Archive for the ‘Dexter cattle’ Category

I’ve updated my dexter page with information on the animals currently available for purchase.  Right now we have the following available: Cranberry (4 year old) , Junie B. (coming yearling), Ivy (heavy bred coming 2 year old) and Zelda (coming yearling).  We’re in WNY between Jamestown and Fredonia.  See my Irish dexter cattle page for more information. Cranberry and Junie 1:15Zelda 1:15Ivy 1:15 Also starting a search of my own for Dominique chicks and (if I can convince John) Midget White Turkeys.  Do you know anyone in the WNY/NWPA area who has either one?  I’m changing up what chickens I’m trying to raise. If anyone is interested in working with the White Chanteclers I have, I’d be happy to pass them along.  They are starting to get some age on them (several are my original chicks from April 2011).  I’m not positive if some of them are full Chantecler (the younger ones).  I’ve got 4 original hens plus an offspring rooster and 3 offspring hens.  I’ve also got a Chantecler/bantam ameraucana cross hen. I’m moving on to a different breed in hopes of meeting our needs a little better- more geared to eggs, better camouflage for free ranging, better able to reproduce themselves.  I’ve had poor results in raising chicks, both in surviving eggs (broody or incubator) and in not loosing partly grown chicks to predatory birds.  Everything I didn’t intend to keep, on the other hand, has done better for me.  In some ways I hate to give up on them, but in other ways, I’m okay with moving on.


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An eventful week for our critters!  Since the calf was born, I’ve been milking.

LOTS of milk!  Not as much as a “real” milk cow, of course, but plenty for us.  I’ve been getting about 3 quarts a milking over the last several days.  I’m milking twice a day until the calf can take it all, then I’ll drop back to once a day and pull the calf for 12 hours or so.  Norma has been a wonderful milker for me.  The only time I had trouble was when she left her calf in the hay pile instead of getting her to come out for milking time.  We won’t do that again- for Norma’s sake and for mine.  She’s a nicer/better milker than Ellie, AND her milk tastes a lot better to me- not cow-y.  I’m so glad!  I’m hoping that won’t change with the spring grass.

Lots of milk means new recipes to try.  I tried some beesting new cheese- it was okay, but hard to know how to eat it exactly.  I roughly followed the directions here.  Basically, you pour the colostrum in a pan and add a bit of sugar.  Bake ’til it starts to brown.   You can “test” your colostrum (aka beesting) by cooking a bit in a frypan to see if it sets up- kind of like scrambled eggs.  Recipes use it in place of eggs for pudding and the like since it firms up so much.

Next I made some fresh butter.  Mmmm… Mom let me borrow her old Daisy (I think it is one of those) churns.  They had built a board for it when we were kids so you could sit on the board and the churn would hold still while you cranked.  My girls got to try it this time, and had fun- for a few minutes.  Then we finished it.  Very yellow- a lot of the cream was early cream, so the colostrum content made it richer colored.


Some of the leftover buttermilk got used in buttermilk pancakes for dinner last night; recipe from Betty Crocker.

Today was a cheese making day.  I am trying “Lannie’s Easy Cheddar” from the “Keeping a Family Cow” board.  I’ve used it before, and it’s a foolproof recipe as far as getting a product that acts properly with no fuss.  It’s a good cheese to start out on.  It’s flexible as far as temperatures and times go, and it “cooks” in the sink (or in a bigger pot of hot water), so there’s no worry about scorching it.  The only problem is we haven’t been a big fan of the clabber to start it.  The flavor isn’t what we’d like that way.  This time I used powdered mesophilic starter and skipped the yogurt to see what our end flavor will be like.  We’ve made cheese curds before with a similar method and enjoyed those.  The cheese curd recipe is over here– I “cooked” these in the sink, too.  I’ve also found that rennet doesn’t work for me ’til more like 85*, but maybe my thermometers are off.  I say that so that if you’re not getting a curd to set, try raising the temperature a bit.  Mine is now in the press (my ever-so-sophisticated #10 can, apple pie filling, and books for weights) and will stay there ’til tomorrow.


