Questa rancher Robert Smith, left, looks on while his wife Joy gets dressed before heading outside Monday (Jan. 5) to feed and milk their cows. The Smiths raise friendly family milk cows for those interested in the benefits of having a cow.
Time to milk the cows
Keeping a family cow
Questa couple rescues, rehabilitates dairy herd
By Susan Lahey
Robert Smith walked out of the gate that separates the house from the cow yard and immediately, three or four doe-eyed baby-faced calves came to lick his coat, nibble his pants and lift their faces up to be rubbed and snuggled.
These are Robert and Joy Smith's babies, as are the giant, friendly Jerseys behind the yard.
The babies the Smiths bred themselves, but the older ones are rescue cows. They are Jerseys that had some problem that made them unfit for a large dairy operation -- cows with a split hoof, a dysfunctional udder, a persnickety digestive system -- and would have made them candidates for slaughter.
The Smiths bring them home, heal them, tame them and sell them to people who want a family cow for their own fresh milk.
They stumbled upon this calling pretty much by accident. Robert has been an electrical designer and engineer, and more recently a mechanic. Joy has been a massage therapist and a baker of fine confections. A few years ago they decided they wanted a cow for the health benefits of raw milk and cheese.
So they started looking for a Jersey. But information on buying cows was scant. And dairy farmers who had healthy, producing cows, weren't interested in selling them for less than an arm and a leg.
Then, the Smiths got a break. A local dairyman had a cow with a touchy stomach. When the cow ate the hot rations that the other cows ate, she bloated.
It was a life-threatening situation and the dairyman, who has some 500 cows, hadn't the time or resources to give this cow a special diet. If the Smiths could save her, they could pay the dairyman $500 later.
So, Bonnie came to Questa.
At first, she wouldn't eat. She wouldn't drink.
"She was an only cow. She was scared," Joy said.
"There was no herd here," Robert added. "It didn't smell like cows here." After a couple of days of coaxing and worrying, offering Bonnie every treat they could think of, she began to eat.