Although I’ve trained two dairy cows how to be milked by hand, I’ve never raised my own milk cow from birth… until now.
Marabelle is due some time next month. She’s my two-year-old heifer, the daughter of my family milk cow, Sienna. Although in appearance, she favors her sire, a Black Angus, in personality, she favors her mother. She’s very friendly and tame.
Marabelle was born on our farm. She had a sweet temperament from the start, which made her easy to work with. She didn’t mind being petted, although she wasn’t a big fan of being led with halter and lead rope. (I haven’t met a calf yet that was.)
When you are milking the mama cow, it makes it much easier when the calf can be handled easily. I also spent more time with the calf than usual, since she was a heifer and could become a milk cow one day. Planning on this, I made sure that when I spent time petting her, I always pet her udder, too. I wanted her to be desensitized in that area.
Now that Marabelle is close to calving, I’ve started calling her up to the barn in the evenings for feed. She’s learning how to put her head in the stanchion to eat. Then, while she eats, I sit in milking position and mess with all four of her teats and udder the whole time. So far, she hasn’t minded one bit. She’s not even flinched or moved her leg when I try to “milk” her. I see this as a very good start. I also spray her down with fly spray while she’s in the stanchion, and she doesn’t mind that either.
My next step is to lengthen the time Marabelle stands in the stanchion. I want her to feel comfortable and relaxed in there for a significant amount of time to prepare her for when I actually have to milk her.
Thankfully, I had a good start with Marabelle. She was already tame and used to being handled, including her udder. She also already would come when called. This is because when I weaned her, I fed her almost every day for the first month or so and would call her to the feed bucket.
Now, she’s learning to go into the stanchion in the barn when I call, how to stand for long periods, and how to lead better.
Coming into the barn for feed is fairly easy. All I do is open the gate, and she knows where to go. But, when it’s time to go back to the pasture, that’s a little more difficult. I clip on a lead rope and lead her back into the right paddock. But, sometimes she’s stubborn and doesn’t want to walk. I pull and pull, and she just stands there. This is because I didn’t work with her enough on learning to lead when she was younger (and easier to manhandle). However, she is making progress, and I don’t think it will be long before she leads better, too. The daily practice helps.
The downside to all of this is that Marabelle’s udder is quite small. This could mean that she’s not going to give very much milk. I was hoping that since she was half Jersey, she would be a good milk producer. However, that may not be the case. Time will tell.