With the whey I’m trying some mysost.  I’ve never had any, so we’ll see what it tastes like!  I based my attempt on the post here.  You cook down the whey, optionally add cream (I didn’t) and whip it up when the extra liquid is cooked out.  It’s supposed to take 4-12 hours.  I did about half of the whey left from my 2 gallon batch of cheese in the electric fry pan.  It was done in less than 3 hours.  It looks a lot like ricotta as it cooks down, but instead of straining, you just cook off all the extra liquid.  Since it was curd-y I put it through my mini food chopper to smooth it out.  It’s a different taste- good, but I’m not sure how to use it.  A sweet, tangy, creamy, rich, caramelized flavor.  Anyone have suggestions?  I tried it on a saltine, but the cracker was a competing flavor.


Added:  Here’s what it looked like when it was done cooking, before I processed it.

My kefir grains were put in the mail today from a gracious woman on the “keeping a family cow” board who was willing to share.  I’m looking forward to them!  I’ve got a collection going of different things I’d like to try.

Enough about milk.  We named the calf.  She is Nightingale.  The girls were sure she should be “gai-gai”, Her mama’s name is Norma, and her daddy is Gideon, so NightinGale it is, gai-gai or gail for short.  I weighed her on Monday and she was 47 lbs.  She’s getting to be a bit of a pest, too!  She gets out of the fence and I’m having a terrible time catching her now that she’s getting to be so quick!

And last, but not least, we have a new BOY on the farm.  It’s mostly girls around here except for the roos.  That changed yesterday with the addition of our new herd bull.  He’s a coming yearling out of Ace of Clove Brook and Chautauqua Poppy from Someday Maybe Farm.  I’m actually not sure of his birthdate or his name, but I’ll know once all his registration paperwork is done (or I talk with Shaun).  Cranberry was standing for him when he got here yesterday, but I won’t plan on a January calf yet- I think he’s still got some things to figure out.  (Of course, maybe I’ll be surprised!)


A chick incubation posting/update is on the way- sometime…

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I looked out my window this morning for my usual cow check (you know- to make sure they’re in the fence, not out of it, and for any extras)  and I saw extra little legs!  So I hurried to throw on some warmer clothes and ran outside to see!

Norma had a little heifer calf.  She was VERY new- I should’ve gotten up half an hour earlier!  She was up on very wobbly legs and still pretty damp- and shivering.  What a cold welcome to this new world!  At least the sun was coming up.  She did frisk just a bit on those baby legs.  Then she went to lay down in the hay, and I put a fleece vest on her and fluffed up a nest around her.  She napped for a while, and I gave Norma some water and beet pulp with molasses.

Now that things are settling down a bit (and she isn’t shivering anymore)  I took the time to get my camera.

Here she is!

She’s a dexter lowline cross.  Her half sister was born exactly 3 weeks ago- her momma, Eleanor (“Lannie”) went to live at the neighbor’s last fall.  I was hoping for a bull calf since this is supposed to be our beef in 2 years.  I’m also planning to get a dexter bull (for breeding and next year’s beef) in the next couple weeks, and would prefer to NOT have a young heifer around next spring, but we’ll deal with it when we get there.

And with her momma (Norma- who will turn 4 in June)


And here’s the proud new great aunt, Ellie Mae (Norma’s Aunt), who is now 13 years old

And the proud new aunt/second cousin, Cranberry (Norma’s half sister/ cousin, now 16 months old)

(If that’s confusing relations- Norma and Cranberry share a sire- Hollofield Ian.  Norma’s mother is full sister to Ellie Mae.  Ellie Mae is Cranberry’s momma.  Got it?)

I didn’t expect a calf this morning, as I figured Norma’s udder would look bigger.   Not that I want to deal with a pendulous udder- I’m quite happy with it, and it is full.  Here’s that back shot.  Hope she decides to be nice to me when I start milking…

Now to search for a name!


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We’ve got life cycle lessons going on at the homestead.  I’ve been collecting eggs and put them in a borrowed incubator on Sunday the 11th.


I put a total of 5 dozen plus one in the incubator.  It’s a Hova-bator- the simple still air version with no automatic egg turner.  It’s my first time using an incubator and I’m experimenting a bit with the whole thing.  I’ve decided to try the egg carton method and I’m rotating the eggs by raising the incubator itself on one end, switching which end 3 times a day.  That way I don’t have to turn 61 eggs 3 times a day.  The 3 banty eggs on the top are the only ones I have to turn each time.

