The Latest on Violet


Violet on day 3 of life.

Seems hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since we were bottle-feeding Violet. She was born Christmas day and her mama, Maybelle, died three weeks later. Since we’re coming up on her birthday and it’s been a while, I thought I would give you an update.

Even though she lost her mama, Violet got raw milk, not milk replacer.

Small fry on bottle detail.

Violet is half Jersey and half Angus. This cross makes a good family milk cow in many cases for several reasons. First, of the beef cow breeds, Angus tend to be better milk producers than most. Not that they usually approach what a good dairy cow can produce, of course. Second, the Angus also generally has a slightly higher butterfat concentration than other beef breeds. High butterfat is what gives you more cream for such goodies as cream for your coffee, butter and cream cheese. One of the disadvantages of purebred milk cows is that they tend to be more fragile health-wise than a beefer (that’s especially true of Holsteins). Producing high quantities of milk over a long period isn’t natural. Dairy cows have been bred for milk production to the exclusion of other qualities, which makes them more prone to problems like milk fever, mastitis, acidosis, low fertility and such. They need careful attention and expert management to stay healthy. Milk cows crossed to a beef breed are often less prone to such problems. A cow that is about one-quarter beef and three-quarters dairy is typically a good producer and often healthier over the long run. Dairy breed crosses also tend to be healthier than purebred dairy cows. The local raw milk dairyman uses mixed dairy breeds for just that reason. His cows’ bloodlines include Jersey, Holstein, Guernsey, Milking Shorthorn, Brown Swiss and Normande.

It’s feeding time; I’m waiting!

Violet at three months.

So my plan was to raise Violet to breeding age and make her my house cow. While she has certainly been healthy, there were a couple of crimps along the way. First, she is a small cow. At two years of age, she is close to six inches shorter and much lighter than another heifer in the herd who is younger. It’s not that you can’t milk a small cow, but she is small enough that she would have to be milked by hand. Hubby has had back and neck surgeries; I have carpal tunnel problems – daily milking by hand is out for us. She is also short enough that we’d have to build a milking stand. If you’re going to use a milking stand, your cow must be pretty much bombproof.

She does look more like a dairy cow than the beefer side of the family; she’s about 16 months here.

The red heifer in the middle is several months younger than Violet, but as you can see, she’s taller.

That’s the biggest negative to my original plan; Violet doesn’t have the right temperament. Hubby and I have both reached the age where we need a placid, relaxed, totally trustworthy and easy-going milk cow. Face it – us older folks don’t dodge as well as we used to and we don’t bounce as well, either. Not to mention that we’re just going to keep getting older (darn it). Violet, despite plenty of handling and people contact, is not placid and easy-going; she’s a rambunctious live wire. A friendly live wire and not mean, but a live wire nonetheless. While it’s possible that breeding her would help settle her down, it still doesn’t solve the size problem. So it looks as though she’s going to wind up in the freezer, probably next year, as I have another cow in line ahead of her. Anyway, the freezer is a bit full at the moment, what with the usual fruits and veggies, last year’s beef, two deer and hubby’s elk. In the meantime, I’m looking for a new milk cow.

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2 Responses to The Latest on Violet

  1. littleleftie says:

    I never fail to learn something—or more than something!—every time I read your postings. Thank you! It was great to get the update on Violet yet sad to learn her fate. Such are the obligations of ranching, I am learning. I have zero experience with animals, farming, ranching and the like, but I thoroughly enjoy all that you write.

    • Bee says:

      Thank you – you’re right about the obligations. The decisions can be hard sometimes and often there’s no perfect solution. On the other hand, there’s joy to counterbalance the sorrow; I’m reminded of Rumer Godden’s book, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy.

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