Animals,  Homestead

Welcome, Little Cow

Well friends, our little sanctuary farm has welcomed home a miniature Jersey steer.  He is the sweetest little thing ever!!  I found him advertised on craigslist and something in that ad really pulled on my heartstrings.

Rehoming a 2 year old small Jersey Steer. We were going to butcher him for meat, but don’t have the time or right tools now. If you’re interested in him for meat or a pet, it doesn’t matter. Feel free to contact us. He’s up to date on his vaccines and worming. He has an even temperament. Unfortunately, he’s hard to lead though. You have to pick up.

 

Poor thing was only 3 hours away from our farm, and I knew we could provide him with a safe and loving new home.  I drove up to meet him although this was just the first step.

My first cow selfie!

I started many long hours of research as well. There was a lot to figure out!  I had a lot of questions and they fell into three main categories: safety/disease, management, and money.

Safety:  The first thing I researched was what diseases I should have him checked for.  I didn’t want to bring anything onto the farm that could jeopardize our other animals.  After looking through many online resources and speaking to multiple vets, I found that the three main diseases to look out for were Bovine Leukemia Virus (BLV), Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD), and Johnes.   TB and Brucellosis are also of concern, but most states are certified free of those diseases – which means they haven’t had a case of it in years.  For my own peace of mind, I went ahead and tested for everything.   Once you start reading all about various diseases, it can be overwhelming and a little off putting to say the least!  However, all we can do is our due diligence to test prior to bringing an animal home and then keep their living space clean once they arrive.

Johnes is one virus that is difficult to test for when the animal is young because it doesn’t always show up until they are over 5 years old.  However, I went ahead and did a blood serum test as well as a fecal PCR test – both were negative at this time.  The best way to know what chances your cow has of having this horrible virus is to test the herd that it came from.  In this situation, the people did not know where they had gotten him from.  They bought two calves with the intention of eating them both off of craigslist, and they did butcher and eat the first one last fall.  So, they didn’t have any records or memory of which farm they came from.  My vet recommends yearly testing so that if he does develop it we can quarantine him away from the goats at that point.  However, I feel better doing the test more often so plan to do this twice a year.  The USDA Animal and Plant Health Dept states that there is a 5% risk of a young cow having this disease.  I really hope he doesn’t as it is a horrible fatal wasting disease.

Management:  I had a lot of questions as whether he would get along best with our goats or with our horses.  They have different pasture schedules and I wasn’t sure which animal he would bond with better.  Obviously, the best thing is to have another cow buddy.  But I was hopeful that he would find some comfort with our goats or horses.  Cows graze longer grasses – they wrap their tongue around the grass and then pull it into their mouth – which is very different from horses that bite the grass with their front teeth.  In fact, did you know that cows don’t have front teeth at all?  Luckily, we have always seeded with a pasture seed mix that includes a variety of Timothy, Kentucky Bluegrass, clovers, and endophyte-free fescue.  So, it should all be fairly palatable to cows too.

While his eating patterns would fit with the horses, I wondered if temperament wise he would get along better with the goats.  This cow had been kept with sheep in his old home.  And goats and cows are both ruminants….so, I thought they might get along.  I decided to give him time with both – putting him out on the pasture with the horses in the evening and overnight, and leaving him in the paddock with the goats during the day.  This way he could acclimate to all of the animals and I could spend the first few weeks watching his movement and grazing/resting patterns and preferences and make changes from there.

Cost:  Cows eat a lot!  (and poop a lot!) Since we have about 4 acres of pasture and it hasn’t grown in with thick grass yet…I had to figure in about on average a bale of hay per day as a safe number for budgeting.  Vet visits are also quite costly.  My experience with horses is that we end up having a vet over for some issue about 6 times a year – and about $200 per visit.  Now for cows it will probably be much less.  They aren’t as prone to injury, and since he will just be living a good life grazing and getting lots of attention, hopefully, he will not need a vet that often.  However, since I’m new to everything cow, I sort of feel like a first time mom who calls the doctor for every sniffle.  Currently, he has a wound on his backside that is rubbed every time he swishes his tail.  But, he won’t let me close enough to that part of his body to cover it with any ointment…so, might be calling the vet after all.

And lastly, fencing or housing costs can also factor in.  Luckily, he can just share the run-in with the other animals since it is quite large (20×24), so no extra costs there to worry about.

 

After a few weeks of thinking it all over, we knew he belonged here in our sanctuary farm!  All of the tests came back negative, so I drove our horse trailer up to PA to pick him up!   He was clearly not used to being handled and it took over 2 hours to load him onto my trailer.

He showed us right away how stubborn he was!  But, he was also very, very sweet and enjoyed standing next to me and having his head rubbed.  I can’t wait to find out more about his personality and watch him acclimate to his new home!

 

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