Learning Personalities on the Farm

Sweet calves

Each passing day on the farm helps me to understand each animal a little bit better. Today, I want to take a look at our calves.

Calves like to go out on nice days to run, jump, kick and play. On Saturday, the temperatures were hovering right around 40 degrees so I decided to let all of the calves out into the pasture for a little play time.

To them, it’s a very social event. At first, they come out and smell each other. Blowing a little air into each others noses. Then the real fun begins. A little toss of the back legs, like a rodeo bull and off they run!

We have three calves that are all approximately the same size, other than the young bull that was born in March. That means that they can go around head butting and running at about the same speed. It makes for lots of fun for them.

The bull watching over the calves head butting each other

It is difficult to get photos of a couple of the little ones. Let me explain why…….

DJ following as fast as his legs will take him

I have two of them that follow me every where. If I am out in the pasture with them to get photos, they are fighting for attention.

Must be I did something wrong!

And sometimes, they just want to lavish attention on you. The photo above is our first calf born on the farm in TWO decades! He loves to give me attention…now I know why his Momma refused to let him nurse. Biting little meanie! He doesn’t bit me hard, but I bet his Mom found it rather unpleasant.

How does all of this help me for future reference? With DJ, shown above, I know that he loves attention and that I have to take a couple minutes out to give it to him or he is going to force it on me himself. Since he will be a steer, this is important to know. Learning from experience on a previous steer, this could be dangerous when he gets older. Paying a moment or two of attention to him throughout his life is an ounce of prevention for me. The last steer that was like this, dislocated three bones in my hand for not paying attention to him. (Key note: farming can be very dangerous when you least suspect it)

With the girls, I have started working with them on a halter and also touch their belly where their udders will eventually develop. Knowing how each reacts and getting them used to certain steps is important too. Let’s talk Katie (born October 31st). She absolutely does not like having her belly touched or rub. Knowing this as a young calf means that I know I need to take some extra time to start working with her. One to calm her nerves at the touch and two to prepare her for the days when she will be milked. It is going to take some time and some patience on my part.

Ruby on the other hand, born (August 7th) will stop everything she is doing to have her belly rubbed. The issue with her is that she is stubborn on a halter. Knowing that she is going to give me fits when I try to lead her means that I am going to need to work with her to get used to the halter, used to walking beside me on the halter and to establish a routine with her for using the halter. Why is this important? Just imagine her as a thousand pound cow yanking back on a halter. I weigh 140lbs. How do you think that would turn out?

Being able to train the animals at a young age is very similar to teach a dog obedience. You just have to establish how you want that animal to react as an adult animal. Being able to lead them on a halter for vet care, pasture rotations or showing is extremely important. Being able to touch them (only heifers) on their belly is important for when they have their first calf and need to be milked. Having them come up to you for attention is also important. You don’t want an animal that you have to chase because it runs away from you.

Hopefully this gave you some insight as to why it’s so important to know each animals personality, likes and dislikes. I try to establish a working relationship based off those traits from an early age. It helps prevent issues with those same traits as time progresses. Katie would have been miserable (and still could be) to milk without paying close attention. Know I have her marked for potential issues and know that I have to pay really close attention when she gets milked later in life. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


3 thoughts on “Learning Personalities on the Farm”

  1. Love your post! Cattle are some of my favorite animals to work with and spend time with. And since I also teach dog obedience classes I absolutely LOVE your use of conditioning your cattle to your touch and using positive reinforcement. I look forward to following your blog!

    1. To be honest, I think too many people forget that cows are actually intelligent creatures too. You have no idea how many people say that our cows act more like over grown dogs. They love attention. They really enjoy being groomed too…bath days are really special treats in the summer!

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