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Determining if a Cow has a Trainable Personality

Training your family milk cow can be one of those experiences that is overall enjoyable, a bit challenging, and very rewarding. However, so very much of your enjoyment and reward can be lost if you find yourself trying to train a stubborn, skiddish, ornery cow.  It’s absolutely possible to train any cow that comes your way.  But to do so in such a way that you both love each other when it’s all said and done?  Well, that’s another story.

If you’re hoping for a milk cow that will become what feels like an extended part of the family, it is critical that you find a cow with a trainable personality.  ALWAYS meet the cow before you buy her if at all possible!  And, at that first meeting, here are my suggestions on what to do and look for, so that you can feel more confident about the trainability of the cow you’re about to purchase.

  1. Watch her from a short distance for a few minutes to observe both her demeanor and any obvious signs of health issues. Is she super alert and watching your every move, seemingly ready to run off if you get too close?  Or is she just grazing/eating away, basically unaffected by your presence?  This will be your first clue as to whether or not she has a calm, docile temperament.  Also, this is an opportunity for you to notice any physical ailments, like a limp or an abscess.
  2. Walk up beside her, and observe her response. The owner of the cow will most likely draw the cow up to the fence or corral area with a bucket of feed.  Once the cow is eating, walk up beside her to pet her.  Is she jittery and scared?  Or does she all but ignore you?  If she has no problem being walked up to and being petted, she’s a VERY promising candidate for being your new family milk cow!
  3. Touch her underbelly and udders. If she takes a step or two away when you try to touch her udder, it’s nothing to get discouraged about at all, especially if she’s not use to being milked.  You may have to slowly and calmly try a few times.  It’s not a deal breaker if she won’t let you, as long as she’s not trying to run away from you.  But if she does let you handle her udder, even for just a few seconds, then you’re golden!  Make sure, if at all possible, that she is sound in all four quarters (meaning you can get milk out of all four teats).  If she’s not in milk, the owner will most likely know and be able to tell you.

And there it is!  The most important things to look for when meeting a potential family milk cow.  If she passes all three of the checklist points, be sure to snag her up before someone else does!

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