by Jill Winger - January 22, 2019
The first thing you must ALWAYS do is calm yourself down. Without fail, if we are in a rush, feeling antsy, trying to hurry, she will be grumpy. I take a few breaths, and have even said out loud to the cow “Okay Will, we’re okay, it’s okay if you kick the bucket, I’m going to milk you out now, it’s okay if you milk the bucket.” And you know what? She didn’t kick the bucket after a long streak of kicking every time.You’re stressed = They’re stressed.
10 Tricks to Stop Your Milk Cow from Kicking
1. Use a kicker rope or kicker bar. This is my go-to for a cow I know is consistently going to kick. I loop a thick rope around her tummy, in front of her udder and hips. It pulls tight to put firm pressure on in front of her hips which is a pressure point that slightly immobilizes them. I find it doesn’t stop them from kicking, but it makes her kicks slower and shortens her range of motion. I give this one with caution because one time Marius pulled it too tight and the cow tried to kick and fell over. I’ve never had that happen or heard of it happening otherwise, but it’s a possibility.
2. Have an extra bucket or pot to pour into. This is my insurance policy and personally, it calms ME down to know that I can easily grab away the bucket as it doesn’t have a whole lot of milk, AND if she does kick, I’m not losing the whole milking’s worth. If you’re dealing with a cow that’s unpredictable, then you don’t want to lose all your milk, keep a bucket or big pot within arms reach that you can pour milk into periodically. Depending on how antsy the cow is will determine how often I’m pouring, but make sure there is no more in the bucket that you can easily grab and pull away. More than a gallon for me gets too heavy for a quick snatch.
3. Milk Faster or Milk with two people. Sometimes you just need to learn to milk faster and get it done quicker. If one person can even just be taking care of one teat on the opposite side, it can make or break getting it done in ‘time’.
4. If you’ve just moved her, try to mimic her milking set up from before. While not always possible to mimic the set up from the previous farm, we found that putting a stanchion in (We got for free from fairgrounds) helped calm the cow down. Our first cow just put her head through the two posts and we looped a rope around her neck, but Tilley, our second cow, got freaked out by that.
5. Milk with a small plastic bucket to minimize noise. We have these sturdy one-gallon buckets that we keep for putting milk in if we run out of 2 qt mason jars. We found it really useful if the cow was scared of the bucket, to milk with one hand, holding the bucket up high in the other so that it made minimal noise.
6. Stand Differently. This applies to both you and the cow! It could mean you trying milking on the other side, or adjusting your expectations for how she stands. P’lady, our first cow, liked to stand with both feet even and back, which was a dream. Tilley and now Wilderness, prefer to stand with (looking from behind) their left foot forward and their right foot back. If your cow preferred the other way, don’t force it, just learn to milk from the other side.
7. Milk the teats in a different order. This sounds funny, but I used to milk both teats on one side (left hand on back, right hand on front) until they were done, then reach through to the other side. It worked great for P’lady and allowed two people to milk if need be. In our trying out different ways to calm Wilderness down, we found she prefers otherwise! For her, either milking both front, then both backs, or keeping a constant rotation going is what she likes best. This keeps the let down even all around, and has been successful for us!
8. Milk her from behind. Marius WILL NOT do this. I, personally, swear by it! I learned it from a friend who works at a small dairy cheese farm on the island, where we got our cows from, when he came and milked our cow for us. I stand beside her, NOT behind her, tuck her tail in between her udder and her leg, hold the bucket in one hand behind her, and milk straight backwards. I find this works best when she’s reached forward to get the grain she spilled and she wants to have her legs all the way forward. If you let her just get her grain and milk from behind, I find she stands perfectly still. I taught this to a few friends who relief milk the cow for me since they’re not as fast at milking. They have done so without incident so unless you know your cow is a ‘mean kicker’ I’d give it a try!
9. Get her Dominant Person to Milk. For our first cow, that was me. For our second and third, it’s Marius. You may not know this if you just bought the cow, but we found out pretty quick who the cow respects more.
(Stripping out the last drops, Excuse the muddy feet…springtime and all…it’s inevitable!)
10. If all else fails, milk onto the ground. This is a demoralizing thing to do, but the milk has to get out of the udder! I’ve had to finish off a cow simply squirting a few at a time onto the ground before quickly pulling away as she kicks. If you don’t milk her out, she’ll get blocked ducts or mastitis (maybe not that time, but another) she might need antibiotics and then you’ll have to give the milk to the chickens for a few days anyway. Short term pain=long term gain. This is another thing I tell relief milkers, that if they have to just squirt onto the ground, DO IT.
We learned these tricks through trial and LOTS of error, and I hope you’re able to put them to use!