"Why did you bring her home?" That’s what I asked my husband after he brought our mid-mini Jersey heifer, Dolly, to the farm. Dolly was a 3-year-old heifer who had been raised on pasture with little to no human contact. Me not knowing much about cows at the time, except for my experience with Daisy (who stands for milking and even insemination without being tied or stanchioned), figured all cows were loveable and friendly toward humans – boy was I wrong!
I had been looking at mini and mid-mini Jersey cows for a while. Our full-sized Jersey Daisy needed a friend and since she was dry a few months of the year, I wanted another cow to fill in the dry times. A couple calves a year would be a bonus too!
I found Dolly online and after a couple months of debating and then waiting on the weather to be at least warm enough so that she wouldn’t freeze on the six-hour drive home, I sent my husband off to pay for her and bring her home. He finally got home with her around 9 that evening and proceeded to unload her. He warned me that she had been snorting and kicking the whole way home. I figured I probably would have been doing the same if I had been stuck in a hot trailer on the Interstate for hours so I let her bad mood go by the wayside.
Her bad mood though didn’t dissipate. She pawed the ground and snorted like a crazed rodeo bull each time I went into the barnyard. Daisy, however, was thrilled at having a pal and the two became fast friends immediately. Daisy wouldn’t let me near Dolly – I thought she was just being jealous that I would give the newbie all the attention that was supposed to be hers alone! I think now I was wrong, and she was just protecting me from a crazy cow! After a few weeks I still couldn’t get anywhere near Dolly without her pawing and snorting at me and told my husband that she would have to go to freezer camp. He wouldn’t have it, saying we spent too much money for her to end up in the freezer.
After a few more weeks, she was no longer acting like a rodeo bull but still ran from me when I walked out. Daisy would be delivering a new calf soon and I was concerned about how Dolly would react since she and Daisy had become inseparable and continually nuzzled and cleaned each other. Would she attack the calf when it was born?
Dolly not only didn’t attack the calf (Patty Cake), she mothered her! You would have thought that Patty Cake was Dolly’s calf or that somehow she and Daisy both calved her! When Daisy wanted some time away from the calf, Dolly was right there to make sure she was safe and warm! Dolly even let the calf attempt to nurse from her. Remember, Dolly is still a heifer – never been pregnant!
How did I finally get Dolly to be a friendly cow? Time, patience and Daisy. I started by softly talking to her and if she turned to walk away I walked a few steps away from her and turned my back to her. (Though to be honest I always kept my head turned to watch her and listened very carefully to hear if she moved toward me and made sure I had an escape route.)
Eventually I could get close enough to touch her, but only for a second then she would back away. The touches became quick rubs on her forehead, then a quick swipe down her back to now full body rubs and brushings! It took months and a lot of patience, but I think the most help was her watching me milk, brush and hug-up Daisy and seeing that I wasn’t going to hurt her. I don’t think she will ever be another Daisy as she is a rare gem of a cow, but Dolly is friendly, I can trust being around her and she minds when I tell her to move when she is in the way.
Since Dolly arrived, we have purchased two more heifers, one a min-zebu who was scared of humans to the point of pooping each time you got in her vicinity. After several months of giving her the “Dolly Treatment” she too is finally coming around. She will gingerly and quickly grab a treat out of my hand and actually runs up to me looking for treats. I am at the point of being able to get a quick touch before she backs away, but I know that in a matter of time she will get full body rubs and brushings as well.
I am very glad that I lost the argument about sending Dolly to freezer camp!