It's still 3 months until my Jersey cow "Ruby" has her calf, but we are starting to get prepared.
Jersey cows are the sweet looking, big-eyed brown dairy cows. Cows come into heat every 21 days and their pregnancies are 9 1/2 months long. They must have a calf in order to produce milk. Cows are either bred ("covered") by a bull or they can be artificially inseminated ("AI'd"), which means semen is collected from a bull, then stored, shipped and inserted into the cow during her heat. Ruby was AI'd by our vet and is bred to a bull named "Cooper" from the Rockin' Robin Ranch in Arizona.
After birth not only will we have a calf but we'll have upwards of 8 gallons of milk a day! Ruby is a heifer which means she has never given birth before. This also means she has never been milked before. So I am spending time sitting on a stool next to her while she is eating, touching and cleaning her udder to get her used to it. There is still some tail swatting and kicking going on, but with time and patience she'll start to get acclimated.
A pregnant cow's diet stays the same 'til the later part of gestation, which is about now. It is a balance of increasing feed, without her becoming over weight and producing a larger calf, which would make delivery more difficult. So I am slowly increasing her feed and adding in some alfalfa hay which has higher amounts of protein than the 3-way hay. Exercise is important too, so I have been feeding her in different spots to make sure she is cruising her pen and not just in the barn waiting for her feed.
Another important factor is mineral supplements. She has access to a salt lick, organic kelp, sodium bicarbonate and a mineral supplement with copper, as soil in our area is deficient.
I am also starting to put together a birthing kit including clean towels, a calcium oral supplement (in case of milk fever) , selenium and vitamin E injection for the calf and chains to pull the calf if necessary, powdered colostrum, a feeder bag and bottle in case there is trouble nursing.
Making sure I am prepared, and that my cow is happy, healthy, and ready for milking when the time comes are my priorities. This will be our first jersey calf so I think I am extra nervous and want to make sure we are ready!
Happy bovine nesting!
Photos by Lauren Ross