Jersey breed derived did not have the A2 gene.  Over time as a result of breeding other polled breeds into the original mini Jerseys, the A2 gene has been introduced into the mini Jersey and is becoming more available.  Whether you believe in the A2 Corporation’s claims or not, we anticipate that the A2 gene will become more common in the next few years. 

If you are looking for a bull to advance your herd to the next level, Dapper Dan would be a good choice for many reasons: 

  • Dapper Dan has a unique lineage that will help expand the gene pool of the mini Jersey;
  • He has good conformation with a great head that he’s passing along to his offspring;
  • Dapper Dan has a wonderful temperament and is handled by us daily to maintain that gentle disposition;
  • Dapper Dan’s frozen bull semen is “embryo transfer quality” which is the best you can get, giving you the best possible results with your AI program; and,
  • His frozen semen is shipped directly from the collection facility to ensure its quality to the buyer.

As you consider your breeding options for 2015 and beyond, don’t hesitate to call us with questions.   Artificial insemination can seem like a daunting endeavor at first, but with help from those with experience, it can be very rewarding both financially and esthetically as you produce better and better calves.   Even if you own just one cow and she is primarily kept for your personal milk supply, why not breed to be best?  The sale of one well bred heifer can easily reimburse you for the cost of keeping your cow, and future calves make a nice return on the investment you have in your family cow.

Mini Miracles Farm has other young bulls coming up as well.  Currently being offered is frozen bull semen from one of these young bulls, D C Ebenezer – we’ll keep you posted as we see calves from this great little bull next year.

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Mini Jersey Naming Conventions

What a wonderful experience it is to watch a baby miniature Jersey calf take its first feFaline 2 wksw steps and get its first meal.  They are so happy and cute that, at least here at Mini Miracles Farm, we just can’t help but walk around with gigantic smiles all the time.  We especially enjoy watching the young calves throw their tails in the air and take off across the pasture on bright sunny mornings.  Our newest heifer, Miracle Faline, literally curls her tail up over her back when she runs – just too cute.

All of our animals are registered and soon after birth we start trying to think of names for our little ones.  When considering names for registered miniature Jerseys it’s important to remember that there are actual naming rules or conventions.  Each breeder gets to choose a unique name or identifier (often initials) that identifies their breeding operation, and this identifier precedes the given name of the calf.  For instance, at Mini Miracles Farm, the word Miracle precedes the name of each animal born here.  The rule is that the breeder identification belongs to the owner of the cow when the cow was bred.  So, if someone purchases a cow from us that is bred, the calf would have the word Miracle as the first part of its name because it is the result of our breeding program.  Likewise, if we purchased a bred cow from someone else, then the resulting calf would have that breeder’s identifier in the name and not ours.

You’ll notice this naming convention in practice at Mini Miracles Farm.  All of our older cows and both bulls were purchased from other breeders and they have names like South House Dapper Dan, DC Ebenezer, TGF Spice, BTTF Bree, RNC Miss Ruthie, TRRH Ruby, etc.  In the case of all of the animals listed above, the first name(s) or initials identify the breeder of the cow.  These names are not changed when the animal is purchased, as registered names should not be changed or it would be very difficult to track bloodlines, which is the whole purpose of registering animals in the first place.

So, when you are considering names for your cute little calves, remember that you need to include the breeder’s identification in the name of your calf when it is registered if you did not own the cow when she was bred.  Also remember that the name will go with the animal for the rest of its life – so naming an adorable baby bull Twinkle Toes may seem cute, but he’s likely to outgrow that name relatively quickly.  

Enjoy your calves, it won’t be long before they are full grown and having calves of their own.

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Mini Jersey Breeding Season

DC Ebenezer

 It’s that time of year to get ready for breeding season for your miniature Jersey.  Depending on what part of the country you call home, breeding season may be all year long or very short periods of time.  On Mini Miracles Farm we have 2 distinct breeding seasons:  June – September, and December – January.  These seasons give us calves from March – June after the last freeze and much of the late winter rain is over with, and again in September and October before winter rains and slush set in.   Many times, however, we’ll miss these exact times due to breeding issues of various sorts.

