Especially ones with horns…
When Mr BirdCat and I just happened to be looking for a milk cow and we saw the ad, it seemed too good to be true! A young dexter cow with a calf at foot and another on the way — all for a reasonable price! Within a couple of weeks we loaded up a trailer and started a new chapter in our homestead adventure.
And what an adventure it has been!
The cow we named Gala (apparently Greek for Milk), and the steer calf at foot was dubbed Mort (which may be a mistake naming him…but seemed a bit better than Mr BirdCat’s idea of calling him “Meat” for the next year and a half…). Farmers told us that with a little love, any cow could turn into a house cow. So love Gala we did! Unfortunately, she did not love us back.
Gala was more than happy for us to pet her as long as she was receiving food at the same time. The second the food was done, and she’d try to hit us with her horns. On a number of occasions while I was out in the field, she also ran past kicking out with her feet. Not the kind gentle dexter I had read of at all! We weren’t allowed to get close to Mort without Gala threatening us, so we admired him from a distance.
“It’ll be better once we have a stanchion in place,” I told Mr BirdCat, knowingly. Of course, I had no idea if that would be the case. I also worried about Gala kicking sideways while I attempted to milk her, and the precautions we’d need to put in place so that didn’t happen. All of a sudden our dreams of a calm morning milking the cow seemed a lot farther away.
We persevered. At least, until the worst nearly happened.
Ten minutes before Mr BirdCat and I were about to head out for the evening, I looked out to see the cows and could only see one. With a little bit of searching, I found Gala. On the other side of the fence. Running along the road. We raced out and with a fair amount of effort managed to wrangle her back inside the fence, but from then on the trust was gone. Our little Dexter cow managed to jump a fence designed to keep horses in!
We corralled the two cows into their stall area and kept them there while we worked on getting the electric fence going. A week went by and we decided to let them both out for a time while we were out with them — not twenty minutes went by, but Gala jumped another part of the fence, this time an even more dangerous section right along the highway. As soon as we’d make any movement toward her, she’d run in the opposite direction. We cornered her in a neighbours’ yard and she bolted right past us kicking out and letting us know how unhappy she was with our company.
She ran straight for the highway.
And stopped with her hooves on the edge of the road just as a massive truck rushed by.
That was it! A grumpy cow that didn’t want to be petted we could (or at least, I like to think we could) have worked with. One that jumped fences, and would just as easily jump one with the electricity on just wouldn’t do! Life’s too short to constantly be checking to make sure Gala is inside the fence, and worry with every honking horn going by that she could be out again.
That night we once again loaded Gala off, but this time sent her to a farm where she couldn’t get into trouble. We still have Mort, and he’s showing himself to be super sweet and gentle (so much for not getting attached!). Our plan for a family milk cow hasn’t died — just been delayed by three years give or take. Instead of working with an older cow that comes with previous ideas and ways of doing things, we’ve traded Gala for a calf that we’ll raise to be a calm respectful part of our family.
That’s the plan, at least 😀