Me and Scout

Me and Scout

12 April 2011

How to Milk a Wild Cow

Monday, 1156, Liberty Middle School Library
Just got a text from Anna telling me that we are getting a good rain.  Praise God!  We need it.  The grass is green, but it needs some water to get it growing good and we also need to have the tanks filled.  This will certainly help.  It is supposed to do it again in a couple of days.  That’s what we need.
It’s been awhile, so I may have to skip around a lot.  I’m sure some of you are curious to know about the calf that we weren’t sure about milking.  In short, we are assuming a happy ending.  Now, in long…
How to Milk a Wild Cow:
Last Thursday, we still had not been able to determine if the little calf was nursing or not.  The cow still had an enormous bag, so we decided that we should bring them in.  I wanted to know if milk was actually coming out.  I saddled Rebel, we got the dogs, and Anna got in the gator.  We found them by the Cross fence of the Savanna I and Savanna II.  The dogs got them stopped and we found our cow.  We had about 35 or 40 of them.  I didn’t know if they would follow the gator or not, but we started off with them toward the house.  Our dogs still haven’t figured out exactly what they are supposed to do.  A well-trained cow dog will bark at the front of the herd in order to keep them from running off.  Ours clearly do not understand this and wanted to be sure that these cows kept moving.  Move they did.  They ran all the way to Bobcat woods and split up.  Fortunately, we only needed the one pair.  Penning one pair as opposed to 30 is easy, right?  Absolutely not.  Since cows are herd animals, they frequently do not do well when by themselves.  At the start of Bobcat Woods, I kept trailing Cow 3 (the one we want) along with a few others.  I just kept moving them and generally pushed them north.  That went pretty well and the dogs showed up too, which was helpful in this case.  I got them to cross the gully and lost a couple more of them, but my pair and another cow were still moving in the right direction.  They started fine, then ducked into the tallow thickets in the Tallow Flat.  Fine, Rebel and I kept them moving.  Rebel was in fine form, by the way.  He could be sent around a tree left or right with just the flick of the wrist.  He knew what we were doing and he did it well.  It’s about this time that the other cow dropped off and they separated.  I believe that she had a calf that was left behind.  I managed to get #3 into the Old field, but she froze up.  She just stood there.  So, Anna went back in the gator to try to get the other cow up with us.
As I waited patiently, I could hear the Gator moving back and forth and Anna yelling at the cow.  Eventually, the cow came out into the Old Field to join us.  I want you all to appreciate how difficult this is.  She was not on horseback, the cow was in the woods and wanting to go the other way.  I wish I could have seen it.  I guess she just worried that cow into doing what it was supposed to.  Nevertheless, when I disengaged #3 to get them together, Anna’s cow jumped back into the thicket.  Anna tried again, but we eventually decided to come on with what we had.
Now, we are down to just one cow and her calf and a couple hundred yards to go.  She really did not know what to do.  Here is where the dogs helped us.  They got between her and the pens and started baying at her head.  #3 would run at them a couple of steps and I would close the gap.  We did this for about halfway.  Then, she turned around to face me and wouldn’t look back.  I kept gentle pressure on her and she basically backed another 75 yards or so.  Once we got close, she figured out what to do and drove to the gate pretty easily.
Okay, now she was in the pens, we had to get her all the way to the front lot, into the crowding chute, down the running chute, and into the squeeze chute.  This actually all went really well.  Anna was on foot now, shutting gates behind me as we got closer.  Cow and calf work their way into the running chute…and…. Out they go, into the Meadow Lot.  What?  I had made a rookie mistake and not opened the last little gate into the squeeze chute.  The cow was still in the pens, but we had to turn her around, go back down the chute to the crowding pen, turn her back around and then into the chute.  Whew!  This actually went pretty well.  She got into the chute and we squeezed her up.
Her calf had followed her the entire time so she was right there in the chute behind her momma.  Now all I had to do was milk her.  Even though I have been messing with cows since I was a little kid my only experience with milking one was at a summer camp when I was about 12.  It’s just not something beef farmers get around to doing.  Happily, I didn’t have any trouble.  I had to drop one of the access panels on the side and reach under.  I don’t know the dairy business, but I do know that you don’t want to milk from behind.  The milk flowed.  That eliminated the possibility of the bag being clogged.  We decided that if we could get the calf up to the cow that we could get it to drink.  I got behind and opened the back gate up just enough to get a hand in and then drew up the calf.  That’s when the bad stuff started to happen.  The calf got startled and found a hole in the chute and made it to the Old Field.  This was just too much for the dogs.  All three of them took after her.  I love dogs.  They are wonderful and loyal animals that deserve a special place in heaven.  That day, I was ready to send them all there.  They chased the calf all the way across the field, catching it by the ears and the skin and pulling it down.  I would race up as best I could with a bum knee, yelling.  The dogs let off enough to let the calf get up right before I got to it, then pulled it down again.  Finally, I kept my mouth shut and caught the calf, throwing it and holding it down.  Any time a dog came within reach of foot, hand, or hat, I let them have it.  It makes me mad just thinking about it.
Anna showed up with the rope and we tied up the calf and carried it back.  Back where we started except we were pretty upset.  We tied the calf behind the cow and did everything we could to get her to drink, but she was too rattled.  I squirted milk in her face and the most I got out of her was to lick her lips.
We decided then (after a call with the boss) to leave her in the pens and Anna would come check on them in the morning and watch for a couple of hours.  This would mean getting some water and bringing it back down and then keeping the dogs in the house.  The next morning, after all this inconvenience, Anna came to the pens and they had gotten out.
Sometimes it is important to find what good you did.  We learned a lot.  We learned that the cow was giving milk.  We learned that we could pen a solitary cow with her calf using a couple of dogs, a Gator, and a good cow pony.  We also learned that our dogs cannot be trusted with a loan stray calf.  Finally, we learned how to milk a wild cow.  So, although it felt like a waste, it wasn’t.  It’s important to remember that.
The good and final news is that on Saturday, Dad, Anna and I went to get a cow out of the neighbor's pasture and we saw the cow and calf with the herd.  It has been over a week.  If the calf was not nursing it would be dead.  Problem solved.
In other news, we got word yesterday that we may have an offer on the house soon.  Please pray.  It would be very exciting to have that off our plates.

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