He had time to wine and dine her, and nine months later, a baby was born

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Country Smile -

au­thor­ity. Even so, he was now stomp­ing and paw­ing and flex­ing his mus­cles and make dirt holes ev­ery­where, not re­ally threat­en­ing, but no longer trust­wor­thy around the sort of vis­i­tors I have (that is, peo­ple with no an­i­mal sense what­so­ever). Since I con­tend noth­ing is worth the risk of an in­jury, he went to the abat­toir and I was pleas­antly sur­prised at the cheque. My next strat­egy was to time-share. A neigh­bour has four cows (which he uses to raise calves) and we de­cided one bull be­tween us would do.

Ac­tu­ally, due to a fence-jump­ing in­ci­dent I won’t go into, we had al­ready tested this pro­ce­dure and thank­fully he had quite liked the re­sult­ing Welsh Black­cross calves.

I sourced an­other Welsh Black bull and he grazed at the neigh­bours and when the time came, I led my house cow over for a ro­man­tic hol­i­day.

Un­for­tu­nately fe­male cat­ti­ness is rife in the bovine world, and when­ever I looked over the fence, his cows were mak­ing sure mine wasn’t get­ting any­where near their man. She was os­tracised and ob­vi­ously mis­er­able but I fig­ured when the time came he would see her at­trac­tions, as­sert his rights and na­ture’s urges would over­come all. I have sev­eral neigh­bours who are all fan­tas­tic at shar­ing re­sources which makes life so much eas­ier.

The com­mer­cial dairy farmer next door uses sev­eral bulls to ser­vice his heifers, up un­til Christ­mas. Be­ing a good neigh­bourly per­son with lots of sum­mer grass, I of­fered to graze a bull for him for a cou­ple of months af­ter he had fin­ished with them.

This worked won­der­fully. We opened a gate, led my cow through and the bull fol­lowed us home. He had time to pay in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion to my cow, wine and dine her prop­erly and nine months later a baby was born.

But that was the sticky bit. Nine months af­ter Christ­mas (as many moth­ers know) is Septem­ber. Although I orig­i­nally thought Septem­ber-oc­to­ber would be a per­fect time for calv­ing – warmer weather, less mud and more grass – I was wrong.

Ex­cess grass around calv­ing con­trib­utes to milk fever and it was dif­fi­cult to source foster calves that late in the sea­son. Sud­denly, what had been al­most free from the neigh­bours was big dol­lars and se­ri­ous travel away. If I wanted to foster two or more sets of calves onto my cow (which I did), I needed her in sync with the com­mer­cial dairy farm cy­cle, so she needed to calve some­time in June-july. Most dairy farmers sim­ply use AI (ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion) and re­quire no bull at all.

They de­ter­mine when the cow is cy­cling, put in a call and a tech­ni­cian ar­rives and in­serts the herd with ‘straws’ of se­men pre-or­dered from a charm­ing bull with all the right at­tributes. This, said neigh­bour num­ber three, was the way to go.

The first part of the equa­tion is de­ter­min­ing the win­dow when the cow is on heat. Cows cy­cle ev­ery 18-24 days, are ‘on heat’ for about 14 hours, then ovu­late 8-12 hours later.

It’s a rather short win­dow to pick up and act upon. Dairy farmers use tail paint (lit­er­ally a spray can of spe­cial paint) or stick­ers. You put these on the tail­bone of

the cow and when she is on heat (oestrus) other cows will mount her and rub the paint or scratch the scratchie. You will spot this im­me­di­ately and call the AI tech­ni­cian to come and in­sert the se­men and she will be­come preg­nant.

How­ever, in prac­tice my cow did not like the stick­ers or the paint and would flick at them with her rather long (and I con­sid­ered both beau­ti­ful and es­sen­tial for fly swat­ting) tail. This would cause a de­gree of rub­bing and it was hard to tell what was what.

