I’ve had a great cattle learning week. I’ve been in Alberta visiting with dairy farmers and learning from cows. Working with these milk producing machines is very interesting to me.
The cows work in such a way that when you make a mistake it’s very obvious, yet they give you time to work on the mistake. Things are in a little slower motion, and it gives you time to work on the mistake you made. With more athletic cattle the problem you create creates another problem that you have to address so you miss working on the first problem, so we get real good at fixing problems we create.
The main challenge with gentle or unathletic (that’s my own word) animals is creating and maintaining movement. It’s so easy to take any movement you get out by ether not releasing pressure in the right amount, or by going in the direction of movement, and that slows or takes your movement out, and then you end up shoving the cows everywhere you try to take them and they don’t like it.
I found the same thing with colts I got to start. The real snorty ones were actually the ones that were the easiest to change, but the somewhat dull and gentle colts were the ones you could really learn about the right pressure and release of pressure to get the results you were looking for.
It is amazing to me to learn just how good cows are at figuring things out. One dairy we were at was a robot dairy. This was a red robot so the cows don’t go into a pen but simply walk in the robot. (No holding pen)They get a feed reward for coming in. After they come in and get milked the robot doesn’t repeat the reward until it’s ok to milk again. This herd was averaging 3.5 milking per day for the herd. If they go back in to soon they are not supposed to get feed, but a little bit is dispensed by accident. We watched three jersey cows circle around and around to the snack vending machine to get a small bit of feed. There is a wire that hangs down that give the cow an electric stimulation (not really a shock, but more of a tickle as they want no negatives to happen at the Milker) to get them to leave after the gate opens. It can be set for a certain amount of seconds. We timed it and those three cows new exactly when it was time to leave before they got the stimulus. It was real fun to watch these cows welfare the system. Very smart and they entertained us and themselves, but I think they may have kept some cows from coming to the machine.
I wonder just how much we are missing in our understanding of animals and how much our missing it is costing us in profit and quality of life?
Think about it while your having a big cold glass of milk.