Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Tame Your Monkey

During our stay at my dad's for Christmas, we watched the movie How to Tame Your Dragon. It's a delightful film based on the book by the same name about how a Viking boy befriends a dragon and begins to understand the beings his people so greatly feared.

I imagine that the boy's experience parallels that of the people who first domesticated farm animals. At the very least, it parallels my own experience in taming one of our new heifers — Monkey.

It's been a while since we've had a heifer as high-strung as Monkey. Our relief milker said she had a bit of a behavior problem, but it's more than just a bit. She requires constant supervision while the milker is on — once you get the milker on, that is.

So, over the course of the last month, I've learned a lot about Monkey. For example, kickers don't prevent her from taking the milker off, they just slow her down a little. Hobbles don't work either. Tail jacking is a little more effective, but it's awful annoying to stand there like that while she milks out, something which seems to take forever anyway.

The only thing that keeps Monkey still during milking is grooming her, as in scratching or curry combing. One of the wild heifers we had a few years ago could be distracted into standing still by scratching her tail head, so I tried this with Monkey one day. She never lifted a foot.

The next milking I started scratching her back, this time using a curry comb, and moved up to her shoulders and neck. Again, she didn't kick once. Glen's only comment was "unbelievable." It was pretty remarkable to see her actually standing still.

Unfortunately, the curry combing is starting to lose it's effectiveness now that Monkey's winter coat is all shed and her itches are gone. I'm also getting a little tired of grooming her nonstop; if I stop moving the curry comb, she starts kicking.

There was a time when we would have kept heifers like Monkey regardless of how badly they behaved. Now that we're in a different situation (e.g. I don't have the time or patience to tame heifers like I used to and there are plenty of replacements waiting in the wings), Monkey's fate has become a common topic of discussion. We're not sure if we're going to give her more time to settle down or if she'll donate her spot in the barn when calving starts up again.

One thing is certain, though: if she ends up at the sale barn, she'll be the sleekest, shiniest young cow there.

1 comment :

  1. Try putting a halter on her. Then tie to the stall so she cant move her head while she milks. I have a heifer that i did it to a she was fine after about a month. I hate see a good heifier go down the road. Just an idea.


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