Last week we celebrated Bumble Bee’s 16th birthday! She is a truly loved part of our farm and family, and has been with Misty Brook since the very start. If 16 sounds like a lot of years for a dairy cow, you’re not wrong… It is definitely something worth celebrating! The average life span of a dairy cow in the United States is 4-6 years, though their natural life expectancy is drastically more: 15-20 years! We hope to have many more years with sweet Bumbles.
The life span vs life expectancy of most dairy cows in this country is so low because many farmers think that their cow’s productivity drops with age. After 5 or 6 years, many are removed from the herd and culled for beef. You might be surpised that about 18% of beef consumed in the US comes from retired dairy cows. But our cows are not just milk-making machines that no longer serve a purpose when they start to drop in milk production. We honor the lives of all our animals, and Bumble Bee is as much a part of the Holmes family as our three boys! Well, maybe not QUITE as much, but she’s a special gal!
We interviewed Katia to learn more about Bumbles’ importance on the farm, and hope you can find your way here someday to meet this legendary lady!
How long have you had Bumble Bee? Since the beginning!
Was she born on your farm/where did you get her? Bumble Bee was the first calf born on Misty Brook Farm. Her mom, Bluebell, was one of our first two cows and she gave birth to Bumble Bee shortly after we got our DBA. So, she has been with us since the beginning and moved farms many times with us.
What’s her personality like? Bumble Bee is the queen bee. She is the lead cow, so wherever she goes the rest of the herd follows. There is definitely respect for her in the barn and she does what she wants.
What does she love (ie. Apples, butt scratches…) She loves her neck and poll scratched and will give you the sad eyes if you don’t oblige. She is crazy about apples and will steal one from your hand or pocket if you are not paying attention. When we put the cows in a pasture with crab apples in the fall, she is the first cow under the tree looking for drops. In her younger years she ate acorns too, but I’m not sure she has the teeth for that anymore.
Is she our oldest? Yes, oldest and wisest.
Who are her babies (at least the ones still on the farm)? Bumble Bee has had more bull calves than heifer calves and sadly she has outlived all her daughters. She has a granddaughters named Basil & Button, great granddaughters named Bellflower & Blueberry, and great great granddaughters named Pasta & Bryn. Pasta, Bryn, and Blueberry are all due with their first calves this spring. (Pasta’s mother was Pesto, Basil’s daughter. Needed to branch out from B names!) She has many nieces and grand nieces too. None of her sisters are still alive, but many of their babies and grand babies are in our herd. That’s why we have so many cows with B names!
I’m assuming that her milk yields drop every year..? What does keeping a dairy cow like Bumble Bee past her high production years say about our farming practices and morals? Bumble’s milk yield has been consistent. She had a hard calving the last time she calved April 2nd 2018. She was down two days with milk fever, but we got her up and she was a nurse mom for her bull calf and a couple others that summer. She never got bred again after that and has been milking for us ever since. She pays her way with her 2.5 to 3 gallons per day of delicious milk. We are only milking her once a day now since she deserves to take it easy in her old age. She is still paying her way and we felt she deserved a celebration.
Anything else people might want to know? Bumble has seen all three of our boys grow up from babies. She was a first calf heifer when Alister was born 14 years ago. So, none of us can really imagine life without Bumble Bee, she has been a constant in changing times.