To the untrained eye this is a picture of a cow, beautiful, healthy and perfect in every way. But to the trained cow watcher this is a cow with a secret. Her posture is saying, “There’s nothing here to see, just me in Narnia, minding my own business” but I’ve seen that look too many times to be taken in by that sneakiness. I know there is indeed something to see and I intend to find out what. So with Tea Cup’s eyes never leaving me for a moment I start to snoop around. I’m basically playing her game. “What, I’m just wandering around Narnia not looking for anything in particular, just walking, minding my own business”. I know that as I get closer to finding that “nothing” she will not be able to contain herself. It’s a bit of a dance, I take a few steps and she takes a few steps and when she stops dancing I know I’m close.
She stands perfectly still, hoping to outwit me but I’ve been here before and the treasure is just too cute to allow me to turn around when I’m oh so close. Finally I spot something in the tall grass. Black and white, fuzzy and still wet.
A baby, I knew it! It doesn’t matter how many babies are born at River Cottage Farm, this never gets old. I get to pet it for a couple of minutes, imprinting so that it will remember my scent and then Mama gives the universal sign to get a move on, a quick nudge or two and she’s up and obeying.
And then they’re off to bond, something that very few cows and calves get to do. Almost all calves born on dairy farms are taken from their mothers within a few hours and fed a powdered milk replacer. At River Cottage Farm we believe that both the cow and the calf benefit from the bonding experience and that the health of the cow’s udder and the calf are greatly affected by the ability to nurse.
With the welfare of our cows at the center of our farm management, every decision is weighed against need for our cows to be able to be cows. Our girls live very different lives from the average dairy cow that rarely lives beyond the age of 5. Tea Cup will produce about the same amount of milk as the average cow in 1940, about 2 gallons a day. Today the AVERAGE milk production from a single cow is five times that amount. Today’s cows give the same amount of milk in 3 years as our girls will in their entire lifespan.
Tea Cup, Dara, Maribelle, Annette, Sweet Pea, Dolly, Luna, Georgia and Little Girl have everything they need to follow in the path of several of our other cows who delivered a calf every year and lived to the very ripe old age of 15 or older.
We believe that starting out in a place like Narnia, on a farm like River Cottage is a great place to start.