Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How to Milk a Feisty Cow

As I told you a couple of posts ago, Buttercup spoiled us. She was so sweet and so gentle to milk or handle. When we bought her, she was out in a field with a bunch of cows and a bull. She was the only dairy animal in the field. You would think she would be wild and unruly, but she wasn't. We got her at the end of November and she calved at the end of December. She rarely gave us any trouble at all.

We met some dairy cow people on line and found out that one of them was going to be in the area. He and his family stopped by our farm. We had not moved to this farm yet. We had been communicating online about a line of Jersey cows that had not been bred up for production. They were still the old grass fed lineage. He also told us how close the group headquarters was in relationship to where we lived. When we had a guy come to AI (artificial insemination) Buttercup, he had some of the semen from those lines. From that breeding we got Molasses.
Once we got her bred and she calved we (Read Joshua and Michael) attempted to milk her. She did not want to be milked. =) She danced and kicked. I will say she never seemed to really kick at them, but she kicked the bucket over repeatedly. She would kick dirt and manure into the bucket. She would swat them with her tail. All of this took place after they had chased her down and caught her. When she had her last calf, we brought her into the barn and hooked her up to a piece of stock panel along the barn wall. This is a picture of that set up. As you can see we are real hillbillies. Her hay rack was a plastic lawn chair balanced on an old push mower that doesn't work. The push mower gave it some more height and also we could put the legs of the chair through the handle for a bit more stability. Michael would talk gently to her and try to get her to calm down, but she would walk to and fro and he had to keep moving his stool (an upside down bucket) up and back. She discovered if she pulled back really hard that the stock panel would move and give her more freedom.
We bought a tail holder and installed it as well, so she couldn't swat him.

She eventually pulled the stock panel so loose that it was not usable for hooking her to. We had made a head gate at our last farm and brought it with us. So we set it up. Here is a picture of Molasses with one of her calves.

Here is the headgate we made. We would put her head in between the 2 X 4's you see standing straight and the one that is leaning over. It is amazing how small you have to make the opening to keep their head in. There is a long bolt we put through the top that keeps the leaning board from being pushed back which locks her in. Again, we used a lawn chair for a hay rack.

You can see the long bolt with washers that allows the 2 X 4 to pivot.

She would still move from side to side though. A couple of times she just kept bringing her rear end around until she knocked Michael off of his bucket. We went to friends of ours that live in Virginia. They milk several cows. Here is their set up. We want to duplicate part of this. They have side rails and back posts. This almost eliminates the side to side motion. They have since put this under a roof. Ours will probably be in our barn where we put the head gate. They did move their side rail, on the side we are looking at, up a bit higher to allow the cow to go out that side instead of backing out. I think we will try to just make ours removable someway to let her out.

I realize that some cows are actually mean. We don't think that Molasses is mean, just cantankerous. We also have a milker now which is the old surge type. The milk bucket is all enclosed and actually hangs from the cow by a strap up over her back with a metal bracket underneath.

1 comment:

TnFullQuiver said...

This post really helps and gives us ideas. We bought a cow and she had her calf early. We just weren't set up to handle an unruly milk cow. We are going to breed her again soon and this time we want to be ready with a milking place in hand!!
grace and peace,