Dairy Good Life

Big, small joys

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Sunshine. Lilac blossoms. Occasional showers. Emerging corn. Fluffy baby chicks. A flood of new calves. May is full of joys, both big and small.

We had two sets of healthy twin heifer calves born during the first week of May. Since we now rely mostly on blood testing to detect pregnancies, twins are always a surprise. Lincoln’s twins arrived during the night, and she had them all fluffed up by the time we first checked the calving pen that morning. Smoke calved in the early evening, so her twins were slow-motion surprise.

Smoke was vigorously cleaning her calf off when Monika asked, “Is that a foot?” Sure enough, another foot was toeing into the world. A few minutes later, Smoke had another baby to clean. The look on Smoke’s face made me think that cows are just as surprised as we are when two arrive instead of the customary one.

Lincoln’s twins were born the morning of Dan’s junior prom, so one of the calves made an appearance in the photos he took with his date. It was Monika and Daphne’s idea, so they carried the calf to the yard for the photo shoot. The calf cooperated perfectly, and we got adorable photos.

The grass seems greener than green this spring, likely because it’s such a contrast to the drab hues of last summer’s drought. The cows went out to pasture earlier than ever before. They must remember the dismal grazing of last summer, too, because even they seemed extra exuberant about their return to the paddocks.

The funniest part of “cows out” day was watching our older cows. In years past, we’ve corralled the cows in the yard, opened the gate, and then ushered them to pasture. This year, we let them trickle out.

It was early afternoon before we finished double-checking the fences and opened the gate. The old ladies were napping in the sand barn when we started letting the younger cows out of the tiestall. During the winter, when we switch, the tiestall cows only have access to the southern half of our cowyard. When we let them out that day, they had access to both halves of the cowyard and the sand barn.

Several young cows thought they were getting away with being where they shouldn’t and began frolicking like cows do when they’re out. They didn’t even notice the open pasture gate and, instead, pranced up to the sand barn. A couple old ladies emerged from their stalls with looks on their faces that said they were thinking, “What in the heck are you young girls doing in here?”

Awakened from their siestas, these older cows moseyed down to the cowyard. For these seasoned grazers, it only took a few moments to notice the open pasture gate. December, who is starting her ninth grazing season, wasted no time marching through the gate and out to pasture. Jessi, in her eighth season, tailed close behind. Not long after, the younger cows caught on and followed their lead. For the next half hour or so, every couple minutes, a few cows would wake up, catch on that something was out of the ordinary, poke their heads out of the sand barn, see the other cows already in the pasture and sprint down to the gate and out through the lane. Once their hooves hit grass, their heels kicked for the sky like they were young heifers again. If there was ever any doubt that cows feel joy, the first day of grazing is proof that they do.

I hope your May is filled with joys as well.

Sadie Frericks and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children: Dan, Monika, and Daphne. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at [email protected].

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