It's been a week now, so I think I can talk about it. I don't have my Jersey milk cow Gracie any more. I sold her. I spent the last week feeling really sick about it, just a pit in my stomach. Let me tell you the story.
We got Gracie in December 2010. She birthed and we were in milk. The training was difficult. It was her first time being milked, and my first time milking a cow (though I already knew how to milk goats). Behavior aside (eventually she calmed down, for the most part), another issue was that she didn't let her milk down readily . She saved it for her calf, who shared the milk with us. And also, she has small teats, so the milking time was quite long — 45 minutes to an hour — and I couldn't even get out all her milk.
Some days I declared I'd had it and I was going to sell her. Some days I felt I'd put so much time into her already that I would stick with it.
Come November 2011, friends shared a milking machine with us and it made all the difference in the world. Overnight, milking changed and was doable. We settled into a more efficient routine. We got more milk and in shorter time. I thought, “Okay, I can do this.”
By March 2012 (just recently), we dried Gracie up for the last months of her second pregnancy. The break was fantastic — not having the milking routine was a wonderful rest. It wasn't nearly long enough.
Then she gave birth on May 17, 2012 and we were in milk again. It was exciting. This time around I knew what I was doing, she was better behaved, and we decided to bottle feed the calf to avoid the whole won't-let-down-her-milk issue. I knew it was going to be so much better.
But it wasn't. She didn't want to be milked by machine. She had tons more milk (due I think to more efficient milking right at the beginning) — milk which had to come by hand. Want to know how long it was taking me to milk her? I really don't know — because I was quitting each milking at over two hours! And that had to be done twice a day! She was so full of milk and her teats so little and I couldn't do it any more.
So I made the heartbreaking first step toward selling her. Selling her was easy, actually. God had a plan already worked out. *this part gives me chills*
I asked friends who run a herdshare (Wholesome Family Farm) if they were interested. They were, and in fact had waken up that very morning thinking they would try to get another cow that day. We worked out the exchange, and they took Gracie home to their herd that day. Though she is still warming up to their machines, it sounds like she's doing well there. I hope so, anyway!
So that was the story. Now how about I answer some questions I think you may have.
How am I doing? Well, I've felt sick about the whole thing for going on a week now. My emotions run between failure and shame, to relief and freedom. A little bit of missing Gracie. And some more of feeling like I abandoned her.
What will we do for milk? We are participating in the Wholesome Family Farm herdshare.
What did I learn? That my next milk cow better have hand-milking size teats. Even if I do milk by machine, I want a cow that I can milk by hand efficiently if need arises. I want a cow that my children can milk more easily, too. But — we're not actively looking for a milk cow right now, and I don't know when I will.
Okay, let me hear it. What do you think? I know you'll be kind, and thank you for that, as I'm still feeling fragile and burned-out. 🙂
On another, more cheerful note, I am writing this post from Phoenix-area, Arizona. I'm here getting some help with a back-end software switch. Boy, is it hot! Do you live around here and want to get together for dinner tomorrow evening (Tuesday)? Contact me and I'll forward you the info about our group plans.
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