Spilt Milk – To Cry, Or Not To Cry? 3/9/2014


Yesterday I mentioned how we brought in a cow/calf pair because the calf wasn’t nursing. Today we brought in another pair. So today we milked two cows.

Now our cows aren’t any “Bessie the ol’ Jersey show cow”. Angus milk isn’t something you’d find in a farmer’s market, because angus cows don’t like to be milked. In ranch rodeos, there’s wild cow milkings, and while ours are in a chute, they can still be pretty wild. The chute can make even the most docile cow go sour.

We make every attempt at facilitating a good experience by putting cake at the end of the chute as a little treat. The first thing we do is try to help the calf nurse the cow, but that is a fine balance between forcing the calf under the cow and helping it find the teat and being ready to pull the calf out if the cow decides to throw a hissy fit.

Today after about 2 hours of helping the calf try to nurse, we decided that it would be best to milk out the cow into a bottle and just bottle feed the calf. Milking can be very tiring to this maid-a-milkin that doesn’t have her udder hands in shape. My husband milked awhile and we were hoping to get enough to feed both calves off the cow that had the better milk. I stepped in to help.

Since the bottom sides are off the chute, the cow has the ability to kick. After seeing what happened to my husband once while milking a cow, I’m a little timid.

Hoof shaped bruises anyone??

I had the bottle under the cow and was milking her into it. Something made her upset, a bug, a breeze, who knows what goes on in a cow’s head. She started kicking her feet and kicked my arm up sending the bottle flying as I abandoned ship with a duck and roll out.

The old phrase “don’t cry over spilt milk” apparently doesn’t apply to ranch wives’ husbands. He was very obviously and verbally upset about the spilt milk.

“She kicked me!” I told him. He asked where. I looked at my arms, not a mark on them. I was suddenly at a loss. Why couldn’t she had bruised me? cut me with a razor sharp hoof? broken a bone? I just stood there looking at my arms, speechless. I was the only guest at this pity party.

Okay, so maybe I’m a wuss when it comes to working in close quarters to the udderside of the cow. He took the bottle and finished the job.

I did get to try again on the next cow we milked as she just had to be milked out onto the ground and there was no bottle involved.

When we went to bottle feed the other calf, it did this silly thing where it just backs up. If it’s not held, it will sit down and do a back roll. Although this little act looks silly, it’s not conducive to a full belly and healthy calf. My husband  helped by standing behind the calf to support it while I fed. I consider myself savvy at bottle feeding as I have read a lot about calf rearing. I have learned some things that are new tactics to the ranch in the great world of bottle feeding. The conversation with my husband went a little like this:
Me: Rub its butt a little
Husband: What?!
Me: Rub its butt, it mimics the mother, she licks it while it nurses.
Me: NO! NOT MINE! The calf’s!

Apparently hard feelings from spilt milk don’t linger. And even after all that, the calves didn’t finish the milk we did have for them.


Working with calves that won’t nurse is frustrating and disappointing. When people are frustrated it is inevitable that they will take that out on each other. In ranching, when working with your spouse, it is important to be diligent in not taking insult from innocence. My husband’s frustration was natural, and although it was misdirected, we quickly got over it.

After all, it’s just spilt milk.

For tips on ranching with your spouse, see Beef Magazine, 13 Best Ranch Marriage Tips



One thought on “Spilt Milk – To Cry, Or Not To Cry? 3/9/2014

  1. April Freeman

    I understand the crying over spilt milk! I’ve taught several milk cows how to behave while being milked. One thing I’ve learned is to milk into a smaller container, like a wide mouthed quart yogurt container, while your main milk container is off to the side. You have to stop periodically to pour the milk out into the main milk holder, but it’s less risky. That way, when your cow acts naughty, you’re not losing ALL the milk. Only part of it is spilled.


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