Some more experiments:  Due to my egg eaters (another post for another time) and maybe the cooler weather still, I struggled to gather many eggs in a 10 day timeframe.  I wanted to fill the incubator and make it worth the electric and time.  I bought a dozen fertile eggs from my uncle and got 9 more from the lady I borrowed the incubator from.  I also threw in a dozen+ that had been stored in the fridge, points up, unrotated, for more than 10 days… All no-no’s according to conventional incubating wisdom, although some people say it can be done.  I THINK that several of those are developing.

I took the first egg out of the incubator today.  I’ve candled it a few times.  There’s been a ring that rotates around, moving with the egg as I turn it, and I could see little else indicating development.  There’s several others I’m watching, but I took the plunge and removed one today.  To my relief (and contrary to my dreams last night- full of oozing, stinking,exploding eggs in the incubator) it didn’t stink yet.  Today is day 9 of 21.

Pictures of it on my homemade candler- note the ring going around the inside of the egg in both pictures:


A picture of it cracked open:

There was a tiny chick embryo (see the small whitish spot on the bottom of the yolk in the picture above), but this egg is clearly a “quitter.”  The embryo should be much bigger by now and there should be vessels and such.  Hard to see, but I’ll throw in the “closeup” pic of the embryo as well.  You can see a dot that is the eye and the buds for the wings.  That’s all I know to identify.

I’ll try to post pics of more of the progress as time goes on.  My candler (lamp in a box with a hole; 60 watt fluorescent bulb) isn’t that great- I need to find a better way (aka a good strong little flashlight).

My mom came over and helped me “cull” my extra Chantecler rooster that I’d kept over the winter.  He was just under a year old.  I would have had a harder time deciding between the 3, except this one volunteered for the stew pot.  He started to rush me and act like he was going to attack- never quite attacked, but I didn’t like having to watch my back every time I stepped into the chicken run- especially since I was doing it so often to collect eggs for incubating.

It’s been many years since my mom had chickens to dispatch- and I’m not sure if she ever had to do some of the parts we had to that day.  And my only experience was helping when I took my extra roos to the amish last fall (I wrote about it here).

I made a “cone” out of aluminum coil stock- and found it needs to be adjusted to allow the body of the chicken into the cone further for next time.

It took MUCH longer to process than I remember the amish taking.  I think there should be a warning somewhere, too, about year old roosters being much harder to eviscerate than 6 month old roosters.  My thought is that the connective tissues inside are much more established, as well as the bony structures.  I found it much more difficult to get my hand into the body cavity and the organs much more solidly attached.  I never did find anything recognizable as a kidney- I think they all just mushed through the connective tissues near the back bone.  And those white kidney shaped things along the back must be an item you find only in a mature rooster…

Either way, we got it done and I soaked him in ice water.  I neglected to weigh anything- I really need to get a small scale.

Then stuck him in the crockpot all day on low as in the recipe I found here at Wilke Farms.

This is the meat I picked off.  VERY dark meat- I was surprised at HOW dark it was.

I made stock out of what was left of the carcass and some veggies.  I tried the crockpot method, kind of like I saw here at Nourishing Days.

I’m not real excited about my stock attempts yet.  I’m going to try the method from my “American Classics” cookbook next time.  I’d love to have some flavorful, chicken-y stock.  I’m disappointed that I have to add chicken bullion to my chicken stock.  There’s just something wrong with that to me.

We had my parents over and enjoyed some “mean chicken and biscuits” for Sunday lunch.

Another lifecycle lesson to come- Norma the dexter cow should be calving within the next 2 weeks!  her “due date” is March 28.  Lannie, now the neighbors, had a heifer calf on the 9th (due date was the 7th).

All this while John prepares to leave for a missions trip to Haiti.  The calf will probably be here when he gets home, but he should be back in time to see eggs hatching (He’s not as excited as I am about it though!)


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The 3 year old dexters (Norma and Lannie) returned from a visit with the neighbors bull.  They are actually a bit more approachable now than when they left, which surprised me.  Hopefully they’ll continue to settle in and decide I’m not a bad milk maid.  I took a picture of all 4 of my dexter girls this morning and found it amazing how big that calf has gotten.  If it wasn’t for the horns, they’d be much harder to tell apart.


