After a week of thorough research, I arrive at the conclusion that I need to build a stanchion (as the experts suggest) to make training a first calf heifer to milk easier. I pick out a spot, make a trip to town for supplies and begin putting it together. I spend about half a week working each evening to complete it because I need to start getting her used to it ASAP!
Once complete, I start hanging her feed bucket in there so she has to go in it to eat. She does not like it one bit but eventually goes in to eat. I think I’m really getting somewhere now- this isn’t going to be so bad! The vet was due to come out in about a week and she’d need to be in it for her tuberculosis test and blood work so I just continued to feed her in it nightly while the gate was open so she’d be extra used to it for that and for milking! Her appointment rolls around and she goes right into it like she’s supposed to and she’s perfectly fine until she sees the vet. She’s not happy now! He gets everything done but she nearly breaks the gate at the back of the stanchion. Luckily, the follow up for her TB test is just a visual look at her so it won’t be needed for that. She won’t go back in that night but she does the next day. The weekend passes by and on the day the vet is supposed to come out for the TB test follow-up, I arrive home to a brand new calf!
Little Petunia looks nothing like her momma since she is solid black but Marigold is absolutely smitten and at this point, milk is dripping from her udder so she needs to be milked right away. Into the stanchion she goes for her nightly meal but things don’t go so well after that. She kicks as me anytime I get close to her udder. After over a half hour of trying, I only have a quart of colostrum for my efforts and several near misses from her hoof. This goes on for days, I’m really beginning to wonder if she’s going to get mastitis since I have been unable to milk her completely and there is no way the calf could ever drink it all- she was producing enough for at least 10 newborn calves at that point! I make a trip to the Jonesborough Co-op to purchase a mastitis test kit (they were the only ones that had one- and they only had one!). Luckily that evening, it came back negative. I’ve got to get creative because she will hardly go into the stanchion now. She didn’t like it, she didn’t like the confinement and she was really starting to resent me for it! She was scared to death of a halter so I couldn’t put one on her just to tie her up to a fence post either. In my mind, thoughts of quitting are racing through it again. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this, there’s no way I’m ever going to get this cow trained. She nearly runs from me now at milking time. WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?!?
I go against everything I’d read because nearly everyone said it never works…. I put out a pan of her favorite feed… pet her for a few moments as she eats… grab a bucket…. and start milking.
Just like that. After two weeks of hard fought battles for very little milk at a time, lots of worry, tears and near injury- we’re getting somewhere. By the time she’s done eating, I’ve got nearly 3 gallons of milk. I am absolutely overjoyed! The next morning goes just as well. Why hadn’t I tried that sooner since everything else was failing?
It really boiled down to something very simple. See, Marigold isn’t just an animal you tell what to do and she does it. You have to reason with Marigold and more or less show her what needs to be done. She’s very smart and when she’s treated as such, there are no problems at all. I started looking at milking her as a partnership of sorts. It requires care and respect on my part for it to work- she’s like a business partner almost. Once that clicked, everything fell into place and she’s honestly the best cow I’ve ever been around and truly, one in a million. I never have to tie or restrain her at milking time, she looks forward to it and so do I. It’s a lot of work often requiring lots of early and late hours but so rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Stay tuned for next week’s story!