A stanchion does not a milk cow make
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.
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.
I did have another “person” in mind though to help me with my dairy dilemma.
Meet Lula, Della’s little sister.
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… .
You want to do what?
You’re shittin’ me! (I love that line in Sweet Home Alabama)
Well, if you must, go ahead and try.
What ARE ya doin’ ???
At this point, I don’t think she is too wild.
She’s letting me play around and wave to the camera.
I guess she is OK with this…