A short story
Getting a milk cow for our family was one of the best decisions we have ever made on the farm. I’m not a professional by any means, but I have graduated with honors from the school of hard knocks when it comes to dairy cows.Before we got Maggie I had no prior experience with livestock of that kind. I researched, had a wonderful mentor (Thanks Ash! @turner.farm) and read every bit of information I could get my hands on. The only thing I lacked now was experience. I knew until I just took that leap of faith and bought the cow I would never get that.
Don’t become discouraged along the way
I remember each time I would tell someone my plans of owning a milk cow. I was met with “thats just going to be a lot of extra work”. Followed by more negative comments. Each time someone would shoot down these plans I would tell myself to be respectful and allow them to voice their opinions. You’re going to hear this a lot, but keep in mind that the ones telling you this often times live VERY different lifestyles and have other life goals in mind. Not everyone is on the same page as you and thats ok. It may have been common back in the day, but having a milk cow doesn’t go hand in hand with the instant world we now live in. But don’t let it deter you. If someone looks at owning a milk cow and the first thought that comes to mind is the work, then they already don’t get it. It isn’t about getting out of more work in the first place. If you’re homesteading of any kind then you understand. There are some things in life to be cherished and enjoyed that you simply must put in extra effort to reap the many blessing’s from it. Just like gardening, cooking from scratch…you get the idea friend.
Now back to our story.
We looked carefully for about 8 months (felt like 8 years haha) until we thought we had found the ‘perfect’ milk cow. My parents watched the kids while Gabe and I hooked up our little horse trailer and drove 4 hours away to pick her up. Soon as we pulled up to the farm and I met Maggie it was love at first site. She walked into the barn with her odd little one horn and headed straight to the feed bucket. I was so out of place I didn’t even bother looking her over. I didn’t exactly know what I was looking for anyway haha! This was all so new to me. The man went on to explain she was incredibly broke to milk and began loading her up. This was my mistake, but we should have asked to see her milked, because oh my…We thanked him and headed on our way back home.
It was a long ride back to our little holler in the woods, but finally we made it right before dark. We pulled in our long dirt road and I was soooo excited to sit out in the field with the crickets chirping, feeling the beautiful warm spring breeze while I milked my cow out in the pasture. I had imagined it a million times…it was going to be amazing. But there was one little problem…That sweet little ole cow was in fact NOT broke to milk. I tried to reach for her quarters and was met with a giant kick that scared the pants off me! I fell back on the ground and just sat there stunned. I had spent so much time romanticizing the idea of owning a perfect milk cow I didn’t actually think something might not go as planned. I tried to stand as far back as I could and milk into a tiny bucket but it was like milking a wild bronco. She was a kicking up a storm I couldn’t get even a cup full. Boy this was not how I imagined everything.
Thank the Lord we had a calf on Maggie, otherwise I would have been in a REAL pickle. I turned her out to the calf and decided I would try again tomorrow. I felt so discouraged. This was not how I planned on things going. I walked home trying not to cry with my pitiful little bit of milk in hand. What I needed was a milk Stanton I thought. But guess what? I didn’t have one because I thought milking a cow was a piece of cake. I learned another lesson. Don’t take stuff for granite with animals, just have everything ready so it’s there when you need it.
I called my brother and he came right over the next day and we made a fun time of it! The kids ran around outside, Anna and I made a big supper while the guys put together a temporary Stanchion. I thought, Ah! Now I can milk this cow. So I carefully lured Maggie in and sat down to milk. Right about the time I put my bucket under her she began swinging them front feet right back at me! And let me tell you, them cow legs pack a wallop. Image someone swinging a bat right at your head as hard as they can. It’ll bring you to attention, thats for sure! I just couldn’t believe this! The ‘perfect’ milk cow that was so completely broke to milk….was not. And yet again…I learned another lesson. In fact I learned lesson after lesson after lesson. If I went to buy a cow today I would never take someones word that a cow is broke. When I go to look at cows now I have a full list of things I do along would completely checking them over, making sure they stand for milking, etc. But I didn’t know that when I bought Maggie because the one thing I couldn’t learn online or in my books was experience. Now this is probably starting to sound like having a milk cow isn’t so amazing after all. Don’t think that, but it certainly requires you to be diligent and put in the work until all the kinks are ironed out.
My Papa King grew up on a farm as a boy and always milked cows. He explained to me the process of tying down front feet and hobbling the back legs. This took some time to learn how to do myself. But I was determined, and after a week or two of tying Maggie’s legs up every single time I milked her she was successfully broke to milk. There was a lot of frustration, and I sold her so many times in my head that first week walking back up to the house with almost no milk because she had kicked the bucket again.…and the fact that before buying Maggie I didn’t understand why it was a big deal to get a cow with small teats…well I knew after that. Boy, oh boy. I was constantly stretching out my hands because they were so sore from learning to milk on them little things.
But you know what? After each problem (and there were plenty) I solved it. It wasn’t always easy and I just about just sold her a few times, but breaking Maggie was one of my biggest accomplishments. Now our family has a bomb proof milk cow that I proudly can say I broke myself. Each cow has a different temperament. Maggie just happened to be a real wild girl, but it won’t be this way for everyone. The thing is a lot of my problems could have been avoided had I experience, but thats life. I just wanted to share my story to show that even if you have a rough start, owning a family milk cow is worth it in the end! I actually have three now! Each with their own story and personality that I love so much.
The truth is, owning a milk cow is a lot of work, and sometimes in the beginning (especially if you are new to this) it can be full of challenges. But I went from sitting on the ground with milk spilled all over me, completely overwhelmed on how to milk my first cow, to breaking cows for other families! We’ve had so many milk cows go through this little farm now and all have left broke! Once you start to learn your way around dairy cows you’ll gain confidence on handling them. Thats such an important factor since they respect the herd leader and you will have to assert yourself to become that! But thats another post for another time. My main point is sometimes you just have to jump in and get the experience first hand. Yes prepare your farm, read the books, but don’t wait until everything is perfect. Learn along the way and roll with the punches. You’ll soon be gaining confidence and the knowledge that will be exactly what you need to have your family milk cow.
Until next time friends,