The Way to Have a Cow


It’s been almost two months since I worked out a peace agreement with Glory Bee. There was all that turmoil, trouble, and tribulation because I didn’t get a halter on her at an early enough age. People, trust me, don’t wait till the calf is two weeks old! (Don’t know about all my turmoil, trouble, and tribulation with this calf? Read the posts from the last few months in the Cows archives.)

Glory Bee, at two weeks. (Already gone wild.)

What a cute little thing she was! WHAT A DEVIL.

It took another month after that to catch her.

This was followed by a couple more months of struggling to tame the wild child.

Another struggle was figuring out how, within the constraints of the setup I have on my farm, to share Beulah Petunia with Glory Bee. I tried all sorts of solutions. For awhile, I kept BP in the goat yard. But that left me with no milk since Glory Bee had a full access pass to mommy. I tried using the goat pen, bringing each of them in there. It was difficult and didn’t last. Taking Glory Bee out to BP was like trying to haul around a Tasmanian devil. Just when each attempt outlasted my strength to go on with it, I’d try a new plan.

And then I found THE plan, the one that worked for me.

If you are new at having a dairy cow (and especially new at having calves), don’t be discouraged if you fail at first! You can get the calf back under control, but it takes time. And it’s better if you don’t let it out of your control to begin with. Soon as the calf is dried off after it’s born, GET A HALTER ON IT. After that, there is no one “right” way to handle your cow and calf, only the way that works for you. For what it’s worth if this helps anyone else, this is my method, which has the following good points:

1. Means I don’t have to milk every day.
2. Keeps mommy and baby together (part-time).
3. Works for me.

(FYI, this method is something you’d want to start after the calf is a few months old. Before then, the day of separation would be hard on the calf. You’d need it to be accepting a milk bucket or bottle. OR, if you have a halter on it–and you do, right?– you could manage back and forthing with the baby. Once the baby is a few months old and nibbling some hay and so on, you could start this method.)

I have a milking day and Glory Bee has a milking day. We share custody of Beulah Petunia.

On my milking day, BP is in her pasture, not far from the goat yard where Glory Bee is. BP has spent the night there. I milk her morning and evening. After the evening milking, I take her to the goat yard. (She takes herself. I have a little video of this process here.) I open the gate from Beulah Petunia-land and she heads for the goat yard gate like a heat-seeking missile. Glory Bee is always there waiting for her. Mooing. Desperate for mommy!

I let BP into the goat yard and she spends the night in the goat yard with her baby, and she will spend most of the next day there. This is Glory Bee’s milking day. She has mommy all day. In the evening, I take BP out, back to BP-land where she’ll spend the night, away from baby, filling up her udder so I can have my milking day.

We do this routine over and over, trading off milking days. (And Glory Bee actually nurses every day because even on my milking day, she gets BP back in the evening.) They have adjusted to the routine, and tolerate their separation with moos and bellows that only increase close to the evening of their every-other-day reunion. They know when the reunion is drawing nigh and they are eager for it. They have set their internal clocks to the schedule.

Glory Bee and I have been so happy with this custody arrangement that it has continued for nigh on two months! And will continue for the foreseeable future, until such time as Glory Bee is finally too old or too big or BP just says, GET OFF ME, YOU GIANT BABY!

Meanwhile, I’ve continued to work on my “relationship” with Glory Bee. She is very curious about me. She follows me everywhere she can, runs along the fence to “follow” me outside the goat yard. When I go into the goat yard, she tags along behind me like a toddler holding an apron string.

I think she needs her halter loosened again, but I don’t try to do stuff like that by myself (because I’m not insane), so I have to wait for help.

She’s not affectionate. Meaning, she is leery of being petted, but she will let me, just barely. At five months old now, she is still skittish, but she has come a long way from the wild thing that was racing along the ridgetop above the house a few months ago.

She is slowly, slowly, slowly accepting me, if not as her friend, at least as her farmer.

She’s right on me, every step.



Contemplating whether or not to let me touch her with my evil fingers.

Everybody else in the goat yard is right on me, too.

I’m really popular!

She’s bigger than the donkeys now.

She doesn’t look as big next to mommy.

She sure loves her mommy. And she loves everything about her!

As to when we will have another one of these giant farm babies (a calf), I’ve decided to wait for early summer to breed BP. Glory Bee was born in the fall. This makes the drying off period late summer/early fall. And milking in the winter. I don’t know what they were thinking. That’s no good. She’s my cow now, and I’m setting her on a schedule that works for me. I don’t want to milk her in the snow in January and February. A March baby sounds good to me. So, that’s the plan. BP is already knitting giant booties!! (She wanted to get a headstart.)

