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Our First Milking Shorthorn

Sapphire was one of the first Milking Shorthorns we ever owned, and my first dairy cow. In honour of her 9th birthday yesterday, I thought I’d write a little about how she, and the other Shorthorns, came to be here. This picture is of her, the day she arrived. She is standing in her tie-stall, where she still hangs out when she isn't outside. She has free choice hay and water, soft bedding and usually has plenty of cow company. When she first arrived, all the other cows were out in the field, so she didn't meet them until a few hours later.

I’ve always been one to want to enter the craft categories at the local fairs. When I was six years old, I won the “Highest Points” trophy for homecrafts age 6 and under. I won $5 in prize money. My Grandpa asked if I would loan him some of it. In true, six year old fashion, I said “no way!”. So began my homecraft ‘career’. I’ve tried making a lot of things and discovered I don’t have a chance in sewing categories, but my art, and my baking tend to do fairly well. More to the point of this story, was the time I decided to create the “educational poster depicting the six dairy breeds” for one of the local fairs.

I settled down at the computer and started to google the six different breeds, Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, oh, and Milking Shorthorn. I knew lots about Holsteins, Jerseys, Ayrshires, and Brown Swiss. I also knew Guernseys were a basic fawn and white cow who gave golden milk, but I had never learned anything about the Milking Shorthorn, other than to tack them onto the list of the six recognized breeds in Canada.

As I did the research, I was convinced we needed one, or several of these cows.

Milking Shorthorns aren’t as big as a Holstein, and don’t produce quite as much milk, but they are superior in other ways. In a recent study, Milking Shorthorns were shown to have the lowest Somatic Cell Count of all the breeds and have excellent feet and legs. There are other great attributes I could speak of too, but if you’re interested in the breed, you can go to the Canadian Milking Shorthorn Society to read about it.

I was sold on the part about their low SCC and great feet and legs. Depending on family lines, Holsteins trend a little higher on the SCC scale, and for whatever reason, Holsteins have tender feet. This is likely because their hooves are usually white and not as hard as a dark hoof. Milking Shorthorns, having dark feet, can easily manage rough ground and rocky pastures. I didn’t need a cow that would win production awards (though just this year a Milking Shorthorn won the top BCA award in Peterborough County), I needed one that was hardy, and would stay healthy and happy for a long time.

I think I searched for about two years before finally finding a breeder who had animals for sale, and wasn’t hours away. I bought Sapphire on October 3, 2009. She was bred to a bull named Oceanbrae Logic’s Plato, and due any day.

Her first calf was a HUGE (yeah, seriously), 105lb red heifer who I named Sparkles, born Oct 5, 2009.

Sparkles was my 4-H Project in 2010 and went to several county and regional shows, along with another roan Milking Shorthorn calf that my brother was showing. Everywhere we went, people were intrigued. Some thought she was an Ayrshire, and everyone wondered what on earth the roan calf was.

Sparkles and I made it all the way to the Regional Show and won Champion Shorthorn (out of two, yeah, big drumroll). Unfortunately, when we walked in the Champion parade, which was to judge the best heifer in the whole show (out of Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn), the Holstein Judge ignored us totally. I still don’t think we were deserving of a Overall Championship placing, but I do feel he should’ve taken the few seconds to inspect our calves. But, that’s the unfortunate reality of the sometimes colorblind Holstein

By this point, Sapphire had been classified Good Plus 80 Points, and had already finished her first lactation and had her second calf.

Cows have a tendency to have their heifers on time, and their bulls overdue. Sapphire, on the other hand, tends to calve close to her due date with a bull, but hold on to her heifers. She’s always had whopping big calves.

Of the seven calves she has had, only three have been heifers. Sparkles, Sunflower, and Shaela. I have loved them all.

As of December 2013, Sapphire had produced 32,775kgs of milk. Over the 7 years she has been here, she has never needed to be treated with antibiotics. She is a friendly, happy cow, and we look forward to having her around for many more years.

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