We marked 2019 and the end of the decade with the slaughter of our first family cow, Butterfly. We butchered her on-farm to honour her role as family cow. (For this reason, the meat is not approved for sale.)
Butterfly joined the farm one month after we moved here, in June 2015. She came here wearing a #1 ear tag and she was our #1 in many ways: our first cow, the first cow we milked (by hand!), the first cow to calve on our farm; and, risking clichés, the first cow to teach us the hard realities of owning a family cow.
With Butterfly came Buttercup, her first calf who was 3 months at the time, and Oreo, a lanky and suspicious Holstein steer. Since then, Butterfly calved two more beautiful heifers: Bovo Bean and Bovo Bugaboo (pictured below just minutes after her birth) and produced loads of milk for them and a good amount of milk for us. She nourished the pastures with her manure and urine and her munching, which causes roots to slough and, in turn, gives soil microbes energy and nutrients to build more soil. She was laid back and calm, but had a particularly exuberant way of greeting spring pasture – with happy Jersey bucks and bounces.
We hoped that it would make sense to keep Butterfly around for much longer. She was a gorgeous pure bred Jersey with coveted A2/A2 milk, a great mom who had easy births and healthy, beautiful babies. Unfortunately, these factors were overtaken by the fact that she wasn’t easy to breed, and when she did breed, she wasn’t easy to milk or keep in good condition. Farm life is full of hard decisions, and slaughtering Butterfly now was one of them.
I (Sarah) miss her and her presence as farm matriarch. Maybe I will continue to add stories to this blog – about of my first attempt to milk her; how she stubbornly held her second let down for her calves (gotta respect it, but it’s darn frustrating!); how she’d pee on her tail and then fling it in Drake’s face with perfect aim if he paused while milking; how she took such good care of her calves by thoroughly grooming them with body and face licks; or how I could tell where Drake was on the farm by looking at Butterfly’s body language. Or maybe I will just leave it at this and be forever a little heartbroken.