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An inqusitive nose and rough holstein tongue
With a steer, if you have good fences, you wean it, and then put it out to pasture. Some minerals, some basic care, look at the trough every now and then, rotate the grazing area. Its pretty straightforward, and you really don't have to get very close to them. Since my calves were bottle babies they were pretty friendly -- too friendly -- but I don't have to get close to them, nor do I really have to handle them much. There's the grass, go enjoy yourselves, steers!
With a dairy cow it's a much more intimate relationship; you'll be handling her probably twice a day for 10 months of the year for the next 5 or 10 years. I want her to be sweet and gentle and trusting because I don't want to be kicked any more than I have to. and I'm guessing I'll get kicked anyway, but I'm hoping I won't be.
This little cow has had a pretty stressful auction day; I didn't get her back to the farm until long after dark, and so I gave her some hay and water and left her in the trailer until morning.
body belay if I need to. The cow does weigh 400lbs, after all, and if she gets going, that's a lot of force.
The goal of this is to teach the cow to respect a halter and a rope. My plan was to put the halter on, tie a rope to the halter, and then snub the rope off something in the trailer. She'd find out that she was being restricted, and pull on the rope, and hopefully learn pretty quickly that this was a bad idea.
She's a pretty curious, friendly girl, and after a few minutes I was able to stand beside her and scratch her ears and back; she seemed to enjoy that; and I reached over her head, and slipped the halter onto her from the bottom; a little surprise jerk, but it was on, and a couple of seconds later... I found that the halter was much too big.
My high-tech halter modification tool: A heated nail
Mind you, this is the first time that she's ever had a halter, and I let her get used to the idea for a while, and then tie the lead rope on. I use a bowline because it's easy to untie after its been stressed, and for some reason I think that it might get some stress.
We have a 10 minute discussion via the rope about appropriate cow behavior, and when we come to an agreement, she seems to have learned that fighting the rope is useless. So far this has been simpler than teaching a puppy to be on a leash. I'm pretty surprised.
So I lead her over to a nice patch of grass in the pasture, and tie her to a handy telephone pole.
I'll work with her every day until I'm confident that she understands and respects the halter; later I'll use the halter to hold her while I'm milking her. I want her to be used to being tied and led. I want her to recognize that when she's haltered its time to be calm and relaxed.
Repetition and consistency will get me that result. I'm pretty happy with day 2.