Saturday, April 27, 2013

Halter Training

Phil was working hard—in Colorado—this week. He was due to land around 11pm on Friday night, so I planned to milk Belle and feed the calves, then head up to the grocery store before it closed. There's a Trader Joe's now in Charlottesville, but I haven't been there yet. They had a closing time of 9pm, so I figured I needed to leave by about 7:30 to get there in time.

I was eating my dinner when I happened to look out the window. Belle had escaped again (we think because her line was not electrified, she just stepped over it and went her merry way). She had been grazing mostly up near the housing complex we have, but had gradually worked her way further down the finger. She stood suddenly, head up, body taut, fully alert.

I remembered then that I had opened the lower pasture fully for the other cows. They were just down a little hill from the finger, munching and mooing.

As I watched in horror, Belle started to trot downslope, then run. Her horns were the last part of her to pass out of sight, and she was gone.

I asked the older boys to try to bring her back. When I finished my burger, I figured I should tie her up on the outside of the pen and milk her there, then let her enjoy some company overnight. Phil could deal with her in the morning.

That would have been a great idea, except for one thing. She wouldn't let down. Fifteen minutes and six cups later, I realized I would have to bring her back up slope, lest I have a horrible mastitis case on my hands. (She had mooed loudly throughout my milking: I suspect she thought her baby was down with the others, and kept calling to summon Elle.)

And so began the tug-of-war. Step by step I tugged. She would resist, or list from side to side, but I managed to keep her from bolting downslope. Back at the base of the finger, she had clover to graze, and so I clipped her lead from collar to halter (I had taken her halter off for a few days, but she started to move so much I had put it back on and left it for the duration of Phil's absence.)

This made her mad and stubborn. She dug her heels in, and our progress grew agonizingly slow. Finally I had Isaiah let Shadow go. She ran down to us, and her presence was enough of a scourge to get that cow moving. What a relief! Belle ran up the hill, and I followed and captured her rope again and finally had her in place to milk.

Back with her baby, she had no problem letting down.

But we did have to skip Trader Joe's, though we managed a stop at Whole Foods—they are open until 10pm, and we closed them down.

I went shopping!

Back home around midnight, we were falling asleep when Belle walked by our trailer, headed back down to her friends.

Phil got up and fetched her this morning. He thinks she is mostly trained to the halter now, and with a little more practice, she will be a most obedient cow.

We had a young friend from church come today to help. She and Phil spent about four hours moving the remainder of the blocks inside the structure. Phil estimated they lifted somewhere around three or four tons of block. That will be a huge boon going forward!

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