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Cow whisperer has to walk the talk

April 6, 2008

I have been dreading this moment for about 8 months.  I have to train my heifer to milk.  The last time I had to train one of my own, was 7 years ago.  I was 43, now I’m 50.  Somehow fear has crept in, maybe because my own mortality just jumped up and slapped me in the face last summer.  I had been waiting for menopause to kick in and shrink a uterine fibroid that I been dealing with for some time.  It just decided to prolapse, when that happened I started losing blood rapidly.  After going to the hospital, and going through triage, we waited and waited.  The time passed very slowly, finally my husband had to leave me there and go home and do the chores.  We figured if I passed out, at least I was in the hospital.  It took 5 hours, before they admitted me – I had lost 1/2 of my blood volume.  I was so weak I couldn’t even stand up.  Luckily,  with a transfusion and a D & C, I was on my home  the next afternoon.  My doctor also informed me that since my Mom had her last period at age 60, that I probably would too.  So much for no more PMS anytime soon…

The other thing was seeing my husband totally flattened this winter after surgery.  Weak, doesn’t even begin to describe his condition.  If you live an active life like we do, you don’t feel old.  I’m sure if you’re 35 or 40 and reading this, you think I’m an old duffer.  Well, I’m not.  We hire young men to help us from time to time and I can usually work harder, for longer periods of time than they can.  But, no matter how physically strong I am, I’ve worked myself into a frenzy over this heifer for no reason.  I realize it is all in my head, which I know is a very strange place. 

I’m hoping if I post about this – I will be forced to write about the time I spend training, and what I’m doing, and I will quit procrastinating.

Jetta, a sweet one week old.
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Jetta, at 2 1/2 years.  She looks big!
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Yesterday, I caught her and tried to put a brand new halter on.  Too small, all I did was piss her off.  Go get an old halter and try that.  It fits, but barely.  I will have to get a new one this week.  She has been with her 18 month old brother for the last three months, and they have got along OK.  But, he needed to go with the herd, who got moved to pasture on Friday.  Which meant catching him and hoping he remembered his leading lessons from when he a baby.  I tied Jetta up, and caught her brother, and my daughter and I led him across the road to the pasture.  He went like a fair calf, even though we hadn’t handled him for at least 8 months.  We then put Jetta in the pasture with her Mom.

Today, and for the next month, I will put her in at the same time that I milk.  She will get used to the idea and the routine.  She came when I called this morning, but was skittish when I had to reach for the halter to put a lead on her.  It has been so muddy that I was scared I would slip and fall and pee my pants, while the heifer just took off.  But, she remembered I was boss, and came right along.  Right away, I will start brushing her and trying to make friends with her.  I usually train them to kickers (hobbles) before I have to try to milk them.  Just in case. 

Hopefully, in a weeks time she should just come to her stall, without me leading her.  Which will simplify things quite a bit.  I lead the milk cow out after milking, but I expect them to come when I call and go to their respective milking areas.  Having her in close proximity, will allow me to observe her for any health problems, and learn her ways.  It took me a few years, but I finally realized on her Mom, that her letdown was uncomfortable for her.  She would be fine for a couple of minutes, (just long enough for me to relax) and WHAM, she would kick out.  Her milk comes down with a bang and I’m sure it doesn’t feel all that good with someone grabbing your teats and daydreaming.  (Although, I’m just guessing on that one).   Now I don’t daydream while milking her (very often).  Getting her minerals adjusted helped her mood considerably, and I know where she’s coming from on that one.

Now, Cow Whisperer is going to be Greenhouse Whisperer, the sun is out. 

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2008 9:35 pm

    I’ve always just started a range cow to milk and use the “sneak” method which entails milking with lots of “get away spring” in my legs. I’ve been through the fibroid issue and know exactly where you’re coming from as I’m slightly older (not wiser) than you. Getting older means using the wisdom you’ve gained to NOT may mistakes and get hurt. It sounds like your bringing your heifer along safely and before long you’ll both get to know each other better and things will be back to routine before you know it. I feel the same way when I’m riding a colt for the first while. I can’t afford to get hurt.

