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A stanchion does not a milk cow make

September 25, 2008

Training a cow to stand while being milked is not a bad thing.  I used to milk in a stanchion all the time.  With a nice plank floor that I had to clean all the time, and when we built the new shop, I got one end for my milking/milk cow stalls.  I have two box stalls, and 2 narrow stalls for milking, that aren’t finished.  I store straw and hay in the narrow stalls.  We never did put the stanchions in, and we never finished the second box stall.  In fact, we haven’t even finished the shop.  I evolved milking like this because of the cows I had at the time.  I like to milk with the calf nearby, and that is easier if I milk in the box stall.  The calf learns patience, and the cow is calm because baby is right there.  Since my cows are used to being restrained by tying, they do not step around, or move forward or backward.

Lee, Della’s mom w/milking kid.  Sweet cow, and sweet kid, and a stained picture that has been on the fridge for too long.

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I like milking in this stall, with fresh air and plenty of light.  The adjoining stall (above) is dark, but more protected from the wind, so I milk in there in the winter.  Normally, this stall is where the calf stays at night, and in Della stays out at night on pasture, unless the weather is bad, when she can stay in her stall.  We were going to side this like the rest of the shop, but now are thinking of sliding Plexiglas doors for ventilation and light, since the calf spends a lot of time in here.  There is a glass supplier near here where you can get Plexiglas sheets for a song, and we could build the doors ourselves.  We would finish the stall walls, so the cattle wouldn’t have access to the Plexiglas doors.  But, the way things go around here, I probably milking here without the finishing touches for quite awhile, and that is OK.

Where I was going with this post is not necessarily about stanchions or stanchion building, but it is the cow, not the stanchion that makes a good family cow.  When I was little, our old barn had upright fir poles that were closed with a leather strap with a buckle.  Smooth and well worn but very sturdy, I miss that old manger, with the slick and shiny homemade stanchions.  My brother installed a 1920’s metal stanchion for me, and that was great too.  But, really I like the way I’m milking now.  The one thing I have never done though, is put my cow through any painful, or unpleasant experience in the same place I milk.  And, that is the drawback on a farm that utilizes a stanchion for a squeeze chute.  Our corral is a different story, it has a headgate, and usually if you get your head in that gate, something disagreeable is going to happen.  (I try to keep my head outta there)  I don’t want my milk cow to think that she never knows what may happen if she comes to her milking spot.  This isn’t any different than training any other kind of animal.  People take great pains training every other type of animal they come in contact with.  It should be the same with a family cow.   Just like kids, it can go the easy way, or the hard way.   Milking is a relaxing time for me.  It isn’t, if the cow is nervous, because then I’m nervous, and the cow may not let her milk down, it’s all down hill from there.  But, that’s just me – farming is stressful enough, I don’t want to create more.

So, now since this has been a bad dairy year here, I have been re-thinking what to do.  First, as you all know I butchered my replacment heifer, Jetta.  That coupled with the fact that Della is 10, and I need to start thinking of some kind of back-up.  I don’t want to buy a new cow,  because if possible, I want to raise my own heifer.  Della traded off bull and heifer calves every year until the last three, when she has had all bulls, with three different sires.  The other thing that has bothered me, is that in my quest to get a Guernsey replacement, I have been using AI, and that doesn’t always take.  Each miss, costs 3 weeks, and now Della is calving in September, when I want her to calve in April.   I know, cows can calve anytime of the year, and everyone is used to getting their milk year-round.  But, it is healthier for the cow and who ever drinks the milk, to calve in the spring.  Ask beef producers you know, how many of them have a calving season all over the calendar.  If you live in the deep South, where the grass grows in the fall and winter, fall calving would make sense.  Otherwise, it is best to have your cow dry during the winter.  It is hard to grow anything, plants, animals, whatever, in the winter.  Try growing broiler chicks, or putting weight on pigs in the cold months.  It takes a fat pocketbook.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, but should it?  I personally am to the point where I don’t care what anyone else does, they can knock themselves out trying to prove to me that they are right, or that everyone else does it, why not…  Produce more milk on the back side of the calendar, or even on the right side of the calendar by plowing up more ground for growing more grain to produce more milk – doesn’t matter to me, I’m not doing it anymore.  It isn’t right for our farm, and I suspect it isn’t feeling right to others either, but peer pressure is alive and well.  I’m just not on the playground anymore. 

So with all the belly aching out of the way – I still have a dilemma of sorts.  What to do about Della’s breeding time.  I didn’t suspect she would come into heat very soon, after pulling the calves, but yesterday she showed a strong heat.  So poor Brooks, he has to console his mom because she was sad, and now he has to put up with her being “in love” with him.  He didn’t seem to mind though, although Lath was a little puzzled.  By last night things had settled down to normal.
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I did have another “person” in mind though to help me with my dairy dilemma.

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Meet Lula, Della’s little sister.

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Half Guernsey, half Hereford.  She is halter broke, gentle and has never had any calving problems.  Her next calf is due in May at just the right time for good grass.  She would not produce as much milk as Della, but it hard to tell how large her bag could get, since she always is nursed out.  I’m guessing she would give enough to raise a calf and supply us with milk.  If I decide to milk her, I could give Della a vacation and breed her next July for a spring calf.  But, this is just a plan, I will probably change my mind 25 times before I decide what to do.  I figure if Linda can rope a range cow and milk it, I should be able to milk this lady.

