A while back, I was involved in an incident with seven year-old bull calves.
There they are, photos made a day or so after the incident occurred. All seven were sold to the dairy not long afterwards and all of them were purchased by a very large dairy in Missouri and have gone to live there.
Our bull calves remain intact (we don’t castrate them). They are all registered Jerseys, and carry pretty nice pedigrees, so they are typically used for several years for breeding.
I posted something about it, along with the top photo, on Facebook when it happened.
The guy on the far left (in the upper photo) and in the foreground (in the lower photo) is Frances’ calf.
Anyway, when I posted an account of what happened, I found it a little bit astonishing that Cathy Harris decided the story was not only hilarious but also total bullshit and she has derided me for it ever since.
The reason I find this interesting is that she insists that not only did she grow up living on an active dairy farm (she did) but also that Cleo forced her to do all the milking and clean-up every morning before school.
See what I mean?
I doubted the veracity of this story the first time I read it, for several reasons.
First, dairy cows are expensive. Cleo was a tightwad. If a cow is not milked properly, she is very likely to come down with mastitis. It’s expensive to treat and sometimes impossible to cure. Nobody would ever entrust the milking of an entire dairy to a sixth-grade child.
On some farms, children help with chores, and it’s entirely possible that people allow their young children to do basic milking with a machine, but not without supervision.
Even if the dairy is fully automated like our dairy is, milk handling is an exacting chore. If it’s not handled correctly and it gets contaminated, the somatic cell count of the milk climbs up and then when the processing plant truck comes and tests the milk (and they do test it every time they come), they won’t accept it and all the milk has to be dumped. In the case of our dairy, that’s 500 gallons.
She is wanting us to believe that a woman who was aware of every penny being spent on her farm was willing to allow many thousands of dollars worth of dairy cattle to be cared for by a sixth-grader, including their feeding, cleaning their teats prior to milking, drying those teats off properly, attaching the milking machine, terminating the process at the right time, applying teat dip to each teat, getting the cow out of the stanchion and another in her place, handling all the milk (hundreds of gallons) if it didn’t go directly into the tank and finally cleaning all the equipment.
But there’s something else. Cathy makes it clear here that she had to do all the chores. She had to feed and care for all the animals.
Let me tell you what you have to take care of on a dairy farm in addition to the cows.
Calves are a normal by-product of dairy production. A dairy cow’s normal cycle is to lactate for about 10 months, be dried off for two months, calve, and be back lactating again for ten more months. One calf every year.
Frances goes a little longer than that, but that’s because we aren’t pushing her to make the most milk possible in the shortest time possible.
Lactation starts right after calving with a bang. Lots of milk. Production generally peaks within a couple of weeks of calving and then starts a long, slow decline for the next ten months.
Some cows dry themselves off naturally at about ten months. Others, including Frances, can go a good bit longer than that. I think the longest we’ve ever had Frances lactate continuously was 14 or 15 months, and she could have gone on longer. We had to dry her off. However, by that time, even she was only producing about 2 gallons of milk a day, instead of her peak which is six.
At any rate, this means that if you have a small dairy like the one near here, and probably similar to Cleo’s, you have about 70 to 100 cows being milked at any one time.
They are nearly all pregnant.
All the time.
That means that a dairy that size is having a calf born on average of once a week.
Sometimes they come in bunches. Sometimes there are short spells with no calves being born. But it doesn’t last long.
And each calf has to be bottle fed for weeks and weeks.
Most dairies do exactly what our little dairy does and gets rid of the young bull calves. They generally sell them when they are about 4 days old (that’s enough time for the calf to get that all-important colostrum). People often buy them to raise as steers for beef.
But dairies keep the little heifers. That’s how they replace their cows.
So, a dairy always has at least three pastures. One for the current milking cows. One for the dry cows. And one for the young heifers, being raised as replacements. Usually, that heifer area has to be subdivided somehow, because calves need to be reasonably close to the same size or the bigger ones bully the littler ones.
I’ve never heard of any dairy that does it any differently.
So that means that Cathy was feeding the calves.
She was feeding calves.
And she doesn’t understand basic calf behavior.
I told Jason about the incident involving those bull calves and he knew what I was talking about immediately. His first suggestion was to get a paddle.
We didn’t know what that was. He didn’t know we didn’t know. He was raised milking cows and he thought everyone knew.
But Cathy had no idea what I was talking about. She assumed that the calves were “chasing” me. That’s because she never hung around cows very much and didn’t know that they typically don’t chase people. She’s just read stories and thinks they do. Because our babies are intact bulls, she thought immediately of the stories she’s heard about grown bulls in herds going after people. That’s not how our bull calves behave.
Her assumptions were exactly those one would expect from somebody who has never milked a cow in her life or handled a bottle calf or dealt with them at all.
The video below includes an appearance from the very famous Frances toward the end. She continues to bitch about royalties.
1. I talk about whatever I wish on this blog. Not what you wish, Karen. I wished to talk about my magic paddle, so there it is. If you find dairy-farm dynamics so incredibly boring, I suggest you quit lurking about here.
2. At no point have I ever implied that Cleo is my “hero.” I didn’t know the woman. She seems like a crusty sort. I’m not sure I would have liked her much, especially with all the Jesus stuff.
3. And yes, you and Cathy have used the “impossible task” defense before. I know that. It doesn’t work, though. The problem is that Cathy implies in what she has written that this demand that she do all the farm chores, including caring for the dairy portion of it, went on for quite some time.
And she couldn’t have done it even once. Not one single time.
My point here is that her complete ignorance about bovine behavior tells me that she never did any farm chores to amount to anything. She lived there, yes, and it was a working dairy farm to some extent. But she didn’t do anything up close and personal with those cattle. I know it. She knows it. You don’t know it because you have no experience with cattle either and so you just believe whatever she says.
Even if Cathy had never had to do all the chores herself, as she claims, and even if she had always had help, if she had even spent a small amount of time paying attention to what they were doing, she would have known immediately what I was talking about when I described what those calves did. Everyone else I’ve ever talked to about it that had any farm experience at all knew exactly what happened.
She didn’t. What she didn’t know shows me the lie.
By the way, when did Frank get out of Facebook jail or the mental institution, whichever it was?