P.S. There may be a pop quiz. Please memorize the answer to the following question. “When should I get a halter on my new calf?” IF YOU’RE ASKING THIS QUESTION, IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE! Just kidding. Go ahead, have a cow (and a calf). Even if you mess up at first, you can recover. After a suitable period of turmoil, trouble, and tribulation. But if your cow has NOT had her baby yet, get a halter and get it on that baby right away!!


  1. Julia says:

    Lots of good advice. Glory Bee sure has grown.

  2. Nancy in Iowa says:

    GB is gorgeous! She’s got her Mom’s pretty face, and a beautiful coat. You and baby have come a long way, Suzanne!!

  3. Michelle says:

    I’m glad you two have found a peaceful middle ground! And even knowing that she is the devil, I’m still in love with Glory Bee and her sweet little face. :cowsleep:

  4. texwisgirl says:

    She is still a beauty, even though she’s growing leaps and bounds! Glad all is well in bovine land at Stringtown Rising!

  5. bonita says:

    Glory Bee’s coat looks as though it could compete with Mss Jacob’s coat for simple, pure beauty. In the sunlight that color is just drop dead gorgeous,

  6. Glenda says:

    My routine separation begins much earlier. I leave the baby calf with Momma for at least 3 days….when the colostrum is gone…then I move Momma to the pasture and baby stays in pen. Momma is brought in morning and evening for feed and to let baby nurse.

    On my milk days (just three days a week), we put baby in the barn where Momma can see her. I tie up Momma and milk, only in the morning. Baby then gets evening milk.

    This is what works for me with my set up which was here when we bought the farm.

    I put two calves on the cow, so she is feeding us (2 people) and two calves each year.

    We all just need to work out a routine that we can all live with including the cow and calf.

    I am glad things are running so smoothly.

    I wish I had done the different calving time….the bull who jumped the fence had other ideas!

  7. Deb says:

    We have a rope halter that we put on our calf every day for a little while. The halter we have is still to big for her, so we have to make do with that. She is doing pretty good about being lead around though, follows like a puppy dog for the most part! 🙂

  8. Bev in CA says:

    Peace on the farm. Suzanne, check out Throwback at Trapper Creek’s posts about her calf she is raising. She has a routine already of taking Jane into the stall morning and night. I know, a lot to do with your busy day. This will help for when she starts miling her. She handles her everyday, brushing her, etc. Great tips for raising a dairy cow. As young marrieds we had a cow. It is a huge commitment and so rewarding. We enjoy your adventures in cheese making. That was the one thing I never tried. They look so wonderful.

  9. Window On The Prairie says:

    We have beef cattle and have them bred in early summer. Then they have their calves the following March. And yes, calves are wilder than march hares from day one. Bottle calves are the only halfway tame calves there are because they are handled from day one, and every day after that. We have a cow that was a bottle calf, and she’s the only cow we have that is halfway tame, ie, she doesn’t try to kill us when we doctor her calf.

  10. Joycee says:

    …I know the answer, I know the answer! As soon as the calf is dried off you slip the halter on! I’ve been along for the whole experience and I don’t know how you had the sheer strength and lived through this cold, snowy winter milking…but you did. I just told my husband I’ve been to the farm, milked a cow and walked around the goat yard. Very satisfying to me, I love how you make us feel we are right there with you. Your photography is fantastic Suzanne!

  11. holstein woman says:

    I do alot like Bev in Cal mentioned. I have beef cattle and diary cattle. I have some beef cattle I have raised for one reason or another from our herd. They are the friendly ones. The more time you give them daily the better price you get for them at sale day. People like tame cows for some reason. I tame ALL my dairy bulls and dehorn and castrate them for the customers who order them. Suzanne this will get easier when you get your barn. Then you can keep the calf in the barn all the time.

  12. Linda Goble says:

    I have a question here for you. Do you need to breed her every year to keep the milk flow going. or if not breed her, you could just keep milking her forever.

  13. sarah k says:

    love your stories!! just oh so funny and smile inducing ;D

  14. MaryMooCow says:

    We left our first calf with the Momma thinking it was the healthiest method, but it turned out disastrous!! She was a little untouchable. spoiled, devil and didn’t wean until she was over a year. Her mother was far to tolerant and we eventually had to put a spiked nose ring in her fat little nose to force her mother to deny her nursing privileges. She was really huge and healthy for yearling on all that milk though, biggest we’ve ever had.

