Training a heifer to milk
We have a Jersey heifer that calved about three weeks ago. I am having a terrible time milking her. She was so gentle that I free milk her, with only grain put in the manger and a little hay. Suddenly she is kicking every time I try to milk her, which usually ends up with a dirty foot in the milk pail. I have looked at her teats, they are not cracked. I keep my nails short and try to make sure my hands aren’t to rough. I pen the calf away from her at night and after milking her let him back out. I receive about ½ gallon of milk from her, but once he is let out she lets down a lot more milk, so I try to milk a teat while he is eating from the others. I have tried to tie her back leg to the stall, and she went crazy. She kicked and kicked until it came loose then she went up the wall and got stuck between the boards with her hooves. My husband had to loosen boards so we could get her out. I worked with her the whole time she was expecting, by pretend milking, brushing and consistent hands on training. I am a first time milker, as she is a first time being milked but I don’t think I am milking her wrong, as at first she was fine. She never kicks when I clean her udder before milking, but when she runs out of grain, that tail begins switching and she starts to kick. I am at wits end. My questions are: Do you know of anything I can do to prevent the kicking? Am I getting the normal amount of milk, or should I be getting more? What could be going wrong with her?
Mary Ann Nelson
Franklin, West Virginia
I hate to tell you but your heifer is training you. She wants all her milk to go to her calf and has figured out that if she kicks and creates a fuss, you’ll let her calf eat. It isn’t rough hands or nails or your milking technique. To stop this behavior, you’re going to have to take charge. To do this, take the calf away and bottle feed it from the mom’s milk after you’ve milked her. First of all, put her in a stanchion to milk her to contain her movements. This can be a regular dairy stanchion or one you build out of 2×4 lumber. To get her to stand still, here are a few things you can do: You can first try giving her more grain, even if it’s just oats, so she is eating while you milk. If that doesn’t do it, you can try hobbling her. I’ve stopped a lot of cows from kicking by making a lariat out of a length of soft nylon or poly ½-inch rope then slipping it in a figure 8 around her legs, just above her hocks. Either tie the end of the rope to a post behind her with a slip knot or, better yet, have your husband wrap it around the post and hold the end tightly. She may kick and swing around a little, getting used to the hobble but when she gets used to it, you will be able to milk without having her kick in the bucket. Then you can switch to just tying a shorter rope in a figure 8 around her hocks while you milk.
Another variation is to use the “Kick-Stop,” (http://www.enasco.com/product/C05300N ) which is a lightweight pipe frame that slips down over her back, along her sides, right in front of the hind legs. It puts pressure on the nerves in the upper back, making kicking nearly impossible. It does not hurt the cow a bit.
Once she learns that you are going to milk her, no matter what she does, she’ll learn to stand like a pro. I had a goat named Fawn who was a first freshener and the absolute worst milking goat in history. She kicked like a mule. She threw herself off the stanchion and tried to hang herself. She laid down when I tried to milk her. It took both Will and me to even catch her and lift her onto the milk stand. But I kept on milking. When she laid down, I milked her into a pop bottle, lying down. When she kicked, I deflected her kicks with my arm and kept milking. When she threw herself off the stand, I lifted her back up and returned to milking. She was like this for nearly a month. Then she suddenly quit. No more bad behavior. She turned out to be the best milker I ever owned! Who’d have thought? We called her our Rodeo Queen. The key is not to stop milking, no matter what. Hang in there and you’ll get her trained yet. — Jackie
My pumpkins, squash and cucumbers all took a hit from powdery mildew this summer. Any tips on how to combat this for my 2015 garden?
Powdery mildew is impossible to totally prevent but there’s a lot you can do to avoid taking a hit because of it. First off, if you remove all infected plants and vines from your garden and burn them, you’ll do a lot to head it off the next year. The spores are wintered over in dead plants and vines, spreading the infection in the next growing season. Do not compost the vines — if your compost pile is not hot enough, the spores will spread. Plant your vines where they get full sun and lots of air circulation, even if it means planting them farther apart. Water from drip lines or soaker hoses so the roots get moisture but not the leaves as dampness helps increase the fungus. You can try spraying your vines with a mixture of one part milk to 8 parts water. Many folks swear by this. Or spray with a mixture of 4 tsp. baking soda to a gallon of water, which raises the pH which weakens the spores. These sprays must be repeated after each rain. If you see the typical dusty white leaves of powdery mildew, cut them off right away and burn them. This won’t cure the disease but it will help retard the development and strength of the infection. Good luck this year. — Jackie
Can you send me the website to order your seeds. I thought I saved it, but, no … Also, I plant organic, so are there seed companies that you recommend, other than your seeds?
Melody from New York