I’ve been working on a little project with Glory Bee. She’s due sometime around or after Christmas. She got pretty friendly at Stringtown Rising when I kept her in the goat yard. She’d follow me at the fenceline and I’d reach over and scratch her on her topknot. Then she got to where she’d follow me around inside the goat yard, wanting her topknot scratched.
When we got over to Sassafras Farm, I kept her and Beulah Petunia in the back barn yard then I sent them to Sarah’s farm to the bull. To get a lead on her to get her on the trailer, I had to trick her into a stall in the barn and even then she was a wild thing about it. When they came home, it was spring and I put them out in the field. When I wanted to move her to another field, I had to get help. I couldn’t get close to her and get a lead on her. She’d come to me, then see the lead and sprint in the other direction. She has lead-phobia.
And she’s bred and about to become my milk cow. It’s time to start training her.
So I started a little project about a month ago. Most of the time, I was just checking on the cows from the road, or outside the field. Just making sure they’re there and that I see them every day. You never know when BP is going to decide to take a cruise. I started going into the field. At first, I went into the field with a can of food every day. Glory Bee and BP like to hang out in the creekbed. The banks are high along most of the creek, but Glory Bee can scamper right out of it, even on a steep bank. BP doesn’t bother. Whether she’s in the creek or not. BP has retired. She knows she’s retired. I’m the crew boss and she isn’t clocking in anymore.
I think she’s drinking. Anyway, it’s Glory Bee I’m after and she comes.
Sometimes I go without food. She comes for the topknot scratch.
I did this for about a week with nothing but food, or no food. Then I started putting the lead in my hand.
Glory Bee doesn’t like the lead. She thinks the lead means she’s going somewhere, maybe on a trailer, and she hates that! I had to start making her think the lead wasn’t all that bad, and maybe the lead could even be good. She couldn’t get her can of food or her topknot scratch unless she let me feed her with the lead in my hand, and worse, scratch her with the lead in my hand. I didn’t snap the lead on to her halter, just kept it in my hand all the time.
We did that for a few weeks then yesterday……
Yes, yesterday! I snapped the lead on her!
I thought I’d just snap the lead on her then take it back off after she got done flinging me into a couple trees. Except. She didn’t care at all!
So we went for a walk around the meadow.
And we got to the gate, and I thought, why not? And I took her out of the field. The cows are in the field across the road right now, so we were outside fencing. I took her across the road and up the driveway and down into the barn yard.
And she didn’t mind a bit! It was like walking a really humongous dog with a weird tongue. (She likes to lick me.) She is so gorgeous.
Once we got in the barn yard, I couldn’t resist taking her into the milking parlor. She didn’t want to come at first because she didn’t understand, so I got some more feed.
And she came right in. She was confused at first and it took several tries to explain to her how she needed to walk into the milk stand.
I snapped her in the headlock and washed her udder and pulled on her teats like I was milking her. She kicked a couple times then QUIT completely, just ate her food and acted like the perfect milk cow.
So I played with her some more, “milking” her and rubbing all over her under there. No more kicking. After we were finished playing, I had to help her figure out how to back up out of the milk stand, but she got it.
I was completely surprised because I had a whole series of steps laid out and she leaped right over them. Once she accepted the lead rope in my hand, it was all skating downhill from there. I’ll keep working with her, but I won’t take her to the milk stand every day–it’s only August and she’s not due till Christmas or after–but I’ll take her to the milk stand at least a couple times a week, practicing and petting between times in the field. Once we get to December, I’ll be moving her to the back barn yard and taking her to the milk stand every day. But I thought it would take me a lot longer to get this far.
I have a different relationship with Glory Bee than I do with BP. BP is a working girl. She spent her career in a dairy. She’s been a very good milk cow for me. She came trained. I love her, but to tell you the truth, I don’t think she loves me back. She puts up with me, that’s about it. I raised Glory Bee, indulged her, spoiled her, and made her a brat. She’ll be two years old next month, and I’ve spent most of the past two years fighting with her trying to overcome how much I spoiled her–then spoiling her again–then fighting with her–then spoiling her. We’ve had an intense relationship, but there’s a bond there from the time she was a calf. I’ve handled her from day one, even if handling her meant fighting with her. Most importantly, she’s bonded to me in a way BP isn’t and never will be. If I walk into the field, BP just doesn’t care. Glory Bee pays attention to me, watches me, comes after me–even if I don’t have any food on me. BP used to come after me if I had food, but only then. (And nowadays she doesn’t even care if I have food.) BP never wanted to be petted or scratched. Maybe that’s a working girl dairy thing, I’m not sure. She wasn’t a “family cow” for most of her life, she was a pro cow in a dairy. Glory Bee’s been raised as a family cow and she wants to be petted. She pays attention to people–especially me.
After all I’ve been through with this crazy brat, I do believe she has the makings of one fantastic milk cow–and she is ready.