Calf on the loose – A Subverted Milking session

Chocolate is usually quite amenable to going into the milking trailer, and if she seems to balk a bit… a little shake  of a scoop of grain has her right up to the head stall & feeding trough! Not today… she hemmed hawed up to the entrance, and then backed off.  Her tongue reached out as far as it could to dip into the scoop but no amount of tempting her, would get her to come in.  And then I looked a bit closer. UGGGGH.

milked out

Deflated udder

When one wants to milk the milk cow, it really helps if she has some milk to give! I realized that Chocolate’s calf had been left in the paddock with her, with the morning feed, instead of being left in the main pasture.  We have mom & calf together at night.  At just under 4 weeks I want the calf to be able to nurse during the night and early morning, when it is cold.

Jim does the early morning feeding (ah, what a husband!) before he heads in to work.

Usually, the mom & calf are separated (calf left in the main pasture), and then I milk mid-day, or thereabout. Her udder has filled and there is a “pressure” that needs to be relieved.  Between the grain, high-end hay, and the udder pressure, she is usually very happy to get milked. But not today; in the rush, the calf and mom were together and I’m sure his tummy was quite full ’cause Chocolate’s udders were pretty deflated.

calf on the loose

Calf, tummy full of milk!

Discretion is the better part of valor!

I decided this was one battle I did not need to fight.  But as I was getting Chocolate BACK into the pasture, the calf slipped through the gate, to the outside.  OK… chase the calf, or finish with Chocolate. Whoops, here comes Bessie.

Decided the calf would not go far from mom… so dealt with getting Chocolate back into the pasture. All without Bessie slipping past me… she would LOVE to go to the milking trailer for all those goodies… but she hasn’t delivered yet, so no go. As a standard jersey she was very used to getting grain, in the old days.

So let’s see… here I am, dancing around with three cows trying to get them elsewhere. I just take a deep breath and laugh.  The sun is shining, the momma hen is out with the chicks, and the day is good.

And then…

Under Mick's watchful eye, baby chicks

Phacelia checking out the chicks

My current assistant (10), a young chicken entrepreneur(she has a flock of 9), has stopped by to see what is going on, on the farm.  She volunteers to help me out.

Sad that she doesn’t get to help me with the milking, she is more than happy to help me collect eggs and socialize the calf!

One of the best parts of the farm, letting kids (and adults) have the “experience” of a farm.  Our chickens are free-ranging (oophs, watch where you step!), the mini-horses, and the cows are fair game for interacting with.  Only the hogs are kept contained; one boar and two gilts. (Gilts are female pigs that have never birthed piglets. After they have their first litter they are called a sow.)

But back to the calf… he is having the time of his life running up and down the fence line that separates him from his mom. But oh, what things to explore.  He’s checking out the turkeys, the benches, the chickens, and down to the mini-horses. After 30 minutes of playtime, he’s quite easy to “walk” to the gate.  I barely get it open and he slips through, back to mom.

Phacelia making friends!

Calf socialization in progress

Interestingly, cows have pressure points and if you know the “points” you can move them fairly easily, as long as they are not scared! It’s important to move slow and be MELLOW! You just stand about 45 degrees to the left or right of the REAR of the cow, and move slowly toward them. They will move away, generally in a straight path. How close to the rear of the cow depends on how well they know you.  So the calf is “in training” and he responds very traditionally to the “pressure points” and we are able to walk him to the gate entrance.

We went on a round-up one time… a real-life cattle roundup, to bring the cow-calf pairs in from the range.  It was time to brand, castrate, vaccinate, etc.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 cows.   All the horses were brought out and everyone mounted up (except me… I was helping with the medical supplies) & 92-year-old grandpa, just recovering from heart surgery, was in charge (but NOT allowed back on a horse, yet). He was one tough guy… and quite together! This was his cattle ranch.

kids, adults, all have "jobs"

All hands on board to help out

A 4×4 was sent out with its usual load of hay, which brought the cows into the vicinity.  And then the horses surrounded the cows and moved them into the paddocks. Gates closed… sorting and work began.  James & I just looked at each other. We could have done the same thing, without the horses.  Just pressure walked them into the paddocks. But as someone pointed out… NOT NEAR AS MUCH FUN for all the horsemen (kids, etc). It was a big annual event/party. And the chance to practice roping & cutting skills. The horses were definitely a BIG asset when it came to catching and pinning down the calves.

bringing a calf down

Round-up in action

On our farm, we do things a bit differently.

  • We don’t brand… we ear tag.
  • We don’t vaccinate because our livestock don’t travel (no fairs, shows, etc) so they are not exposed to “bugs”.  If there was something endemic to where we live, we would vaccinate. The horses do get vaccinated for West Nile, spread by mosquitos, which has shown up in our area.
  • To convert bull calf to steers, we band when they are very young.

But we are able to do things this way because we are a very, very small operation. Size changes the methods of operation. Size, numbers, skills, tools at hand, staff, temperament, all factor in.  On each “farm” there is a lot of trial and error, to find the best fit. Farmers and ranchers are real life problem solvers on a daily basis, which of course, makes things quite interesting!

Here on The Heritage Farm, we’re still fine tuning our operation.

This morning, we are a little low on fresh milk and cream… but we had a VERY satisfied calf yesterday, I’m sure! But I’m learning… and fine-tuning our set-up.

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4 Comments

  1. Mary O'Bryant said,

    February 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Now, that looks like some fun there!!!

    • February 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      It was a huge kick… all day event. It was interesting to see the whole setup. And we appreciated seeing how the kids were involved as well. It was such an extended family occasion.

  2. Anonymous said,

    February 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Wonderful blog. How are you doing Amy? Looks like you are really busy.

    • February 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      thanks for the comment! Blogging turns out to be a lot of fun… and I get to play with pictures and share what we are doing. It’s a real blast! Helps me put it all into perspective. Amy


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