Merry Christmas everyone. We Finlays aren't renowned for buying each other Christmas presents, far less ones for the farm animals. But this year has been an exception. Christmas morning saw the cows being treated with tummy button tickling sticks. They aren't really presents, more part of a scientific experiment.
The experiment? The idea was first suggested by a Professor visiting from Uppsala University. Cows will give more milk if you tickle their tummy buttons. Though she did warn that they might also try to kill you if they realise it isn't their calf that is fondling their belly.
This is now the second consecutive year that we've left the calves with their mothers so that they are reared more naturally. The main issue remaining is that when we try to milk them the cows hold on to their milk for their calf. You might think that is reasonable, but typically a calf is fed about 5 litres of milk per day in a bucket reared system. In our system the calves are drinking over 20 litres! We'd planned on them drinking around 15 litres, so that we got the remaining 15 litres to make cheese and ice cream. So if all it takes is tickling the cows' belly buttons for a few minutes before milking, then an extendable feather duster is worth trying.
Now cows don't like change. Me appearing in the parlour first thing this morning with 2 feather dusters is not part of their expected daily routine - far less being tickled. And when a cow is nervous, you can be sure that her most likely response is to sh1t a lot more. I can safely say there was no more milk today, but a lot more cleaning down.
Maybe by the end of the week, they'll be used to me...