Tonight was one of those moments in life, those moments when something hits you square in the head and makes you realize that everything is going to be just fine! My cows teach me everyday, and tonight my new heifer Ida reminded me of a very important lesson. First, you should know a little bit about Ida, to truly understand our relationship...
Ida gave birth to her first calf last week, an adorable little heifer, which we have named Idaho. Ida was an excellent mother and an even better cow. Training new heifers to enter the parlor is a very delicate adventure. Peace and calm are the keys to success. The first time we milked Ida, she walked into the parlor like a champ! She was not even startled when we washed and cleaned her teats. When we placed the milking unit on, she released her milk, and we were able to feed it to her calf. It was almost too perfect. The next morning Ida did not let us down, she walked confidently into the parlor, like she'd been doing it all of her life. We washed and cleaned her teats, she let her milk down, and we milked more milk for her little Idaho. Just like clock work....until 2 days ago....something changed.
We're not sure what changed her attitude, but 2 days ago, suddenly Ida was determined not to be milked. She enters the parlor with the same confidence as before and even stands to be washed and dried but the moment we approach her with a milking unit she kicks and jumps. Keep calm. Cows don't understand human speech, but the do understand your tone & volume, so yelling at cows is useless. Hitting them will always make them more scared or agitated....so that also does not work. My first instinct was to restrain her to keep her legs on the floor so we could milk her. I chose to use what I call "bracelets" which are little belts that go around the legs of our cows to either help them walk when they are injured or restrain them when they kick. Ida did not like the bracelets, and was still able to kick her milking unit off with little trouble at all! My next idea was to use ropes, and tie her legs safely and securely to the nearest post, thereby making her stand still. This idea was a colossal fail. Ida was such a determined cow that she stretched the ropes to get her legs mobile and then to kick off her milking unit.
In frustration today, I even consulted my vet for advice. I love Ida, and I want to keep her as a milking cow in my herd, but if she continues to kick her milking unit off she will be at risk for infections and a danger to my employees & me. The vet suggested that we give her medicine to help her udder feel better. New mothers can relate to Ida's problem: she has some edema or swelling, which could be causing her tenderness. After dwelling on this problem all afternoon I decided to go back to the basics....take off all of the restraints and milk Ida like all of the other cows, only this time instead of walking away from her and expecting that she'll leave the milking unit alone, I will stay with her. I will comfort her and help her seek relief....so I tried it tonight.
AMAZING! A miracle! By just calmly holding the milking unit for Ida and talking to her gently, we were able to milk her completely out without a single kick off. Sure, Ida tried often to kick her unit off, and she tried hard, but as hard as she tried to kick my hand, I worked harder to avoid her. Sitting there with Ida took time, but it took less time than if I used the ropes or even the bracelets. It was so gratifying to milk her out by just going back to the basics of cow handling...never lose your cool and go with the flow.
So what did Ida teach me? Ida taught me/reminded me that even though my life is not where I wanted it to be, my life is a busy, frantic, chaotic mess.....as long as I don't dig out the restraints, get frustrated, get stressed out, but instead go with the flow & get back to basics....it'll all be fine. We'll achieve success, and we'll be there in no time! Thanks Ida for that reminder ;)