Thursday, December 1, 2005

It all started last night.....

It was such a simple alarm bells went off, no red flags went flying. Last night my husband mentioned to the boys that because one of them left a portion of the electric fence off, Lizzie got out and was in the other field with her calf.

Nora Mae and Lizzie are the cows in milk right now. Now, Nora Mae is THE perfect cow!! I wish I had 10 like her. She doesn't spook easily, she is gentle, she leads easily, never kicks the milk bucket...if she even gets close to the bucket all you have to do is lay a gentle finger across her leg and she takes a step back. I LOVE NORA!

Lizzie is a young cow (I keep telling everyone it will get better as she matures...). It doesn't appear that anyone spent anytime with her before we got her. She calved this year for the first time. She NEVER comes - you always have to go get her, drive her into a corner and then you can lead her into the milking parlor. She is antsy on the stand, kicks the bucket frequently, and spooks easily. Please, one of you dairy farmers...tell me it will get better...or tell me how to make it better!

This morning, between spelling and science, I asked the boys if it had been very difficult to get Lizzie from the bigger pasture. I was informed that they tried and couldn't do it....she hadn't been milked and it was 2 hours past milking time! My mind screams MASTITIS!! So, we all bundled up and decided to try a team (me and the 15, 12 and 7 year olds) effort.

Do you know how quickly you can go from admiring your cow, being thankful for your cow and even caring for your cow to wondering how much meat she would produce if I just went and got the rifle? It took about 7 1/2 minutes for me today!

I tired luring her with a bucket of grain - always better to lure than to chase. Lizzie looked at me like I had lost my mind. Those big brown eyes got squinty, she shook her head and backed off.
Now, we are standing in the middle of a 3 acre pasture, along with 2 horses, 4 calves and 3 Jersey cows. EVERYONE is interested in my bucket of grain except Lizzie - Nora has suddenly become my closest friend (she only loves me for my grain!). So, I am trying to fend everyone off, lure Lizzie and make sure my 7 year old isn't trampled (Elijah...get in the greenhouse!!). OK, forget the grain idea...

We start trying to drive Lizzie to a corner where we can pull back a section of temporary electric fencing and let her into the right field. Do you know how fast a Jersey with attitude can run? I was quite surprised myself - of course when she started running...everyone started running - in all directions - except for Nora who continued to graze and watch us all calmly. Did I mention 45 minutes have passed? Did I mention it is 27 degrees outside - with a breeze? Did I mention that now everyone is in the wrong pasture except for 2 calves?

The 2 calves commenced to bawling because they were seperated from everyone else but thankfully they were still in the correct pasture. Well, I thought... at least Lizzie is in the right place...I decided we could then reverse the process and begin removing animals that needed to go back into the first pasture. Hah! How naive I still am after 7 years on the farm. Are there farmer secrets that I am not privy too in reference to moving animals? Is there some book or magazine that tells how to do this easily? Is there a conspiracy afoot?

First we move Gracie (another Jersey) out pretty easily - she then stood right at the fence line threatening to come through to get back where all the action was. Then Josiah was able to drive Dusty (a small, very fast, horse the kids love to ride) through the opening - after which he began to run like a crazed animal all over the other high, thundering speeds, while calling to Angel, our Morgan Mare, that Jeremy was attempting to lead through the opening by her mane...where IS that bucket of grain? Ok, a few nibbles of grain and she is back in the right field.

3 down, 3 to go....did I mention that we have been outside now for an hour and a half? And the breeze has picked up. We start to work on the calves, everything is going smoothly, the boys are driving them toward the opening when Princess bolts. Princess is Lizzie's daughter - she is a beautiful Jersey. Her father was an award winning, pure black Jersey bull. Let's just say that she got her father's good looks and her mother's personality! She makes a bee line for the temporary electric fence, which is off because I am holding the end to make an opening. She goes through it, gets it tangled in her feet and snaps too step-in posts off at the ground. Now the whole fence is down! "Quick" I yell..."get it standing up so it at least looks like a barrier"! I just knew that all the animals would go through it and we would be starting all over of that rifle started dancing through my head again. Lizzie starts heading after her calf but Jeremy manages to turn her the other way with a great deal of hopping, swinging of the arms and making strange HooHaw a word?

