What makes a “farmer”?

“Remember when we talked about at what point we officially become ‘farmers’?  Well, I think we may have just hit it.”

We’ve had our future family milk cow, Rosie, for about 4 months now.  She’s a sassy girl, but fairly well behaved and we looked forward to one day milking her – approximately 13 months from now.  But she’s been pestering the llamas lately (Veronika definitely has a “spit first – ask questions later” policy with Rosie) and acting a little too playful with our big-bellied pregnant ewes, so we had discussed getting a bovine companion for her.  After a number of family discussions we thought we had narrowed it down to another dairy heifer – the kids didn’t want a feeder steer that they’d have to eat, and we thought Rosie might benefit from having another youngster to kick and buck around with in the field.

But then we ran across an ad for Jersey cows for sale.  A small Jersey dairy in the area was culling 8-10 cows that they figured would be useful as nurse cows, or possibly as family milk cows.  I called them up, told them what we thought we were looking for, and was promptly given details about Duchess.

Duchess is a 4-year old registered Jersey.  Unfortunately (for the dairy), she delivered her second calf only 2 weeks after drying up from her first lactation, and as a result, is only producing 30 lbs of milk this lactation.  I had to look it up… Milk weighs 8 1/2 lbs per gallon, so that’s 3 1/2 gallons each day.  Not so good for a dairy, but perfectly sufficient for us!  Chances are also very good with careful planning that her next go-round will be back up to at least average production for a Jersey her age.  (Which, so far as I can figure, is about 6 gallons a day!)  Duchess has good somatic cell counts, 4 working quarters, and a nice disposition, which may include a little mischief and a penchant for neck scratches.

So what does make a “farmer”, and why do we finally feel like we may have arrived?  We discussed criteria including productive animals, being able to produce some of your own food yourself, breeding your livestock, and maybe even make a few bucks on the side.  Now that our chickens have finally kicked their egg production up several notches (from 2 eggs/day out of 36 hens in December up to 16-19/day recently – and climbing), eggs are being sold when there’s a surplus in the fridge and we hope to become a Wisconsin Tested Flock, able to sell chicks, hatching eggs and extra hens this spring.  Lambs are on their way this month, and 5 fleeces are in the process of being skirted and rolled.  Our second year garden plans are in the making, and talk of investing in a pressure canner to make better use of this year’s harvest.  And now a milk cow.  A milk cow with actual milk.  She’ll be delivered to us sometime in the next week.  What an adventure this will be!

Duchess CL Photo

Duchess’ online ad photo – doesn’t do her justice!