So, yesterday I went a step further with my hobby farm enterprise.
Thanks to a client who has a dairy farm, I acquired a house cow.
Now, here’s the thing – I’m a city girl, born and bred. I’ve never been within five metres of a cow except for the time a few years ago when, one morning, I walked out into my carport smack back into one. The adjoining property is some sort of cattle enterprise and the fences were dodgy at the time so we would often find cattle in our paddocks. No cow had ever ventured as far as the house, but obviously there’s a first time for everything. So that was the only time I’d come within touching distance of a cow. I’m not sure who was more startled, me or the cow, but anyway.
I like the idea of being self-sufficient, just in case of a zombie apocalypse or something, and I also love animals, obviously. I’ve been able to establish a good veggie garden, safe from the chooks, I have a small citrus orchard, an endless supply of eggs. I like the notion of producing my own milk and other dairy products and have been encouraged before to get a house cow. However I’ve always come up against that brick wall of cows being really ‘foreign’ to me. I can understand dogs, horses, cats, even chooks, ducks and geese. But I don’t understand cows. I just think understanding is a requirement if you’re going to be responsible for an animal.
A few weeks ago, one night, Ghost got out and I woke one morning to find him galloping up and down the road. I went out in my dressing gown to bring him back in and at the same time my lovely old neighbour, Dan, hobbled out to see if I needed help. Once Ghost was safely back in the paddock, Dan and I got chatting (the two of us out there at 5am in our dressing gowns!) At the time I was trying to deflect my client’s suggestion that she give me one of her cows. I mentioned this to Dan and he said that he grew up on a dairy farm in South Australia and would give me a hand with milking and caring for it if I did decide to get it.
The deal was done, and I’ve now acquired Brienne. She’s partly a “rescue cow” – as a result of the drought and the fact my client’s paddocks had been destroyed by fire, she’s underweight but otherwise healthy. She’ll need some hard feeding for a while.
Before she arrived, I had to register for a PIC (I felt very ‘farm-girl’ doing that!) and went off to the rural supply store to get buckets, filters, teat balm and a milking stool. I also purchased glass mason jars from Big W and some Milton stuff for cleaning (the same stuff you use to sanitise babies’ bottles). Dan said you just drink milk straight from the bucket but I’m, like, to myself – Um, no. I’ve been madly researching dairy cows, learning how to make butter, cheese and yoghurt and reading all about artificial insemination. You Tube is my new friend. I’m sure Dan is from the no-fuss school of thought, which is perfectly fine, but I want to gain that vital understanding and knowledge.
Brienne has a calf (Lyanna) so we don’t need to milk her every day. Don’t ask me what I’m going to do with Lyanna when she gets bigger, as it was never my intention to have more than one. Also don’t ask me what I’ll do if in the future I end up with a male calf. I have a strict no-kill policy at my place. Which obviously is not going to help in the event of a zombie apocalypse as my dogs will have to eat something, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. The horses aren’t fazed having new paddock pals, and in fact Arya is very attentive to Lyanna. Dan and I are going to try milking on Saturday.
As an aside, a bright spark of a pal mentioned I should rename our farm to Seven Kingdoms Farm, given all the references to Game of Thrones characters (what can I say, we are fans!) At last count we now have: Arya, Gendry and Ghost (horses), and Daenerys and Cersei (chooks), and now Brienne and Lyanna (cows) – so we don’t have quite the Seven Kingdoms as yet, but I guess we will keep working on it, I’m sure.