I even­tu­ally found a sticker that had a red dye cap­sule in it, one that would break and there­fore be de­fin­i­tive. But then when she did cy­cle, who was there to mount her? Her bull calf. Could he reach that high? And I had to check her twice a day to catch whether she was ovu­lat­ing.

The next prob­lem was sourc­ing the se­men and get­ting a tech­ni­cian lined up. I have a friend who moon­lights for ex­tra cash as a tech­ni­cian but try calling LIC and telling them you want one sin­gle frozen se­men straw.

Neigh­bour three came to the res­cue, pro­vid­ing a book con­tain­ing pic­tures of sexy look­ing bulls groomed to shine and with all their at­tributes listed (cow porn?) so I or­dered a straw along with theirs. They also conned their tech­ni­cian into pop­ping next door with it at the de­ter­mined time.

I tried this sev­eral times. It never worked. I ob­vi­ously wasn’t get­ting my tim­ing right, and my cow de­vel­oped a dis­tinct aver­sion to strangers stick­ing their arm up her jack­sie. I can’t say I blamed her. While I had a good bail to hold her in, the stress may have con­trib­uted to the lack of suc­cess.

How­ever, Gal­lagher has re­cently re­leased a Flash­mate Heat De­tec­tor. This

® elec­tronic but­ton “needs sig­nif­i­cantly less un­der­stand­ing and skill in cor­rectly iden­ti­fy­ing heats” so I think I will give one a try on my new cow next year.

Method 5: syn­the­sised

My new cow is a beau­ti­fully-na­tured, small, A2 Jersey. She’s raised seven calves this year, and we’ve had enough milk left over to fill the fridge with cheese and cream and milk ga­lore. She is (al­most) the per­fect house cow and I would love a heifer calf from her.

To en­sure I got what I wanted, when I wanted it, I de­cided it was time to give na­ture a help­ing hand. CIDR (Con­trolled In­ter­nal Drug Re­lease, pro­nounced ‘see­dur’) was de­vel­oped in NZ in the 1980s and is a pro­ges­terone-re­leas­ing de­vice

in­serted into a cow by a vet. I had some con­cerns re­gard­ing ar­ti­fi­cially dis­turb­ing her nat­u­ral rhythms but my vet as­sured me it was no dif­fer­ent to me tak­ing the Pill, sim­ply re­set­ting her cy­cles.

It’s all very clin­i­cal: in­jec­tion, CIDR in­serted, time cal­cu­lated, CIDR out, an­other in­jec­tion, sexed se­men or­dered (via the neigh­bour) and the AI tech­ni­cian ar­rived on sched­ule.

All very clin­i­cal, costly and use­less. CDIRING has a 50% suc­cess rate, and while it was worth a crack to get the heifer calf I wanted, it was just as well I had a back-up bull that I ran her with af­ter­wards. She is preg­nant, but not by the CDIR method. Part of my cow’s du­ties is to raise next year’s steak. To save any has­sles, I al­ways get bull calves and cas­trate them so I only have steers.

Now I’m sim­ply go­ing to leave one en­tire. If I can get hold of a Mur­ray Grey-cross calf, he is the lucky boy. I like their na­ture and the fact they are nat­u­rally polled (no horns). I’ll raise him with the other calves for 14 months, run him with my cow for three months, and come Christ­mas, sell him off the farm.

It’s sim­ple, prof­itable, no stress and, so far, 100% suc­cess­ful. This is now my pre­ferred method and what I do even if it is just as a back-up for an AI.

Dip­ping my toe into the so­cial me­dia arena with Face­book and Twit­ter took a lot of ca­jol­ing and en­cour­age­ment from my fam­ily and friends. Pub­li­cis­ing my book How to Make Cheese with Jean Mans­field was the im­pe­tus I needed to take that step.