Quickly I send the 7 year old to find 2 more posts while holding up the fence and trying to make it look intact. All of the animals are suspicious now....they keep getting closer to the fence...more strange movements and noises from Jeremy and Josiah keep them back. Elijah gets back with the posts and we get them in the ground. Josiah quickly runs to the lower barn to turn the electricity back on. I think at that point I was secretly hoping they would try must have been that sliding step into the cow pie that brought out the vengence in me...

Did I mention that through all of this Nora just grazed contentedly and watched us? I LOVE Nora! Now we needed to lure Lizzie up to the barn to be milked....where is that grain bucket? I pick it up and head towards the barn. Nora has again become my best buddy....Lizzie is curious but not willing to trust me, but she will follow Nora. So Nora and I hobble up to the barn together and Lizzie follows. Then she walked right to where she was supposed to go and stood there calmly while the boys hooked a lead to her to take her around to the dairy parlor....I can't tell you why that irritated me to no end but it did! Two HOURS of running around in the cold and NOW she decided to be milked? I told the boys not to bother to save it but to give it to the cats, it would be faster. After all, I was supposed to have 8 loaves of bread in the oven by now and they were 2 hours behind in school work.

Turns out she must have been letting the calves nurse on her - she didn't give a cup of milk....she would have been fine left out there all need to have worried about mastitis....

Oh, those other 2 calves we didn't get moved? I think tonight I will mention that to my husband....


  1. I laughed a lot at that one! Hilariously written.

    I've found such frustration when working with any sort of animal. Animals are very wierd. It makes you appreciate things like cabbages and tomatoes more. They always sit still and behave themselves nicely.

  2. Hi James,
    I'm glad it brought you a chuckle...perhaps in a week or so I might be able to laugh about it...right now...I'm cleaning the gun!

  3. I feel your pain!

    The only thing worse than chasing cows with kids is chasing them with adults from town!

  4. I am totally astounded. We had a Liz cow. I have written about her. We called her psycho cow. We also had a Grace, of course. We have had many many days like this. In fact, if our own cows aren't out then the neighbors come to the farm for a visit. We had quite an interesting day trying to load up an angus heifer and then trying to find out who she belonged to. Once whe had a white horse walk upon the place. Talk about fun. The kids loved it. They did NOT want to do SAXON math.

    Here is what we did. We sold psycho cow. We sold the moron cow-Grace too.

    We still have psycho cows daughter named Lindsey. She honors her mother's memory well. Even takes it a bit further to the extreme. She spent her whole first lactation being contrary. She was the first cow we had who totally refused her calf. It never nursed. Then she proceeded to not let us milk her. She had to be restrained with one of those hip kickers. Then she even found a way to get around that. We had to tie her legs for the milking event until mid way through the lactation.

    The next year she was a completely different cow. She adored her calf and let Brian milk her without a kicker. But, If I milk I have to use a kicker on her. It took a whole lactation for her to calm down. The first year she was such a poor producer too. She gave a half gallon each milking.

    Brian and I talked of selling her this go around. That's the key, start making threats about hamburger and finding a new home. She is now an awesome producer and gives 3.5 gallons per milking.

    This was a hilarious post. Perhaps because I have done this so many times. It hasn't happened in a couple of years though. They save it for me when I am very very pregnant.

  5. I found it funny reading your blog today. Since, last night I was dreaming I was milking cows. Just something I have a desire to do.

  6. There are some days I'm glad I'm just and Aspiring Agrarian, and not yet fully involved. After reading this post (and recalling 3 head of cattle that I chased around about 4 years ago), today is one of those days.

    May God be gracious to me if I ever get very far along this agrarian road. And may God be gracious to you now!


  7. JFC,
    I am almost to the point that I can laugh at it...which usually means we are close to another adventure :)

    I have no doubt that God will be gracious to you - He will also help you to develop a wonderful sense of humor - I think they call this laughing at oneself!




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