Stake Out Safety

  1. Fairfarmhand
    One of the most discouraging days on our farm was the day that my Jersey milk cow, Dolly, died. She had been dealing with mastitis, and we were keeping her up in the barn for her several-times-daily treatments and milking. The only problem is that it was early spring, and we were completely out of hay. However, our lawn was nice and green, so we would stake her out in the yard and let her eat there.

    One afternoon, we found Dolly dead. She apparently had become entangled in her lead rope, fallen awkwardly and had broken her neck. It was an awful way to lose an animal. It wasn't just the financial cost, but it was also the fact that I felt somehow responsible for her death. After all, I had been the one to tie her out.

    If I had realized how quickly things can go wrong with a tethered animal, I would have used these tips to safely stake Dolly out in the yard.

    • Consider your cow's demeanor

    Some cows are really not suited for staking out. Nervous cows that spook easily will either break the cord and take off or entwine themselves in the cord and panic when they can't get free. A calm, quiet cow will happily eat in a circle all day. A high-strung cow will spend more time trying to figure out the lead rope than eating.

    • Train the Cow to the Lead

    A cow that is used to being tied by the head to a post will be more likely to calmly graze on a stake. If you have never tied your animal before, you should make sure that she is comfortable being tied to a post by a short lead before you stake her out.

    • Stay Close to Observe Her

    Especially the first few days that you tie out your cow, you should stay close to keep an eye on her. If she becomes entangled while she's figuring out the rope, you will be able to quickly set her free before she gets hurt.

    • Start Young

    The ideal way to train a cow to a picket line is to start when they are calves. You tie the calf to a large, sturdy post, and she will quickly learn that fighting against the tug of a stake is fruitless. A small stake can then hold her when she is older. As an adult, she will not usually pull the stake out of the ground because the slightest tug makes her back off.

    • Tie Her Low

    Tying a cow to a tree that she can get around means that you will forever be unwinding a rope from a tree. Tie your cow to a stake that is low to the ground in a tree-free area and she will not be able to wind herself around anything. Some people tie their cows to a concrete block so that they can easily move the cow when the grass is all gone.

    • Choose the Proper Tie

    Only use a tie that will not injure the animal if it wraps around her. Chains and nylon ropes can cut an animal deeply if they wind around her foot. Soft cotton clothesline will work well, especially once a cow is trained to a picket line. If you are training, however, you probably will want something a little more sturdy, so the cow will not break the line. Just stay close to keep your cow safe.

    • Chose a Stake That "Gives"

    Try not to tie your cow to an immovable object like a large tree. This is what happened with Dolly. Tying her to something that will give a little should she fall will keep her safer. Cinder blocks, old tires and stakes that will pull out are safer options than sturdy posts and trees.

    • Don't Forget Water and Shade

    If it's hot, don't forget to provide a tub of water for your cow. On scorching days, she will need some shade as well. If you don't have a large tub for her, take her to water every couple hours.

    • Watch Out for Predators

    If you have a coyote problem or packs of dogs in your area, you shouldn't tie out a cow or calf unless you can stay close. One way that cattle stay safe is that they can outrun a predator. Staking them out keeps them from being able to run from a predator.

    In other cultures, cows are tied out almost all of the time. However, if you can't do it safely, take the time to build a good fence to keep your cow in. A cow is a large investment that you don't want to lose by lack of care. Use stake-out safety every time you tie out your cow.

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