I joined a few on­line cheese­mak­ing com­mu­ni­ties and gin­gerly be­gan in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple from around the world. One of them was Chera Gun­terRe­nouf, a self-taught cheese­maker from Canada who started a Face­book group called Learn to Make Cheese a cou­ple of years ago.

Chera (pro­nounced Sheer-ruh) and I be­came such good on­line friends, she in­vited Dave and I to visit her home in Camp­bell River on Van­cou­ver Is­land, off the coast of Van­cou­ver, and meet mem­bers of the Learn to Make Cheese group. While many are lo­cal to Chera, or at least in Canada, a lot of the other 7500+ mem­bers are from NZ and all over the world.

It was one of those Face­book mo­ments when I thought “that is never go­ing to hap­pen”. Who gets to travel to the other side of the world to meet fan­tas­tic like­minded peo­ple who love cheese­mak­ing as much as we do?

The key to the suc­cess of Chera’s group is the ca­ma­raderie of the cheese­mak­ers, their friend­ship, co­op­er­a­tion and kind­ness. We help each other solve is­sues that arise from cheese­mak­ing. Be­gin­ners and ex­pe­ri­enced cheese­mak­ers in­ter­act within the group in a pos­i­tive way. Some have milk­ing an­i­mals, oth­ers are very lim­ited in their ac­cess to milk but all are en­thu­si­as­ti­cally learn­ing about cheese.

Chera is the driv­ing force and was also the driver of the Mans­field fam­ily when we touched down at Camp­bell River. Although we had hired a car at the air­port, driv­ing on the other side of the road in un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory takes a lit­tle bit of ad­just­ment.

Fly­ing from Van­cou­ver to Camp­bell River gave us a bird’s eye view of the to­pog­ra­phy, its lush green for­est in­ter­laced with rib­bons of wa­ter­ways and sprin­klings of houses, mak­ing it very rem­i­nis­cent of coastal New Zealand.

Chera chauf­feured us around un­til we were a bit more com­fort­able with the area. We then took a car ferry to nearby Quan­dra Is­land and vis­ited with mem­bers of the group who own and milk goats. It was the first time I have seen the en­chant­ing Nige­rian dwarf goats, and there were do­mes­tic goats and wild deer graz­ing to­gether in the back gar­den. Dave opened the door and the quite fear­less deer ap­proached to within a me­tre. The multi-coloured goats in­cluded a hand­some billy called Qh­effner who frol­icked in the sun­shine, creat­ing a de­light­ful snap­shot for our mem­o­ries.

Canada’s raw milk laws are very con­fin­ing and frus­trat­ing for home cheese­mak­ers. Raw milk can­not be sold or even given away so if you have milk­ing live­stock, you can only drink or use the milk within your own house­hold. Ho­mogenised pas­teurised milk is the only milk avail­able for sale.

Nev­er­the­less, they are de­ter­mined and many have their own an­i­mals and pro­duce fan­tas­tic cheeses. We ate a light and de­li­cious chèvre, an unc­tu­ous feta did not last long on my salad of hand-picked greens, and the pin­na­cle of any home cheese­mak­ers reper­toire was a stun­ning washed rind ta­leg­gio-style cheese. They were just a few sam­ples of the lev­els of so­phis­ti­ca­tion these skilled cheese­mak­ers have reached.

I learned so much and I hope they learned from me too. I re­alised how lucky we are in NZ to have ac­cess to a range of high qual­ity milk suit­able for cheese­mak­ing, and easy ac­cess to sup­plies and equip­ment.

My heart­felt thanks to Chera for host­ing Dave and I, and also for what she is do­ing for the cheese­mak­ing com­mu­nity world­wide. This is a mon­u­men­tal task and one that is giv­ing en­cour­age­ment, plea­sure and sat­is­fac­tion to so many.

1Add the but­ter­milk to the milk, stir, cover, and leave at room tem­per­a­ture (ap­prox­i­mately 20°C) overnight.

2Store in the fridge, where it will keep for a week.

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