I work many hours every week on breeding and selecting the cows to keep and the cows to sell to give us the best organic grass fed genetics for our Northern CA alpine meadow grass. I thought perhaps I would share this information with you. We have 6 native grass pastures we grow our cattle on.
To go back in history; we began milking goats in 1977 when we got married. We went to a large goat dairy and while I was looking at all the goats and breeds, a young Saanan milk goat followed me around the field. Bob told me that my goat had found me; and so Momma Goat went home and lived with us until she passed. We moved back to the family ranch country in 1978 and I looked for a milk cow for the cream and butter. We found a Jersey and a Guernsey and milked for home use for years.
In 1999 we purchased our current ranch and I once again began milking goats as I had problems with the cow milk. When my daughter Crystal found this poor sad cow I had to bring her home and help her.
and a few months latter she looked like this
I called her Hattie Mae. The only problem was that none but Bob in the family could drink her milk without stomach problems or sneezing. When our good friends Shawna and Jacob Barr came by and asked if they could buy her we said her reluctantly because I loved the cow, but knew I was stuck with goat milk. Our other daughter Sarah then found us this cow:
soon the girls were milking! When I tried her milk I found no sneezing, no stomach trouble. When studying why the difference; I found out about A2A2 milk and sure enough Ellie Mae was A2A2. Hattie Mae was A1A2. Ellie Mae only had one daughter who had a genetic deficiency; so we dropped this line completely.
Hattie Ellen line
Our neighbors began to ask about buying milk; so we researched herdshare and began the Siskiyou County Farm Co-op. We took turns milking Ellie Mae, and each family took home the milk they got. So many asked to join that we went to look for another milk cow, I named her Hattie Ellen after Bob’s aunt Helen (he called her Hattie Ellen).
and Hattie Ellen (a Swedish Red) produced AnnieWho produced Maybelle (on the left with Mo on the right) out of our Jersey bull Ace (Domino and Jersey A2A2 bull). Maybelle is currently bred to the Guernsey bull Prince Charming, A2A2 and high beta carotenes.
Like Momma goat, Mabel found me. We stopped at a friends place to look at Jersey heifers, and walking out in a field of over 500 heifers, she began following me around. She was tiny, and very close to freshening. We did not come prepared to bring a heifer home, but she followed me up the driveway and right into the trailer! Chy grooming Mabel.
Mabel had Lucy out of a Dexter bull and was later sold due to being A1A2and Lucy (also A1A2 and sold)was AI’d to a Jersey bull Success to produce Ethel. Also A1A2 and sold after she had Lilly (out of an angus bull), the first of the line to be A2A2Lilly was bred AI to Texas and had Buttercup the beginning of our flower line.
Domino and Bess
Domino and Bess both came from the same breeder in Northern Oregon. She bred only A2A2 cows for grass fed efficiency. Both cows were supposed to be New Zealand Friesian and Jersey cross; but I wonder about Bess. Domino was a great milker, unfortunately she died the first year and only had one son Ace. Ace is Maybelle’s sire.
Bess was a mess when she got here, but with years of love she is a great cow. She averages about 7 gallons a day. She was sold to us as a half Jersey half NZ Friesian; but looks angus/Holstein. She is A2A2 as are all her daughters.
Her daughters are:
Lola, out of a Normande cross bull. her first year a fantastic milker.
Mo is out of Golda, a top Jersey bull and is behind Buttercup in the heifer weaning pen. Golda is a TBone son.
Natalie is this year’s Bess daughter Out of the A2A2 Jersey bull Texas.
Agnus we bought from Free Hand Farm and is an A2A2 purebred Jersey. She is sired by Terrific and out of Loretta. She is bred to a Guernsey bull, Brogdan. We prefer to cross breed our cattle and are breeding mostly to Guernsey now for higher beta carotenes in our milk. She is the last of the purchased milk cows.
All of our cows are tested yearly. We test for 16 different mastitis causing organisms after freshening and about 6 months into lactation.
We test upon arrival or a couple months of age from our calves, every cow for:
Q fever and Brucellosis. Every lab is mandated to report either of these diseases as they are contagious to man and wildlife. While we prefer to test prior to bringing cattle home, the truth is that few sellers will agree to test.
Johnne’s: is found in about 10% of cattle in the US and is deadly. All our cow’s are tested at a young age, after 4 years of age we stop testing as they would have exhibited the signs by then.
BLV: Can be in a cow with no signs for years. Some cattle are carriers so we test.
BVD: another common cattle disease
TB; We have tested all our cows in the past but our vet tells us that CA is a TB free state, so we are waiting for her to tell us when to test.
Neospora: found mostly in OR we test for this as well.
The main question you need to ask your milk provider or cattle source is if they have a baseline on their cattle. IF they do not know what this means, move on. We test our cattle from 2 months on. This gives us a base line so if we see a number jump suddenly we can quarantine that animal and retest. We are AI’ing our cows to get both the best genetics in the world; and to keep our herd clean.