 People ask us all the time when to breed their heifers/cows.  What I tell them is to consider what month they want the calf to be born and add 3 months to establish the breeding date.  So, if you want your calf to be born mid-May, you’ll breed your cow mid to late August.  Being able to choose the date your cow will calve is one of the many advantages of artificial insemination (AI).  

 Even though we have bulls on the farm, and one of them is always with the herd, we don’t allow our bulls to naturally breed unless we are struggling with AI on a particular cow/heifer.  Artificial insemination allows you to establish the date breeding occurs and gives you many options as to the bull you choose for your breeding program.  AI also protects your bulls from mishaps associated with live cover.

 So, with so many bulls to choose from, how do you choose the “right” one for your cow?  There are many factors to consider with each bull:  bloodlines, genetics, size, color, polling, etc.   However, at the end of the day, until you gain experience and see what your cow produces with a particular bull, find one you like and a supplier you trust and go for it.  As with any breeding program, your goal is to produce a calf that is equal or superior in quality to your cow. 

 A wise breeder once told me that regardless of how large your herd is, “the bull is half your herd”.   We could not agree more!  At Mini Miracles Farm we purchase bulls that we believe will compliment our herd of breeding females.  We have a look in mind that we’re trying to achieve, plus genetics we want to establish; and we want to do all this with as wide a gene pool as possible.  Mini Miracles Farm does not line breed nor inbreed as we believe that mini Jerseys have experienced enough of these practices in the past and it is our responsibility to expand the gene pool to protect future generations of miniature Jerseys. 

 At this time Mini Miracles Farm offers mini Jersey frozen bull semen on two outstanding bulls:  South House Dapper Dan and D C Ebenezer.  These bulls are both young so it will be a few years before we see what they produce over time, but they were selected because of their outstanding bloodlines, conformation and genetics.

 Take a deep breath and enjoy breeding season – it’s a magical time in your breeding program.

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The Well Trained Heifer

Melody in training

It is hard to milk a cow you can’t catch.  For this reason, we at Mini Miracles Farm work hard to train our miniature Jersey heifers.  We have found that it’s never too early to begin training your heifer (or bull calf for that matter).  By the time our mini Jerseys are 2 weeks old, they have learned to wear a halter and lead around the yard.  Since we bottle feed our calves, they also come running to us which is really great when they’re old enough to turn out in a larger pasture – it saves us from having to go catch them!

 By the time our calves are a month old they’ve learned to stand for brushing, load into the milking stanchion (note Melody in the picture above), lift their feet to be trimmed if necessary, and they enjoy human contact and companionship.  They also are trained to load in a trailer with and without a ramp so trailering your mini Jersey is easy and much less stressful.

 All of the training we put into our calves results in future milk cows that are calm and enjoy the milking process.  We want to reduce the possibility of problems that may occur at your heifer’s first freshening as they become mothers for the first time and then need to be milked.  Our cows depend on us and know they can trust us so that we can attend the birth of their calves without stress to the cow and calf.  This is tremendously important in the unlikely event that assistance is needed during delivery.

 The same care is taken to train our bull calves as is taken to train the heifers.  If a bull isn’t trained to lead and respect people, it is difficult to deal with him.  It’s much easier to gain his respect early in life and he matures with a willing attitude toward his owners.  We train our bull calves to tolerate a stanchion as well so that they get used to being confined – it helps them accept a head gate for vaccinations later in life, or as needed for veterinary procedures.

 All of this training takes time, but we believe that it is vitally important to the enjoyment you will have with your mini Jersey. 

 We hope you had a blessed Christmas and are looking forward to a wonderful  New Year.

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The Joy of Twin Heifers!!!

