A whole entire month has come and gone already (good grief! where does Time go?!) and Hazel’s training is still in progress. But since my post on March 3rd she has made incredible improvements.
After researching and reading other folks’ training methods I took and left out what I wanted and came up with my own hodge-podge approach. Which I’m proud to say has been working. 🙂 [Disclaimer to my readers: This is merely what I have found to work with my heifers, it is not proven in any way].
The training suggestion of using a gloved stick to touch udders is a neat idea – and safer perhaps if the heifer is kicking – but for my heifer it was adding to her frustration and fear. So I stopped. Instead I chose to focus on her trusting me more – after all, I’m her care-taker and the boss. For training treats, (since I feed a grain-free, grass-based diet supplemented with minerals, Kelp, Redmond’s Rock Salt, and clay) I discovered a bag of old apples in my store-room fridge – they were a bit withered but still crunchy and wonderfully aromatic. So I chopped ’em up in quarters and fed an apple or two to the girls during training sessions. Till I ran out so now I save my veggie-peels and use them. Hazel and Briar go nuts over potato peels, carrots, and squash!
Because Hazel had been protecting her udder I decided to leave well enough alone and gradually work towards the goal of touching it. That’s the keyword: gradual. I was pushing too far too fast when she has always been rather spirited and aloof, never as people-oriented as my Jerseys. She needed/needs to know that she can trust me.
Brushing time is always my heifers’ favorite past-time. Anytime they see me get out the stiff, boar-bristle brush they both crowd and shove against the pallet gate, necks outstretched as if already anticipating the wonderful sensation of the brush scratching their thick coats! And because Hazel is almost hypnotized by being brushed I used that time to brush her legs, brush her belly and then in mid-stroke slip my hand underneath and gently pat her growing udder. From there I moved on to standing beside her at any given time – whether it’s in the stanchion, outside while she’s eating hay or standing soaking up sunshine – and gently touching her udder. First time she wasn’t so sure about it. Let me touch it for a nano second then sidled off, turning round to keep a bulging eye on me. But she’s getting better. Which is a good thing.
There’s so much to do once spring arrives and never enough time to do it in it seems! Besides training Hazel I also have a whole list of spring jobs to complete which will probably last well into summer: fixing fence, putting up new cattle panels, seeding my field, updating my electric fence system and looking into a milk machine to name just a few!
Seriously though, I can hardly wait for May. I live in farm country and on my way to work I pass at least 8 dairy farms. And yesterday I saw 3 baby calves at two different farms – just chillin’ with their mamas or racing madly back and forth from one end of the paddock to the other. They were so stinkin’ cute! Can’t wait to see what Hazel will give me. 🙂