    We separate our calves and mothers immediately now, and find it’s much easier on everybody. The calves are much friendlier handled and fed by people right off. Their nipple buckets are their mothers and their mothers never have to pine over their spoiled wayward child that they never knew. 🙂 :cowsleep:

  15. DarleneS says:

    I hadn’t realized there were so many ways to raise calves. I just assumed they all got to nurse as much as they wanted to. You know like a dog or a cat. BP and Glory Bee are so sweet looking but I guess they are animals that need a consistent life.
    Here in Columbus our zoo recently lost an 11,000 pound elephant I keep wondering what will they do with that elephant now? He was 40 years old.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Darlene, if they nursed as much as they wanted to, there would be no milk left for the people! And really, as they grow, they don’t NEED all the milk, especially considering how much milk dairy cows will make. But they are just like any baby, they will nurse as much as they are allowed to!

  16. Shirley T says:

    It’s a good thing GB is so cute.

  17. Jeanne says:

    So glad you found your routine. The picture of Glory Bee sniffing BP’s butt could be a sign that BP is cycling/coming into heat. Watch to see if this is a frequent thing or about an every 3 weeks thing. If you can establish a pattern mark on your calendar to watch for the same behaviour in about 3 weeks. Something you should think about for the future (like by this summer) is that you are going to need to be able to seperate the 2 of them because depending on how (looking for the right words) violently BP cycles into heat. BP could hurt GB by trying to mount her as GB should be getting to the age where she herself could come into heat by fall. Conversely if you breed BP you are going to want to seperate GB when she cycles so that BP isn’t harrassed by a heifer in heat. Or that BP may harrass GB while see is carrying a calf. GB will continue to grow and looking at the size of her now she is going for Brown Swiss size and not Jersey size. I’m guessing the goat yard won’t hold her next winter. Since BP came to you already bred, you don’t have any experience with the type of cow she is when she is heat. She may be very mild mannered and hard to catch in heat or she could be a raving lunatic that leaves no doubt in your mind. Odds are good that she is milder mannered as she hopefully is cycling now. Of course the addition of anothercycling cow can change even the most mild mannered cow into a crazed critter. The same goes for GB as she matures, she could be mild or crazy. Given the size difference of mature cow to younger heifer, you need to be able to seperate them for a few days. Cows cycle fairly regularly (about every 21 days) and learning the signs of an impending heat cycle would make it easy to seperate them before they get to riding each other stage. Butt sniffing is usually a good early indicator of a cow coming into heat especially if it includes a rolled up lip by the sniffer. Usually mature cows would be with mature cows and heifers would be with heifers or there would be a bull and you wouldn’t have to worry very much about anybody getting hurt (well the bull brings a whole another set of worries). So if you start thinking of a plan now you will be ready when mother nature works her way with the cows.

  18. LisaB says:

    My son’s show heifer Roxie was in heat and I didn’t know it. My neighbor came over to help me bottle feed twin calves and while we were standing their feeding the calves, Roxie came up and sniffed his butt. Next thing I new she had tried to mount him. Had her hoofs all the way up on his shoulders. Thats one of those moments that you wish you had a camera filming. It took everything I had not to roll on the ground laughing. But that is something you need to watch out for. I don’t think you want a 1000 lb heifer mounting you. I still don’t turn my back on any of my cows even though most of them are gentle as dogs.

  19. Sheila says:

    Aw! Silly GB for not thinging you were the Cow’s Cream!! I had a calf once and didn’t see it often, I lived 3 hours from my uncle
    s farm. BUT, when I went for visits I could call that little, okay he grew really fast! bull and he came at a dead run for me all ready for ear scratche. I loved it. Too bad we didn’t have easy to use video camers in the ’70’s!

  20. Gem says:

    I respectfully disagree with the halter theory 🙂

  21. Miss Becky says:

    I love that photo of Glory Bee where it looks like she took a curling iron to her coat! she’s still adorable. and I’m happy you’re enjoying a detente with her Suzanne! :yes:

  22. Runningtrails says:

    I’m glad you found a routine and method that works for you! Routine is important for everyone! Life is so much less stressful that way!

  23. aprilejoi says:

    I think I know what your next bbb question shoulb be!

  24. Alyce Shane says:

    Glory Bee!!!! That calf is getting huge! What type of camera do you use? My camera is convincing me that its time for an upgrade!

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