And just like that, we are a little over halfway with our calving season, PHEW!! These cows definitely keep us busy! These two ladies have recently calved and are part of our “treated” group of cows. Their milk still consists partly of nutrient-rich colostrum, so their fresh morning milk is saved in a special tank to feed to our growing calves. After around 5 days post-calving, we take samples of milk from the “treated” cows and perform a somatic cell count (SCC) to determine milk quality and assess overall cow health. The higher the SCC reading, the more pathogens the cow’s immune system is fighting! So a low SCC means a healthy cow who is a candidate for being moved to our “milk” group. Although most cows do not receive antibiotics, milk from each cow is tested to confirm that there are no antibiotic residues before she joins the “milk” group.” Once she is in the “milk” group, her milk is collected and refigerated in our tank until the big milk truck takes it away to be pasteurized.
At the CEFS Cherry Dairy, we manage a research population of dairy cows–half of which is managed conventionally, and half of which is managed as closely to organic as possible without buying organic feed (which can be quite costly to the farmer!) That way, we can compare organic and conventional management strategies in terms of milk production, milk quality, and disease susceptibility within the herd.Our little calves are growing up so fast! This week we will move a third group of calves that are old enough to be in the group-rearing pasture. While in the group rearing pasture, we have to keep a close watch on each calf’s milk intake to make sure even the littlest ones get a fair chance to drink. It’s also important to make sure that the greedier ones do not drink too much milk, or they will get diarrhea!
So far, I’ve assisted two cows who needed help delivering, but both were fairly easy and their calves are alive and well. The rest of the pregnant moms are still playing the waiting game!