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I’ve been milking Ellie for almost a month now, just in the mornings, and letting her calf (Cranberry) have the rest.  Ellie is a gentle girl, and I milk her in the field tethered with about 8-10 feet of rope.  She’s never kicked at me.  I give her a bit of grain and start in milking.  She moves around some once her grain is gone, but stands reasonably well for me.  I separate Cranberry and let her nurse in the morning when I’m done and in the evening she gets everything.
My first day I got a cup.  The next (almost) two weeks I only could get a pint. After some helpful advice from some people who’ve “been there,” I’ve been getting about a quart for the last week.  Ellie, for all her good traits, is also a good mama and doesn’t want me to get much of the milk that should be her for her baby.  So she “holds up” on me.  I work my little hands as hard as I can to get a bit of milk (the 2 cups).  I knew she was capable of “holding up” because there were times I could barely get a drop working as hard as I could, and she had not had access to her calf for over 12 hours.  I was informed, though, that she was probably STILL holding up, even though I was getting some milk.  The suggestion was to let the calf “start” her for me for a few minutes so she would “let down”.  Then wash her up and milk until it was too difficult again, let the calf on again, and repeat.  Lo and behold, It was 100 times easier to milk her after Cranberry got her “started” for me!  So since then I’ve been working to get my hands/wrists/arms to cooperate so I can milk more.

I broke the “quart barrier” a couple of days ago (Just a bit too much to fit in a quart jar when I put it away).  I haven’t made it for the last 2 days, but this morning I hit a new record.  I’m now up to almost a quart and a pint!  Woohoo!  If I’d get at it and freeze a bunch of ice, we could make some fresh milk ice cream to celebrate!

My hands/arms are getting a bit longer lived now, despite my bad wrists.  I’m a little more productive when I milk thanks to the easier milking from letting the calf start and the rest time while the calf nurses.   I tried a new strategy this morning that helped me get that extra (almost) pint.  I only gave her a bit of grain to start with, and held some back so that each of the 3 times I had my “turn”, she had some grain to eat again and would stand better for me.  Maybe I’ll finally get a makeshift stanchion made soon so that she can’t move around as much on me.

I’m hoping to get to a solid 2 quarts every morning.  That’s my goal to hit in the next few weeks.  By the time I’m ready to wean Cranberry, maybe I’ll actually be able to milk enough to provide all the milk we use at our house!  And when Cranberry’s not getting all that rich cream, maybe some fresh churned butter.  Mmmmm.   I’ll have to bake some bread.  Then try some cheese and maybe some yogurt.

Until then…. I’ll keep dreaming of a milking machine!

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Here’s some new pics of the girls, closer up.

Ellie Mae



Eleanor “Lannie”

I’ve been a cow owner for almost 3 weeks now, and have been milking Ellie for over 1 1/2.  I’m SUCH a wimp- I can only get about 2 cups worth of milk before my arms and hands give up on me.  In my defense, Ellie’s been “holding up” some on me, but mostly it’s because I haven’t milked a cow since I was a teenager (and didn’t do much then, either!).  But she is very nice, workable cow.  I milk with her tethered in the field (no stanchion built yet) and she usually stays pretty still for me, even when the grain is gone.  It by no means is meeting our 5+ gallons a week that we use, but it’s a start.   Here’s my first day’s produce.  I get about twice that much every day right now.

They cows are much happier now that they can be free and together in a pasture rather than on a tether.   I think they missed being able to interact with each other and it made them a little crazy.


The first section of fence got posts (compliments of John, my parents, my kids, my brothers tractor and my grandpa’s post hole digger) while I picked up my Chantecler chicks the day before Easter.


John helped me to string the top wire for that section and he and my dad put in posts for the second section this past weekend.  I’ve been plugging along at stringing barbed wire since then.  I got a small section done when Norma unclipped her halter on the water bucket one day.  Rather than try to catch her, I just figured I should get the pasture done. The cows have eaten anything edible in the small section already, so I got the rest of the fence done yesterday afternoon so they wouldn’t hate me for starving them.  They were so happy to have fresh grass!

The calf is still tethered so I can keep her separate from mama, or I’d get NO milk.  We managed to catch her once to get the halter on, but couldn’t catch her again without that lovely rope clipped to it!  Cranberry is gentling down a little, but has a ways to go.  Norma and Lannie won’t really let me touch them yet, but at least they’re in the pasture now so I don’t have to try to move them anymore!

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