Dave had an old desk chair out in the garage. It was broken. He was going to toss it but then took a second look and decided it might make a really plush, nice milking stool.
Nice, huh? I thought so. It was a bit higher than the overturned milk crate I had been using, but that was not a huge trade-off for such comfort.
So he put it in the milking stall.
Here’s the milking stall. Frances comes in the doorway (out of sight to the right), walks around to the rear of the stanchion, and ends up standing with her head sticking out the hole in the head catch. Her feed bowl is on the outside.
The vacuum motor on the left is for the milking machine, which we bring in on a cart after she’s in place.
After she is finished milking, she has alfalfa hay in the rack just out of view on the left, and Dave always fixes her a pail of molasses-laced water (which we call “coffee”) and places it in the corner where the red X is. I go back out and get her after she’s had about 45 minutes of peace and quiet to enjoy her meal and take her back out to the pasture.
Saying that a cow is a creature of habit is a massive understatement. Their idea of perfection in the universe is complete boredom. They want everything to be done exactly the same way forever. The same routine. The same pathway. The same water bucket. The same grain ration (wanna have trouble – just change the ration). The same hay from the same field.
They are also incurably curious. They notice everything. We try to sneak out to the field with a new bale of hay when they are over the hill and won’t see us so they won’t come “help.” It never works.
When Frances comes into the milk room, she pauses in the door, always, and gives the room a once-over, checking everything. She always stops and smells the vacuum machine. I have no idea why, but it’s a habit and I’ve learned to just wait for her to satisfy herself that it hasn’t changed in the past twelve hours. If a lead rope is in the wrong place, she notices and has to check.
Ultimately, she ends up like this. Her head is caught so that she can’t just decide she’s all done with her grain and tired of being milked and it’s time to leave. The dire process of milking takes exactly 8 minutes, so it’s not really much that we ask of her.
And then I bring in the cart. We use a cart for a very good reason. Our barn is old. We have gravel in the milk stanchion, but dirt everywhere else. Barns just aren’t the cleanest places on earth.
A dairy milk room is all concrete with drains everywhere. They hose it all down twice a day after milking is complete. I can’t do that. We’ve talked about building a separate milk room and have a concrete slab where it could go, but so far that has remained a “plan.” And we know how “plans” often go.
So I put everything in the cart. Nothing in that cart touches the ground, with the exception of the middle-sized bucket which contains warm water mixed with a bit of detergent and some Clorox and a sponge. That’s to clean her udder.
The large bucket holds baby bottles and nipples and the spray bottle hooked on the side is the teat-dip I spray her with. It consists of chlorhexidine (disinfectant) and lanolin (skin conditioner).
The serious thing is the stainless steel bucket with the milking inflations hanging on it. That is hooked to the vacuum pump and does the work.
And I sit on the upside down crate.
Until last night.
Last night, Dave put the new soft cushy milking stool in the room where the red X is. He moved the water bucket to the other side.
There’s the bucket of “coffee” on the far side. Calves waiting for their bottles are in the stall beyond.
You can see that this isn’t a huge area.
However, I should have known better.
We’d done two things. Two big things.
We’d introduced a new thing – the chair – and we’d moved the water bucket.
To say that Frances was offended is putting it mildly. She came in, stopped dead in her tracks with her head in the doorway and had a fit. That chair. It was clearly evil.
We had to coax her into the stanchion. She was unhappy as hell but then got distracted by dinner.
Milking went fine.
I removed the cart after milking, and pushed the evil chair back in its corner and then we went to feed the babies.
She ate her alfalfa. I assumed that she’d find the water bucket and all would be well.
I assumed wrong.
When I came back out to the barn, she was standing in her stanchion with her head out in the breezeway. She didn’t even want to look at that damn chair.
She had refused to touch the water. It was in the wrong place and obviously was poisoned.
I put on her lead rope and tried to lead her to the water. She was having no part of it.
She charged through the doorway and out of the barn, pulling me behind her.
That was a very bad, scary chair.
She went out to the pasture in a huff and headed straight for the safe, familiar water trough that always lives in the same place. No molasses, but who gives a damn when your keepers poison stuff?
And I managed to get a bloody finger in the process (pinched in the lead rope when she jerked on it).
So this was the scene this morning. You’ll notice that the bucket is back in the proper place and she’s happily having her alfalfa breakfast. And the evil horrible chair is gone.
Sometimes the cow simply wins.