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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

Sunday morning milking

Milking Stand

We love Sundays. The blessed Sabbath Day, a day of rest. But if you live on a farm, particularly if you have dairy cows, the animals still have to be fed and the milking done and done on time! And yet, somehow it is different, any extra chores remain undone on this day. As I snuggle in against the side of my favorite milk cow, I am reminded of a little poem that appeared in “A Little House” by Laura Ingalls Wilder:

“She’s a thing of beauty and a source of wealth
She’s a sure guarantee of riches and health,
To the one who lives by the sweat of his brow,
God’s greatest gift is the Jersey cow!”

I love milking my mini Jerseys, especially when the weather is cool. Bugs aren’t a problem, and even if my hands start out cold, by the time the milk starts to flow they are warm from the wash water I cleaned her udder with, and the flow of warm milk.

Milking is such a simple thing and the rich milk and cream are so worth the little effort involved. However, you do need a good place to milk. It doesn’t need to be fancy, as evidenced by the picture with today’s blog. My husband is having a fit knowing I’m putting up a picture of what I’m calling the Taj Mahal Of Milking, which is a hastily erected shed right outside our side door. In our part of Texas the weather is so temperate that until now I’ve always milked my cows either in their stalls if the weather was unpleasant, or most of the time I’d just tie her up to a fence post and milk there. But as we’ve increased the number of cows to milk, I needed a better place. So yesterday when I heard the weather forecast of 30º with rain and sleet, I asked my husband to build me a shed – and with a little help from me, he did!

Here are the primary features of my little shed: First it’s got shelter from the wind to protect the cow and me from cold, and to keep dirt from flying into the milk pail; second, it has a raised platform for the cow to stand on. This allows me to keep the area much cleaner and lifts the cow up a few inches. Miniature Jerseys are considerably shorter than full-size Jerseys, so to milk them, you don’t sit on a stool, you kneel beside them – with this new building, I can sit next to her on the platform (what a back saver). Lastly, is a place to put food or a small flake of alfalfa hay to keep her busy while I milk.

And that’s it – Happy Milking!

Heifer Development

Heifer DevelopmentOne of the most important considerations when raising miniature Jerseys is rumen development.  At Mini Miracles Farm we take heifer development seriously and take the necessary steps to maximize rumen development at a young age.

Today, Dinah and Dancer were moved from the pasture they shared with their dams to the smaller heifer paddock where they will be bottle and grain fed.  Recent studies have shown that proper rumen development is maximized when grain is introduced into the calves’ diet at a young age.  It was once considered to be adequate to just leave the heifer on the cow and allow her to graze with her dam, developing her rumen slowly as she matured.  However, new research shows that grain introduced early is much more efficient at rumen development than grass and/or hay.

 Since our cows produce such nice, yummy, rich milk, it’s really difficult to get the calves to eat much grain at all if they remain with their dams.  Because of this, we separate them so that we can reduce their milk consumption and encourage grain consumption.  From today and until they are weaned, they will get milk and a specialized grain based feed with a small amount of the very best hay.  After weaning, they will continue to eat grain as their primary source of protein and nutrients, but will begin eating more hay.  If it’s spring when we wean the calves, then the hay is eliminated and they graze good pasture.

 The concept of feeding grain early in heifer development, is that grain stimulates production of the various bacteria needed in the rumen to process the foods that they will eat throughout their lives.  When a calf is born, their rumen is very small and not developed.  This is because milk does not pass through the rumen, but bypasses it via the esophageal groove and goes directly into the abomasum (the cow equivalent of the human stomach).  As solid foods, particularly grain, are introduced into the diet, the esophageal groove eventually closes and all food passes through the rumen.

 It’s hard on the dams and heifers today as they are separated for the first time.  Although we keep them in adjoining pastures, they will moo and cry for a couple of days before they settle into their new routines.  But to produce an exceptionally healthy heifer is worth it all.

Dawn Dancer

New miniature Jersey calf Dawn Dancer at Mini-miracles Farm

Starting out on the right hoof.

miniature jersey calf Dawn DancerAnother new heifer was born to Mini Miracles Farm on Saturday morning, November 9th.  What a blessing these lovely creatures are. We’ve named her Dawn Dancer because she fairly danced when she got on her feet just moments after being born.  As you can see from the picture, she’s still wet as she steadies herself on brand new hooves. 

 A few days before a cow gets ready to calve (also referred to in the dairy world as getting “freshening”), we get ready as well.  First we move the cow to a small paddock close to the house that includes a nice sized box stall.  Then we check on her every few hours day and night to see how she’s doing.  If it’s really wet or cold we lock the cow in the stall until the calf is born.  We make up our “calving bucket” which includes a bucket for water for the cow to drink, several towels, one small towel or wash cloth to wipe the calves nostrils and mouth, iodine with a small cup to soak the umbilical cord in, a milking pail, teat wipes and a 2-quart feeding bottle.

 As you get to know your cow you will see a distinct pattern in her preparations to calve.  Cinnamon, Dancer’s dam, begins to charge around the birthing pen, checking fences, making sure no other cows are around, etc.  In the case of this past Saturday, I had left Dinah and her dam in the pasture too and had to remove them because Cinnamon decided it would be easier to adopt Dinah than have her own.  Anyway, each is unique, but after a time or two you’ll know when she’s imminent.  With anything but a first freshener, when we see her go into labor, we know we’ve got just a few minutes before baby will be born.

 When the baby is born, I like to be right there so that I can quickly wipe the nose of the calf so that it doesn’t ingest any of the sack or birthing fluids and make certain it takes that first breath immediately.  Usually we place a small towel under the head of the baby so it doesn’t get filthy – particularly if born in the pasture as Dancer was.  If it’s cool (less than 70 degrees) we’ll help the cow dry the baby off.  Did you know that a Jersey calf has very little body fat at birth and anything under 60 degrees can be dangerous for them if not dried off quickly.   After the calf stands we’ll put a small cup of iodine under the calf and completely soak the umbilical cord right up to the belly.  Within 30 minutes after birth, I’ll have milked the cow and will feed at least 1 quart of colostrum to the baby with a bottle.  Usually the calf is looking for milk anyway and by milking and feeding the baby you know just how much she’s gotten of that critical first food.  Oh yes, and while I’m messing with the calf, the cow drinks the water I brought her (tepid not cold) – this helps her body flush the placenta later on.

 Of course, all this really isn’t necessary as cows have been having babies for thousands of years; but these little things can make a tremendous difference in the health of your calf as well as in getting it socialized to people right away.

 Happy life little Dancer!

New Heifer on MiniMiracles Farm

New Miniature Jersey Heifer

miniature Jersey heifer and cowWe have a new miniature Jersey heifer.  She’s Dinah-mite!! 

Born 10-30-13 her name is Miracle Dinah but we call her Dinah-mite. 

She hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since.  100% foundation pure mini Jersey, tiny and beautiful. 

What fun it is having babies like these!