Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The plan didn't work

Here's the result of all our work in the barn this morning, which you can read about HERE.

Penny came in willingly this evening and put her head in the stanchion to eat.  I locked the stanchion in place and put one kicker on either side, figuring one calf could nurse from her left side while the others nursed from her right.  Now keep in mind, she has been nursing these three calves ever since she lost her calf a month ago.  I would let the youngest, the Holstein, in to nurse first, because there really isn't room for three calves on one side and the older two would crowd him out.  Once he has at least the contents of one teat in his belly, I guide him out with the cattle prod and let the other two in.  The kicker was on the right, they nursed from the right.  She couldn't kick them; she did a lot of kicking with the left foot, but nobody got kicked because nobody was on the left.

Well, once she found out she couldn't kick on either side, her back end went down with her head still in the stanchion.  I had a terrible time releasing her from the stanchion, with her down like that.  And then she was sulking, or "sulled up" as the old-timers used to say, and wouldn't get up for awhile even when I let her out of the stanchion and pulled the kickers off.  

This isn't a tragedy:  As I said, I will just go back to letting the calves all nurse from the right side while she kicks away harmlessly with her left.  I AM glad Cliff added the barrier on the right, because now Penny can't keep edging over until she has both calves against the wall while they are sucking.  

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Cows can be a problem

The whole problem boils down to the fact that Penny's calf was born dead.
Although she licked at it for awhile, she really didn't know what to do after it didn't respond.  Heifers need a little help figuring things out.  I was either going to have to milk this cow that I found out is giving five gallons of milk a day, or else I would need to buy some calves to help me with the milking.

So, I bought three bull calves to take all that milk.  The cow gives enough for five calves, but with the price of calves these days, I figured three could eventually handle it.  Believe me, I had a time getting all of them over the scours caused by consuming too much rich milk.  However, that wasn't the biggest problem, because I'm used to dealing with that.  

First of all, let me show you the stanchion:  The cow puts her head in it to eat and I fasten it in place so that her head is locked in there until I'm finished. As you can see in this picture taken before Penny had her baby, I had her trained to go in the stanchion.  She was also trained to let me handle her udder, so I knew I would be able to safely milk her.  

Then her own calf died, so we brought in three bobby calves, and I put them in to nurse her.  I knew she wasn't going to like them right off, but I figured she would learn to put up with them.  Things didn't go as planned, as you will see in this video with two of the calves nursing her.  She has a kicker on to keep her from kicking them (or me, as I try to help); they are both on the right side because if they were on the left side, there's no kicker and she could kick them hard enough to do some damage.  

I hoped she would learn to put up with them, but that didn't happen.  She started moving all the way to the left so that her body was at a 90-degree angle with her head.  Then Cliff put a board from floor to ceiling to keep her from doing that.  So she started moving toward the right, the side from which the calves were nursing, practically smashing them into the wall of the barn.  Cliff modified another kicker I had around that was too big for my Jerseys, so I could put a kicker on both sides.  OK, then she almost fell down several times trying to kick, with her head stuck in the stanchion and her neck all bent at the 90-degree angle.  I was afraid that if she fell in that position, she might break her neck.  This morning, dear, faithful Cliff, who wouldn't have a cow on the place if it were up to him, fixed something to keep her from moving to the right.

Tonight we'll find out how well this all works.   The metal pole and board on the right is set far enough forward to allow calves to nurse and me to milk when I need to.