Saturday, August 6, 2011

After nursing the entire neighborhood, Dolly lost ALL her weight and developed a metabolic disorder known as Ketosis. The body quits using available food for energy and starts to burn body fat as an energy source. (Think Atkins) This is NOT okay for a dairy cow!! They stop eating and exacerbate the problem and go downhill quickly.

I knew Dolly was losing weight, but could not figure out WHY! We kept upping her feed and she wouldn’t finish it. Finally, I saw Emma nursing her and it made sense. The next day Dolly went off of feed completely. My poor little bag o’ bones was wasting away before my eyes. She barely had the energy to stand and no inclination to eat.

I checked the FamilyCow Boards and gleaned everything I could on combating ketosis. I made up a recommended drench, with real Apple Cider Vinegar and Molasses, and yogurt. I decided to dump in a half gallon of milk with the cream on it still, as I figured it couldn’t hurt. She slurped it up. I poured some over some corn and she took one bite then refused the rest. At least she ate a little. I turned her back out hoping she’d eat some grass.

Next morning, I fixed her another concoction. She refused it and refused to eat. I gave her a shot of B complex hoping to stimulate an appetite and fretted all day. I went and started fencing off a couple of acres in a draw across the way, where a lot of grass and alfalfa is growing. I dragged Dolly out there to see if she’d be tempted to eat fresh alfalfa and she was, just barely. She nibbled here and there as I strung up hotwire. I decided to leave her for a little while to eat while I hunted down Randyman to charge the fence. Dolly, sweet thing that she is, saw me leave and decided she did not want to be alone. She walked to the fence, reached out and tested the wire with her nose (she is braver than I am!) Finding it wasn’t charged, she walked through it dragging half of the fence behind her.

At least she ate a bit. I made her a concoction with corn syrup this time, as she decidedly did not want molasses now. She drank it with gusto and wanted more. She wouldn’t eat much still, but at least she had some available sugar in her system.

One of the baby goats has discovered he can crawl under the gate where the dogs go in and out to patrol. This is very unfortunate, as now the dogs have to be locked in, or out. I am thinking this goat may soon be invited to a barbecue. At any rate, I locked the pups out last night so they could protect the goats and sheep. As a result, they were unable to get back in the yard to protect the chicks as well.

This morning I found one of the meaties had drowned in my waterfall barrel. If the pups had been here, they could have alerted me, but they weren’t. Once again, I checked on the internet boards, this time the LGD board and decided not to let the chicken go to waste. I began plucking and cleaning the bird to put in the freezer for a few days and give back to the dogs for guarding them so diligently. I am so PROUD of these two pups, who only months ago would gleefully run around chasing chickens then catch and pluck them for sport, resulting in the death of the bird. Once they finally understood the chickens are MINE and to be protected, not molested, they have stepped up and guard them both up and down. NOTHING is allowed to bother the chickens, not from the ground, nor from the sky. Cletus, especially (formerly the worst offender, but ‘he who is forgiven much, loves much) spends his days in the yard where he can keep the chickens all in constant sight. He looks to be sleeping, but is instantly on his feet if he perceives a threat to them. Even Bruno takes his turn babysitting.

Even without Dolly having milk, I seem to have an abundance of it in my refrigerator, so I have happily taken advantage of that to practice some cheesemaking. It isn’t nearly as daunting a task as I had thought it would be, its actually quite easy, the greatest challenge to me being to stay focused and remember I am making it!!

Here I have poured 4 gallons of milk into my large roaster with some water under the big pan to act as a double boiler. It’s important to maintain temperatures for 45 minutes or so at a time so this works really well for me.

As I am using raw milk, there is no need to add calcium chloride to it. To make cheddars and jack cheeses, jack being my favorite, I add either a mesophilic culture (Clabber) or thermophilic culture (Yogurt). Either of those two can be purchased as direct set cultures from a cheese company, but if I have made my own, it all works better! The milk warms up then sits for about 45 minute to ripen then I add rennet and let it set another 45 minutes to coagulate and begin separating curd from whey.

The next step is to slice the curd, which allows it to release even more of the whey. I need a good knife or long cake icing spatula for this, but for now I am using the back of my bread knife and its working ok.
The cheese rests for 5 minutes to heal the curd, then is slowly heated up, about 2 degrees every 5 minutes til it hits the target temperature.

It holds there for awhile, then I drain off the whey, salt it, add my peppers if making pepper jack, and line my cheese press with cheesecloth. The cheese is put in and pressed at whatever pressure for whatever length of time the recipe calls for. 

Its flipped and repressed a time or two, then set on a bamboo mat to dry for a couple of days. Once it forms a rind, I melt cheesewax in a double boiler set up again and wax the cheese, taking care to leave no open spaces where bacteria and mold could grow.

The cheese is marked, then set in my little ‘cheese cave’ to ripen for a few months at 55 degrees. I turn it once a day or so for the first few weeks and wait anxiously to try it and see how it turned out!

During the 45 minute breaks that the cheese was doing its thing, I move Dolly and Em back and forth from the pasture. Cletus plays dead as Dolly walks by, as she likes to head butt him a lot. Again, the Maremma version of extreme sports. I always choke on my breath, afraid he’s going to get hurt.

In the evening, I go to put the older chickens in their pen and lock up the new little eggers in theirs. They are the same age as the meaties, but only weigh ounces, where the meaties are already weighing pounds. I find, to my surprise, they have decided to move their badselves into the big chickens pen and sleep on a roost like big kids. One MORE problem solved!

1 comment:

  1. What a lot going on! I hope Emily is coming back to herself. Ketosis is so problematic - is she eating again? And that cheese! Holey Moley, it's beautiful! I have such cheese envy... I'm glad that you have one less problem - now that the tweenies are roosting with the big girls - and on their own, good girls.