The Necessity of Routine

Routine is just one part behind success in raising a family cow. No two cows are alike. And once a set routine is established it’s a good idea to follow. One’s approach might vary with each bovine’s personality, but the mundane order of events usually stays the same.

Every morning, around 8, I begin my milking routine. I separate the calf at night so I know I’ll have milk in the morning – the little squirt is such a milk thief but he’s grown 3.5″ in two weeks so I can’t complain! Most of the time the girls are already in the barn waiting for me. Other times they are out in the pasture. And Hazel’s udder is full to bursting from a whole night on fresh grass. P1060486

Once I fill the stanchion dish with snapped carrots I give one to each of the girls: one to Hazel as I secure her with a lead rope; and one to Briar as I lead her out the back barn door to her lead rope which is hooked to the fence. That done I close the barn door, latching it so Boaz can’t escape.

When Hazel is in the stanchion I pop the anti kick device on her (it’s adjusted to the lowest setting so it doesn’t pinch much, just acts as a reminder). I buy organic baby wipes to wash her udder/teats. They’re much safer to use than  rags and a wash bucket and before I found the wipes I used to use the bucket of warm soapy water too. But even though the rags are changed per teat  the water isn’t which increases the risk of contamination and the spreading of any bacteria that might be on one teat. Cleaning well is essential to udder health and excellent milk. And ever since switching to wipes I have had wonderful success. No mastitis cases in 2 years! Plus my hands don’t get chapped and raw anymore.

After washing  Hazel I line up my milk tote and pot on the side of the stanchion. Then I get Boaz. He knows exactly what to do! P1060438Bouncy with anticipation he leaps and skips as I open his gate and makes a bee-line straight for mom’s udder- on the left side of the stanchion. 🙂 For a few seconds we have a bit of a tustle: Boaz wants to taste all the teats while I’m trying to milk on the right side. But after shoving his slimy, milk-foamy nose back to his side a couple times he gets the idea and milking settles into a somewhat peaceful routine.

P1060515After Boaz nurses one quarter I pull him off and tie him to the stanchion up front. This way Hazel will still let down for me since she can see/sniff/lick her calf and Boaz is also learning to be tied. A gallon and 15 minutes later I wash all four teats again, lead Boaz back to his pen and half-latch the gate so Hazel can come out of the stanchion. Then I release Briar.

Most days they usually spend the rest of the morning well into late afternoon siesta-ing in the barn. Especially if the day is hot and muggy or muggy and rainy. And usually all three of them cram into one pen, Boaz in his special corner and mom and aunt spread head to tail looking for the world like two beached whales. Guess they have their own routine too.

Yesterday I went out to milk and Briar was in the field. “Great!” I thought. “I’ll just close the gate and she can stay out in the pasture instead of me tying her.”

And she jumped my electric fence! I found Briar desperately trying to shove her way through the lower gate which opens to the barn and when I let her in she went straight to her spot where I tie her to the fence. What’d ya know. One day I didn’t follow my normal routine and she knew it. For these creatures of habit I guess it’s necessary.

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