Mo’ Cow Stories

Thursday, March 5, 2009

So did anyone but me notice that I screwed up with my tip of the day yesterday? I had moved a couple of tips around in the order they are being sent out and I forgot to change the header to those that get it in an html format. If you get the tip in a text format you wouldn’t have noticed anything different but the html format mistakenly called yesterdays tip #7. Yes I know it was only tip 4. Tomorrow will be tip 5, I assure you. 

Ok, you asked for it. My absolutely, hands down, no question about it FAVOURITE time on the farm was the day I got to turn a dry cow out to pasture. Let me explain a little bit about what goes on with milking cows. As I am sure you know cows produce milk after they have had a calf. In the ideal situation the cows are milked for 305 days after they have given birth. At some time after 63 days of lactating they would have been bred again so that the cycle can continue throughout their life. The “dry” period for a cow is that time they have off just before they give birth again. If my memory serves me correctly I think this ended up being 2 months,  more if they didn’t “catch” on their first breeding. Where I worked I eventually grew into a position where I helped to manage the herd with things like health checks & sire selection (no bull, really. . . ok bad one, I promise I won’t do it again). The milking cows on this farm where housed indoors during their entire milking cycle. They where housed in a big huge barn where they could roam about on slatted floors. Twice a day they where ushered into the milk parlor for their bi-daily chore of giving up the milk. There were windows that were left open and two big doors with a gate across that, during the warm months, allowed the cows to look outside, but that was extent of the outdoor time the cattle saw, until they were dried off. When this happened, everyone on the farm knew to come and get me as I had to be the one to turn the cows out. I did it for five years and laugh my ass off every single time. Sometimes tears would roll down my face. I don’t know if I can describe the scene well enough for you to understand but I will try. I would lead the cows down a path between the barn that lead to a door outside. Immediately outside the door was a cement barnyard where the outside cows would get extra feed put in a manger for them twice a day. Beyond the barnyard was several acres of grassy pasture where the outside cows would spend most of their day. Each time you turned a cow out to me it was like they had this expression on their face like they were being naughty. They would step out into the cement barnyard very slowly like they were breaking some big rule. It reminded me of little school boys trying their best to be good and walk in a straight line on their way to recess. They would always look over their shoulder at me as if to see if I was going to try and catch them to bring them back. Very quickly the they went from  a slow walk to a very very brisk on. Then partway across the barnyard they hasten their stride and move into a trot, once again giving occasional glances back to see if they were “in the clear”.  It was quite the scene with their sagging, dried up utters flapping off their hocks in behind. When it looked like no one was after them and the pasture was only a stride or two away,  the cows would then gallop, kicking up their heels every other step while snorting and shake their head like a bull trying to shake a rider at the Calgary Stampede. It just cracked me up. I mean it was freaking hysterical. I never got tired of watching. I just love cows, I know if I hadn’t ended up being so violently allergic to them I never would have made my way back to training dogs.

For many years I wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. I remember how devastated I was when I finally gave up on my dream of working with cattle. For four years I got a needle in each arm, twice a week in the hopes of  battling my body telling me that I couldn’t be around cows. It is true when God closes one door he opens a window. Now I am very grateful for the allergy that altered my life’s path, bringing me to a place where I could not imagine ever being more happy.


  1. Oh yep I noticed you had muddled up the tips but then had to double check I hadn’t missed any. Some very interesting and useful information and am eagerly looking forward to the rest of the month

  2. And todays tip has an asteriks next to the #5. 🙂

    Pretty funny about the cows – but have to admit – sad that they lived inside a barn most of their lives. Cows should live outdoors. I live a mile up the road from a dairy – they do a nice job of keeping all of the cows in several clean very large paddocks. Course they were also smart and collect all of the maneuer and resell for fertilizer. They also sell off the babies for veal – not something I care for either. But they do seem to be able to use everything from the dairy!

  3. LOVE this image!!!! I’m FREEEEE!!! WHEEEEE!!!!

  4. I grew up with dairy cattle and miss them terribly. Grew up showing them every single summer and going to shows all over the country. Love the cow stories!!!

    Luckily we were grass based so the cattle were out on pasture 99% of the time. But I have totally seen what you described went I worked at the University dairy farm when I was in college.

    Very cool that you had the opportunity to learn from these amazing animals…I love my dogs and trialing them, but I do miss “my girls” 🙂

  5. Training Tip #5 really hit home with me…Watching more experienced agility folk “follow their noses” around a course has always amazed me. I’d always wonder..”how the heck do they do that?”. It always looks easy from the other side of the fence, right? Multi-tasking……by watching their dog, handling correctly and remembering which way to go…holy cow!
    Your tip for remembering the course by back chaining it makes perfect sense. I have tried to memorize courses, as you say, by going at it from the start and guess what…the beginning was clear but the middle and particularly the end was decidedly murky. Thanks for the advice.

  6. Interesting that you speak of cows as I do relief milking on weekends to help pay for my agility habit…. and I do get a lot of laughs from them especially when they do things like picking my pockets to see what’s in there….
    The only thing is that one of “them ladies” almost put an end to my milking days and agility career…. by violently kicking me in the leg…. ouch…. took 3 weeks before I stopped limping. I still like them but I tell you, that one, I keep a real close eye on when I approach now…. she got me well trained. Thinking of trying the clicker on her. LOL

  7. ‘course we noticed that the order was screwed up….but we knew that you would resolve it. i’ve saved mine to a folder, and in a year or so when i review them, i’ll wonder why i have 2 #7’s! hope you send them with the original numbers in place. thanks!

  8. Cool story. My sister owns a Jersey and it loves being with the goats. She doesn’t like me though. She loves to hit me with her tail and right on my face too.

    Keep the cow storys coming. I love them.

  9. Hey everyone – the dairy down the road from me is selling holstein steer calves for about $25 – anyone want one? I can get you in touch. 🙂 hehehe

  10. Want mo’ cow agility !

    About your tunnel tip number 6, to “help your dog predict where you want her to go when she is blind to your handling moves” inside a tunnel.
    Let’s say you have a change of direction 2 obstacles after your u-shaped tunnel. You’ve sent your dog into the tunnel on your right, you have decided to FC while the dog is in the tunnel, you want to pick the dog up on your left, the next obstacle is straight on.
    What should tell the dog to change sides, and not zoom to your right side? Is it timing of the FC? (late?) or placement of FC (as close as possible to the next obstacle?)

    To complicate matters, I have been told to call my dog’s name while I move along the outside of the tunnel, from the moment my dog enters the tunnel ( regardless of whether she is to go straight on or turn when she exits). So she hears me on her left, (although she does hear my feet clomping along as well) but then I expect her to look for my body cue as she exits…

    I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a molehill –oops! tunnel …

    I’ve understood your point about “name” for a turn, “nay nay” for straight on…

  11. Just to clarify, when I said “I have been told to call my dog’s name” I wasn’t referring to your tip – I was referring to previous advice I had been given at my dog club…

    • No Trudie, I would stick to those guidelines so even if I have had a side change, if I wanted my dog to drive straight I would not call their name. The only exception to this rule is when I want them to drive straight and I am miles behind. I would then say the words “go, go, go”, which my dogs understand, once again from playing Crate Games at a great distance (like was demonstrated on the DVD)

  12. Thanks very much, Susan.

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