One of the best things about the move to the dairy farm was getting to know my lovely cows again. You see, once they had left my care as youngsters, I really had nothing much to do with them. I had started years ago when I was in the right place at the right time and I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase two naturally polled Jersey heifer calves which I mothered onto one of my house cows. Not long after that I was once again in the right place at the right time and I bought another calf - a naturally polled pedigree Jersey bull from the Danish sire line of Fyn Lemvig - and these three calves became the foundation of my naturally polled A2A2 pedigree Jersey herd.
As the size of my herd grew, a fellow member of a Jersey Breeders Club I had joined suggested I should lease them out and another club member offered to take them. This meant that the in-calf heifers I had gone off to join a proper dairy herd where they learnt to be grown-up commercial girls and, through the support of other club members, I learnt about the formalities of being a registered herd owner. Each year the weaned calves came back to me and I looked after them until the bulls were sold as rising two-year-olds and when the heifers were in calf and were ready to start a new milking season, they were returned to the people leasing the cows.
Whilst the bulls were bulls and were farmed accordingly, I just loved working closely with the girls. They all had names and were well handled and friendly. Each one grew their own personality and I had many long and meaningful conversations with them as they developed from bumbling little babies into adorable young ladies. But, once they were trucked off to join the commercial herd, my personal ties with them were cut. At that point, my knowledge of them, and my only contact with them, was via the regular printouts of their milking records so it was rather exciting to have them back with me.
Jerseys can come in a variety of colours. As an example, there is Honey who is a smokey grey, Blossom who is a gingery orange, Beatrix who is a typical Jersey cream colour, Kiri who is almost black (she is from the Topkick line), and Kapai who is cream with soft white patches all over her. But it is how I got to learn their names again that surprised me. From the front end, I had a large herd tag number to help me as I re-connected my friendships with them, but it was through the udders that the process was hastened … which makes sense really as that is what I am looking at the most. I never realised the range of different attributes Jersey cow udders can have – shape, size, capacity, colours, markings, teat placement, handling reactions, milking speed, care requirements etc. It’s rather like each cow having another personality at the other end … and I have learnt that this ‘personality’ can be quite different from the greedy little face up the front.