In all those years of 4-H cow showmanship contests, I garnered white-participation ribbons and learned to appreciate 16th place. Now, decades later, the skills paid off…in goats.
Catching goats is worse than herding cats. With their sharp horns and cheetah-like sprints, we quickly tired of grabbing horns and chasing them like a rogue version of a ninja warrior television show. Animal scientist, Temple Grandin calls goat horns the “no-fly zone” for human touch.
There had to be a better way. Faith Hill weighs at least 45 pounds and the other night, I picked her up, and she smacked her horn into my jaw. I thought I was going to lose a tooth.
That night, I watched a video by K-N-S Farm of the lady using a dog harness for her blind goat, and I finally saw the light. A quick trip to Tractor Supply after work the next day, and I scored a goat halter, lead, and a medium dog collar. We cornered Faith Hill in the barn, and I added the pink collar. She allowed me to walk and coax her to the milking stanchion.
Once we had her head secured, I added the halter. She stood for milking and when we released her head, I held the lead, walked her down the stanchion, and around the pasture.
This small success involved an ancient trick of bribing the her with a bowl of feed and a treat. My technique works now, but all those years ago, judges in the fairground exhibition ring found my tactic to be completely wrong. As a youngster, I watched in frustration as all the other 4-Hers easily maneuvered their cows into straight lines like dog handlers at Westminster; my stubborn calf wanted to find the nearest bucket of feed…in the stand with the spectators. Mortified, the judges handed me a white ribbon, and I think one may have muttered something about not coming back. That calf, known by her number ,”583″, grew up to be a milking cow who was always first in line at milking times, and she didn’t mind being handled by us humans.
I certainly would have never imagined that all those failed attempts at cow showmanship would one day be a shining moment in our milking time with goats.
After my next trip to Tractor Supply, it’s going to be like an Oprah Winfrey car-giveaway-episode on the farm when I go to the pasture saying, “You get a collar..and you get a collar…and you get a collar!”
Photos courtesy of Kelly Reep.