Two weeks ago, I pulled up to the barn before I headed out the driveway to work. I spotted number 1106 and couldn’t help but shed quite a few tears as I quietly said goodbye. She didn’t notice me; she never was a “people cow”. Her name was Crazy, and she was the first second generation AI heifer calf born on our farm. Her dam (mom) is an above average cow, and ever since she hit the ground, we had extremely high hopes for Crazy.
She got her name honestly. Before she was weaned, every day she would try to jump out of her hut while we tried to pour milk into her bucket. If you were quick enough, she would start drinking, but if you weren’t, you got to chase her around the yard before she ate. As she grew, Crazy continued to be one of the most active and aggressive calves in any group. She bred fairly quickly and had her first calf at just over 2 years old (a Froggy heifer – our first 3rd generation AI calf, now breeding age). She didn’t really have any complications, but her production during her first lactation wasn’t very high. We still had high hopes.
Crazy had her second calf, which was stillborn, last September. Having a stillborn calf is hard on a cow, and we did what we could for her, but something just wasn’t right. Crazy wasn’t milking like we needed her to, and she wasn’t bred back. David and I talked it over and made one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make – we had to cull Crazy. There are a lot of reasons we cull cows – chronic illness, reproductive problems, and low production are among them. There are also often reasons, like emotional attachment, that we keep cows longer than we should.
We invest a lot more than money into our cattle, and we get attached. We literally put it all out there – blood, sweat, and tears – for our girls. We know that our cattle are not pets, no one can afford that. If you think you spend a lot on dog food (I know we do), you should see the feed bill for our cows. In order for us to properly care for them, dairy cows have to produce enough milk to cover the feed, facilities, and labor costs associated with that care. Both farmers and consumers like to romanticize farming and the rural lifestyle, but the fact is that farming is still a business. Sometimes in business, you have to put aside your emotions and make tough decisions. Hope doesn’t pay the bills.
I don’t know if something happened during her development, or if Motif x Norski is a terrible mating, or if Crazy just lost the genetic lottery. Regardless, unfortunately, she was not a profitable milk cow, and we could only keep hoping her situation would improve for so long. Financially, we lost money, but that happens in business, too. David and I will always appreciate her 3.5 years of service and the memories we made chasing her through the yard. We miss you, Crazy cow.