Twins 1 hour old.

Twins 1 hour old.

 Three weeks ago, on a bright spring morning we at Mini Miracles Farm were blessed to welcome two lovely mini Jersey heifers into this world.  We should have realized that the dam might be getting ready to have twins, her udder had swollen to twice the size it’s ever been before calving; but we were utterly surprised when, after drying off and feeding colostrum to the first heifer, another pair of tiny back feet appeared from the rear of the cow!

 These heifers were the result of embryo transfer and we later learned that only 1 in 1,000 embryo transfers result in twins.  And, although one of them has a small white spot on her forehead, they are identical.  Both heifers presented in the breach (backwards with the sole of the hooves facing upward) position, which is not unusual with twins.  What is somewhat unusual, is that they are both strong and healthy.

 Twins present complications in your normal calving routine as well as in the ongoing care of these calves.  First off, we always feed the dam’s colostrum to new calves preferably within the first 30 minutes after birth.  This means that with twins, we need to milk out 2-3 quarts of colostrum to give the babies the amount of colostrum we want them to have.  This isn’t much of a problem, except that the early swelling in the cow’s udder is not yet milk, so you have to be careful not to hurt her or over milk her as she lets her milk down.  In this case, because of the size of the dam’s udder and the amount of milk she was going to produce, we were concerned about milk fever and were very, very careful the first 4 days to just milk out only the amount of milk the calves needed and no more.

 Another concern is that the dam often struggles to care for twins – sometimes stepping on one while tending to the other, occasionally the dam of twins will reject one of them.  Since we bottle feed our calves anyway, we opted to remove both calves from their dam immediately and bottle feed them with their dam’s milk.   

 For the first 2 weeks after birth we feed 3 feedings of the dam’s milk per day to the little heifers, but this isn’t the extent of the care these little ones need.   If you watch a cow and her calf in the pasture, you’ll notice that the cow will lick her calf all over, paying special attention to ensuring that the calf defecates and that its bodily functions operate correctly.  So, when we feed our babies for the first 2 weeks, we take a rag and wipe first their navel to promote healing, then their anus to assist the calves’ elimination process.   It sounds kind of disgusting, but it helps the calves and I’ve found that my hands are infinitely washable!  The reward for all your effort is wonderfully healthy and happy calves.

 Enjoy your spring calving season. It is such a wonderful time, and all too soon these little Miniature Jersey calves grow up!

 Have a joyful life little Melody and Harmony.

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Preparing Cows for Calving

Ernest 3-29-14

It’s spring and calving season is in full swing. Like all breeding farms, Mini Miracles Farm has had some new miniature Jersey arrivals.  However, despite the weaknesses inherent in winter forage some of our cows are just too fat for easy calving, and with spring grasses coming on strong the problem will only get worse if we don’t act now.

 You may ask: How fat is too fat, and how can being fat affect calving?  Let’s take a case in point – admittedly it is a bit unusual.  At the end of February one of our cows suddenly went into what appeared to be labor 3 days before her due date.  After many hours of contractions and no baby in sight, we rushed her to the vet only to be told that she wasn’t in labor after all, but that her calf was out of position and upside down and was apparently trying to turn over causing the cow pain and discomfort.  The physical examination indicated that the cow’s rumen was pressing on the calf so much that he could not move into position.  Our vet’s advice was to get the rumen size down ASAP!

In response to our vet’s suggestion, we put our cow into a large birthing stall, fed her small amounts of grain to maintain body condition and drastically reduced her consumption of hay and other roughages.  By the due date, our cow’s rumen was half the size it had been and the calf was born without complication.

It seems we learn something new every time a calf is born, but as a result of this experience we are taking a critical look at our herd as they near calving.  The issue in the case above was not general body fat, however it can be a problem in some cases, but the rumen size.  Many times you see mini Jersey cattle that appear pear shaped when looking at them from the front.  If we see that the rumen sticks out further than the ribcage of the cow, we move her to a well-grazed pasture, add grain to her diet and reduce hay and grass until her rumen size is down where we want it to be.  If this doesn’t work we move her to a paddock where we can control her entire diet and feed her hay only sparingly. 

