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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Artificial Insemination in Cattle

artificial insemination cattleKey ideas on Artificial Insemination in Cattle

If you have never had an animal artificially inseminated, there are a few things you need to know before you purchase frozen bull semen:

  • First you need to identify a veterinarian or other AI professional in your area to do the procedure.  Unless you have received extensive training in artificial insemination (AI) you can NOT do this yourself.
  • You also need a place to store your frozen semen. Semen is stored at -300º F in a liquid nitrogen tank (you cannot store frozen semen in your freezer).  These tanks are costly and need routine maintenance to keep them viable.  Most large animal veterinarians have semen storage available and charge a nominal fee for this service, often as little as $60 per year for 100 straws.
  • Frozen semen is shipped in small liquid nitrogen tanks that must be returned to the shipper.  The facility we use for storage of most of our frozen semen ships directly from their facility, to wherever you plan to store your bull semen to ensure that it arrives in perfect condition.  When purchasing semen from us, you will contact our storage facility directly to arrange the details of shipment. You can expect shipping to cost about $100 for 1 to 100 straws including the return postage for the tank.  Because of the cost of shipment, it behooves you to purchase as much semen from a particular facility as you think you can use to minimize shipping costs.
  • As long as it is properly handled, frozen semen will last almost indefinitely, so don’t worry that what you purchase today won’t be good 5 or even 10 years from now.
  • Artificial insemination allows you to choose from many available bulls to maximize your breeding program.  However, always remember that most AI professionals will tell you that any given AI attempt has only about a 60% chance of success.  This means that when you purchase straws, always purchase 2 straws for each breeding you want to perform. 
  • Lastly, before purchasing semen from us, please call us to discuss your needs so we can help you have the very best probability of success with your AI program.
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Let’s Talk About Jerseys

Mini Miracles Farm and Miniature Jersey Cows

Miniature Jersey BullMini Miracles Farm is dedicated to the breeding of fine registered miniature Jerseys.

Many people ask what is a mini Jersey?  To be honest, they are the Jersey cow as she was originally when first imported into the United States from the Isle of Jersey, sometimes referred to as a Guinea Jersey.  She is not so small as to be useless on the farm, quite the opposite, she is a hard working member of your homestead family.  She provides milk and calves to the family and is beautiful to look at.

When first brought from the Isle of Jersey, Jerseys were smallish with most falling into the height range we’d refer to as mid-sized.  Mini Jerseys fall into two classifications: mini standing 38 – 42” at 3 years of age, and mid-size standing over 42” to under 48”.  These smaller animals eat less than full-size Jerseys, usually able to flourish on just one to two acres of pasture.  They are easier to handle because of their size, and they produce less milk.  Most families cannot consume 10 gallons of milk.  The mini Jersey produces 2-4 gallons per day – an amount that can be easily utilized.

At Mini Miracles Farm we breed outstanding foundation bloodstock for the serious breeder as well as percentage animals (mostly Jersey with a small percentage of other breeds to achieve unique and versatile individuals) for the homesteader or small farmer.  Additionally, each animal is registered, DNA tested to prove parentage and other genetic characteristics, and is handled from the moment she is born and then twice daily until she departs for her new home.  By the time she leaves our farm, a heifer will lead easily with a halter, load into a trailer, stand for milking and veterinary procedures, lift her feet for inspection or trimming, and will be gentle enough for a child to handle.

Mini Miracles Farm is committed to matching the right cow to the right environment.  If we do not have the right animal for you, we are happy to refer you to someone else who may.  We love these little animals and want you to have exactly what you want and need.

Pete & Sandy Michael

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