Monday, October 14, 2013

Tethering the Milk Cows

I first heard about tethering cows while reading a book by Joel Salatin on sustainable farming. Honestly, it kind of shocked me.  I couldn't imagine tying a cow out.  They were just so big.  But, I kept thinking about it. 

I looked at all the grass that was going to waste around the barn, the outbuildings and next to the road.  Why in the world was I throwing so much hay to the cows when there was still green grass in all those places?  Oh, I know!  It was because our field had been grazed and grazed and was dead. 

We decided to try tethering out, and it really worked!  I used an old washtub that we found in the basement for water.  I pounded a simple T-post into the ground, used a long rope with a slip knot on one end and a solid knot on the other.  I slipped the slip knot around  my cow's neck, and the solid knot over the post. 

The cow can typically graze all of the area that she can reach on the rope in a full day.  Then, I just bring the cow back to the barn at the end of the day.  I move the post and water, and start the next day with more fresh grass for munching. 

I try to keep shade in mind as well.  If I have the post in an area with full sun, I cut the tethering session short and do it in early morning and evening hours only.  This keeps my cows from overheating.

I also only tether the cows out if I am home.  If I have to leave, I put the cows away, or make sure my parents (who live across the street) are home and can keep an eye on my girls. I've never had a tangling problem, but have read enough about them online that it makes me cautious. 

While this isn't the best picture of my cow's face, you can see the tethering process clearly.  The white rope is slipped over Epie's neck on one end and the T-post on the other.  She is able to munch grass that is still growing up around the barn. 

The thought of getting the cows to the post and back gave me some concern at first.  It still does honestly.  Hence the reason I only tether my polled Dexter milk cows and not our huge Holstein steers (our meat cows) with horns.

Have you ever tried tethering a cow or other farm animal? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

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