But first, I thought I should see what Lula thought of my plans… . 


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You want to do what?

You’re shittin’ me!   (I love that line in Sweet Home Alabama)


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Well, if you must, go ahead and try.

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Well, maybe…

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What ARE ya doin’ ??? 

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At this point, I don’t think she is too wild.
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She’s letting me play around and wave to the camera.


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I guess she is OK with this…

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2008 2:38 am

    What a sweet cow she is! I hope Della has a heifer for you next time.

  2. September 26, 2008 12:51 pm

    What a love! Her face is so calm and patient!

    I love milking a cow in an open stall like the one you have pictured. Instantly I am on the set of Green Acres or something. I feel so completely comical and yet completely happy with the sounds of the cow grinding down the hay and the milk hitting the bucket.

    Just thought I would let you know:

    I’ve got the COOLEST giveaway going on at my site. I’m just so gee golly excited about that I can’t think straight!

    Please tell your friends and come check it out!


  3. September 26, 2008 9:00 pm

    I love the look on Lula’s face! She was probably thinking you had cold hands! :o)

  4. September 27, 2008 10:27 am

    I am just surfin’ the blogs and found you. I wanted to say Hi and nice Blog.

    I love the cow pics!

  5. September 28, 2008 10:44 am

    What a face! Those wide eyes and look of surprise! Perfect…

    hope it goes well.

  6. September 28, 2008 11:42 am

    I somehow totally missed this post. I thought you’d gone on holiday or something and was going to e-mail you to find up what was up;)
    Looks to me like you might have found a replacement until you can get exactly what your looking for. It doesn’t even look the least bit western. Her teats are a nice size and her udder doesn’t look like it’s going to be horribly wide either. I don’t like (or rather didn’t like) having to reach way across a huge udder with my short arms and I hated short teats that you only used two finger and a thumb to milk with and even then it had to run down your arms and drip off you elbows into the pail:)

  7. September 28, 2008 8:53 pm

    MOH, I am glad to see someone who puts so much thought into their way of live and not willing to change just for the sake of change. Stick to your guns girls. That’s what I do when folks tell me how to do things the “right” way. Great post.


  8. September 29, 2008 10:57 am

    A well trained dairy cow knows when it is milking time more accurately than we as busy humans do. I prefer to milk in a box stall with a tie in the corner. Our Jersey would go into a doze, chewing her cud, and so relaxed that she would even rest her nose on the rail as if she were having a snooze. This is the best way to milk.

    But she could be stubborn and sometimes needed some reminders of manners. Milking a nervous cow is no fun, she swats and stamps and is more likely to knock over the bucket, making things progressively worse.

    I agree with you about trying to push animals to produce out of season. It’s tough on a dairy cow because she is bred to give everything to her milk and not keep anything for herself. So no matter how much grain we fed her, she just gave more milk and stayed darn skinny.

    We tried for one winter to keep our hens laying full production, but it really wipes them out. We find now that it is easier to adjust our own egg and diary needs during the winter than to try and keep up summer production all year round.

    Good luck with the hereford cross, she looks docile enough, and should in theory give you enough milk to keep on the table.

    I’m enjoying your blog!

  9. October 4, 2008 10:21 pm

    Sarah, she is a sweetie, I hope she has a heifer too, raising a milk is such long proposition.

    Lacy, thanks for stopping by, I’ll let everyone know about the contest!

    Jenny, Lula is a crack-up for a cow, she is like a big dog!

    Carolyn, thanks for stopping by.

    Hayden, me too.

    Linda, LOL holiday! What is that? I think she would be an easy milker. She is halter broke and practically a pet, bomb proof so to speak. I agree, training a heifer with short teats is a finger getter – or a cow that has only been milked by machine. No wonder people complain – the calf stretches them out!

    Chris, Thanks you always know what to say.

    Freija, there is no point fighting an animal for it’s products, I agree. This cow is pretty predictable, her let down comes fast and I think it hurst her, so she will step around at that time, but I can feel it coming so I can block her leg with my left arm, and then she is fine and settles down to eat, and then just patiently waits for me to finish. No matter how the milking session goes, I always end it with a brushing or at least a light massage in her favorite itching spots.

    The only way I can keep weight on her in the winter is to go to once a day milking. She gets unlimited grass hay, and root crops. This flys in the face of conventional dairy practice, but I would rather have the cow longer, than more milk than I can use.

    It’s too hard to keep animals producing during the cold, dark months – we need a rest too. Producing and eating seasonally suits us much better.

    If nothing else the Hereford/Guernsey will be easy to milk and she will calve at the right time, allowing me to get her sister back on a spring calving schedule.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Gayle permalink
    November 3, 2012 9:38 pm

    Thanks for the great blog and advice! I found it by accident tonight and will be back. I’m getting ready to milk my Dexter cow, Anne Marie, for the first time and hope she is as nice as Lula! What a sweet face!

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