Already we have seen remarkable physical changes in the cattle we’ve targeted and expect to experience even easier calving as a result.  Miniature Jerseys as well as standard Jerseys are known for their ease of calving, but the more we can help the cow in this most critical time, the healthier she will be and the longer she can produce quality calves.

Happy Spring!

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Miniature Jersey, Guinea Jersey, Foundation Jersey

Many times we are asked to explain the difference between all the various terms used to describe Mini Jerseys. People want to know just what is a Mini Jersey, and wonder if all the names mean the same thing. To complicate matters, many people use the terms mini Jersey, foundation pure mini Jersey, Guinea Jersey, etc. interchangeably.

The short answer is that there’s not a short answer. The term mini or miniature Jersey refers to any Jersey at least 15/16th pure that does not exceed 48” in height at maturity. This definition is very broad and is broken down into two height classifications:
• Mini – standing 42” and under at age 3; and
• Mid-size – standing over 42” to 48” at age 3

Beyond simply the size designation, however, there are many other factors that differentiate these animals. To understand the significance of the terms we need to consider just a little history.

All Jerseys originated in England and were imported into the United States once ocean travel became commonplace, in about the mid-1800’s. As soon as ships began plying the waters with their precious cargo changes began to occur in the breeding of Jersey cows. Of significance in the Jerseys of today, other breeds were introduced to create the polled gene since all original pure Jerseys were horned.

The Jerseys that were brought over from England during this time would have been what we would now classify as mid-sized averaging 44” to 46” in height. True mini cattle were very rare and today’s Mini Jerseys are the result of selective breeding to achieve the smaller size.

What we mean by foundation or heritage Jerseys are descendants of the animals brought over in the 1800’s that were carefully bred to maintain their smaller size, original genetics and hardy constitution which was a prime characteristic of the original animals. In some cases, they were crossed with other breeds to achieve size, polling and other desired characteristics, but through the many generations since, they have been kept pure and have become a breed unto itself.

Guinea Jerseys are the descendants of animals that were imported at various times from England, and also have maintained their original character. Most of these animals are smallish mid-size and exist in small pockets throughout the United States. These also are true heritage mini Jerseys and enjoy the full benefits of registry. In fact, we at Mini Miracles Farm consider them very desirable in expanding genetics within our herd. They are rare and hard to find and prices reflect this.

At Mini Miracles Farm we strive to breed the very best heritage Jersey cows in the world. We register each one through the Miniature Jersey Herd Book and American Miniature Jersey Association. To see a complete history of the Mini Jersey visit the history page of each of these registries – it’s a good read!

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Winter and Miniature Jersey Calves

022It’s the last day of the year and winter has finally set in. Winter here in our part of Texas is not cold as it is in the north, nevertheless it’s cold for miniature Jersey calves anytime the temperatures drop below the 50 degree mark. This year since we have a couple of bottle babies, we’ve had to take a little extra care to keep them warm. We began with calf coats when the weather dipped into the 30’s, but ended up placing a heat lamp in their stall as the temps continued to fall. They quickly figured out where the warmth was and we’ll usually find them there if they’re not out romping in their paddock. It’s important to keep your mini Jersey calves warm enough to ward off stress diseases and allow them to grow properly.

Also, as we enter a new year, we at Mini Miracles Farm would like to thank all of our customers for your support and kindness. It is such a wonderful feeling to deliver our little bulls and heifers to homes where they will be cared for and become an integral part of the family. Much effort goes into caring for and training our mini Jersey calves, and it gives us great pleasure to see the joy in the faces of our customers as they handle their new mini Jersey, often for the very first time.

We wish all of you a very happy new year!

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