  2. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 6, 2008 11:28 pm

    We have only couple of beef cows I would even attempt to milk. They are tame, but…you are braver than me!
    I know what you mean about getting hurt. I can’t afford to be off for any length of time. Plus, it is just too stressful to be scared all of the time. I know this is in my head, not the cow’s, so it should be OK.
    Worst case scenario, I will only milk her for 3 months until her Mom freshens, then I could turn her out with her calf.
    She was a smart calf, and she likes attention, so…

  3. April 6, 2008 11:44 pm

    I’ve been visiting your blog for awhile now and wanted to drop you a note to let you know how much I enjoy it. I always learn something! I’m a gal nearing “that” age, hoping and praying menopause will just hurry up and get her so I can get it over with!
    I’m certain you and your heifer will work together just fine and all will be well. I’ll be looking forward to the “story” as it unfolds. My Phoebe is will be bred next month and we will be in “milk” training before too long. Her Mom is a peach to milk, I’m hoping that rubs off on her.
    Thanks so much for sharing your life and thoughts with the rest of us.

    Deb
    Tylerfarm
    Maine

  4. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 7, 2008 3:09 am

    Hi Deb, I have been enjoying your blog as well. I left a comment awhile back but eblogger commenting takes more time to sign in etc., unless you accept anonymous comments also – so I haven’t lately.
    Tonight, Jetta was glad to see me and was making eye contact, which is a good thing. It’s also helping her being with her Mom, she is a little lower on the totem now. Her mom was a brat at first, but her grandma was a peach. So I’m hoping for the best. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. April 8, 2008 1:50 am

    whew. just reading this is SUCH an education. I don’t see having a cow in my homesteading future, but it’s fascinating to read about.

  6. April 8, 2008 9:56 am

    Poor you going through all that and now having to break a heifer too. I think you are right about the let down phenomenon. A lot of cows seem to be like that. I am so grateful to have Liz and the boss to break the new ones, although as soon as they are milked a few times I take over.

    Funny how the big 5-0 is such a watershed for starting to be careful. I have about five years on you I guess. And about five years ago I thought nothing of arm wrestling (and beating) our son or horsing around with the kids or latching on to a cow or heifer to lead it somewhere. Now I am so careful…(not to mention that the kid grew a bunch and I could no more win than fly). But my back is kind of messed up and I just can’t do those things even though I am still active all the time.
    Take care anyhow…

  7. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 8, 2008 2:10 pm

    Hayden, I know what to do, it’s just in the doing. I’m glad I’ve been around cattle my whole life – I like and respect them. I’m hoping writing this down will help someone else.

    Threecollie, it’s funny how fast life goes, we have both been boogered up in serious car accidents (2 for me, and 1 for him).
    We now are feeling the effects of that 30 years later. I think Linda is right, the brain does kick in first at this age. This heifer has my daughter buffaloed, so it is up to me. She shook her head at me a couple of times yesterday, but when I used her horns as a handle, she calmed right down. I think it un-nerves them to relinquish control. But, definitely I will be glad after her calf is on the ground and the first two weeks is behind us.

    I’ve only ever had one cow that was actually mean. I named her after a bi—y neighbor, big mistake, she acted like her namesake. We sent her to the auction, she was not safe to be around.

  8. kate permalink
    May 3, 2010 4:24 pm

    Hi,

    I have a 10 month on cow. Every time I go to her paddock I call her and she is so happy to see me she runs full bolt to me and at the very last second she stops! The if I start to walk she will start to buck and kickout and headbutt me. I think she is playing but worried that one day she will knock me over or hurt me. How do I stop her from Charging and playing like that around me? Is she playing?

    Thank you,
    Kate

    • May 3, 2010 6:33 pm

      I would carry a small stick or crop and rap her sharply on the nose (the soft wet part) and tell her NO, the next time she does that – she is just wanting to play at this point, but even at 10 months she could hurt you just playing. They do calm down as they get older, but she needs to know you don’t want to play 🙂

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