Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bringing In the Cows...

What do you think might be one of the most stressful jobs on the farm?

Other than trying to get dry hay baled in between summer rains, or trying to manage busy schedules around milking time, it's got to be be bringing in the cows and securing them in their stalls.

Why?  There are several reasons...

* This time of year the cows are excited to go out onto the fresh, green meadow.  Daytime temps are cool enough that they can stay out for several hours.  When they're finished eating, they lay in the grass chewing their cud, enjoying themselves, so getting them to come back inside the barn is just a bother to them.

Jim calls them, and they lift their heads and start walking up the path toward the barn.  Usually. Today they came a few at a time. ( In the hot summer, they will all line up, anxious to come in because they know they'll be fed and we'll turn on the big fans...)

 * In a perfect world, each cow would have her own individual stall that she would go to, day in and day out, week after week.  However, we have more cows than we have stalls, so they have to be flexible.  Flexibility doesn't come easy for cows; they are creatures of habit.  Trust me on this one!

Jim stands at the top of the path and directs them to the side of the barn he wants them to go to.  The older cows know the routine.  The younger ones have to learn where we want them to go, and then sometimes out of necessity, we go and change it on them...

These two know how to follow directions...

These stragglers are a little confused!  Jim moved some wires around this spring, and they're afraid to walk out of this area because there used to be a wire in front of them. (creatures of habit!)

 *One other thing that makes it tricky for our cows...the young ones that we have two different types of stalls in our barn.  In one row of stalls, the cows are restrained by a simple chain to their neck strap like this one...
Our other three rows of stalls are a very old style, which takes some training to persuade the cow to put her head where it belongs.  Mostly it's the older cows who are in these three rows...

If the cows decide to be cooperative, great!  If not, everything gets put on hold until they do!

If they don't go into their stalls, they don't get fed on time.   If they don't get fed on time, they get grouchy.  If they get grouchy, they usually stay grouchy all evening.  If they're grouchy, the farmers get grouchy too...and so on.

So you see...bringing in the cows really ought to go well...for everybody's sake!


  1. I agree with you about how stressing getting the harvest in at just the right time and in optimum quality as to the nutrients content and dryness for storage and safety.
    To think that hay can cause a fire by heating up and therefor causing spontaneous combustion is cause for concern. So much depends on the weather.

    I find if the hay quality is poor it causes stress on the cows and on us too.

    We have a free stalls barn so they just go into the stalls by themselves but trying to get a heifer who just calved for the first time into the milking parlor is tricky and sometimes take two to coax her in.

    It can be a stressful life as it 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

    Happy Easter. JB

  2. They really do get cranky when their routine is interrupted don't they. The goats are the same way. I only milk one at a time, and we always have to go in the same order and do it exactly the same. Silly girls.

  3. Happy Easter weekend :) I didn't realize how 'habit' oriented cows were. I can totally understand that grouchy cows = grouchy farmers ;) What I didn't realize is that the cows would come when called (granted for the most part). Cheers, Jenni

  4. I was cracking up at the picture of the cows not wanting to cross the "line" where there used to be wire! So funny!

    On a smaller scale, this time of year, I have a hard time getting my dog to come inside. She loves the nice weather so much that she doesn't want to come inside. So sometimes I end up taking her with me in the van when I need to leave and can't get her inside. She will never pass up a van ride! (She's nearly 90 pounds, by the way, not exactly the type of dog you can pick up and put her where she belongs...kind of like cows!)

    Happy Easter to you and yours!

  5. I have learned that ALL the critters are pretty much creatures of included! LOL!! I know when my goat comes into the milking shed to be milked, if one little thing is in a different place she gets skittish and doesn't want to go in!

  6. How many happy times I remember helping my uncle bring in his Holstein herd. They were creatures of habit too, and knew who went first, second, etc. etc. with the old style stanchions that you show. How happy the barn cats were at milking time, too!

  7. Isn't it amazing what good memories they have? Ours start letting us know in May that it's time to go to the summer pasture. Every time we go to see them, they moo loudly to remind us that it's time. It's like having pushy houseguests. :)

  8. I love all your posts. They make me smile. Beef cattle are not so different than Dairy. Ours have those often walked paths to and from, and they act like its a crime to step to either side...have a great week!

  9. Just fascinating for someone like me who doesn't know anything about cattle.

  10. Another lovely teaching post it is so true the cows seem to have all the power we have to listen to them sometimes. B


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