Sasha the milk cow and her calf, Darth Vader, have lived with us for about a month now. When they first arrived, they were okay with people being near them, but were really quite skittish. We spent lots of time just standing near them in the pasture, wandering around and picking rocks or just being nearby and talking to them. We tried taking them hay cubes, but they had never seen them before and didn't realize they were food, so that didn't really work. Long grass pulled or cut from the ditches was a big hit though - it didn't take long for them to walk up to you and eat it right from your hands.
After a little while, they would let us scratch their foreheads (the flies are awful and really do bother them especially around their eyes and at the base of their horns), and eventually they figured out that hay cubes are yummy ... we call them cow candy.
The Reluctant Farmer has been diligent about visiting them daily and helping the cows to realize that the bucket holds the hay cubes. They now come running if they see you with a bucket, and will eat the cubes right out of our hands. They are willing to be scratched all along their heads and often on their necks as well, although if you move suddenly they'll still bolt and run. They'll come to a call though, if they think you have cow candy, so this is a huge step forward.
This week, my inlaws are coming for a visit and to help with the construction of the new barn. My father in law lived or worked on a farm for much of his life, and I'm very interested to hear his input on keeping a milk cow and how to best design the interior of our little barn. We've measured out the space and put stakes in the ground to help envision the layout, but there's nothing like first hand experience to give perspective to a plan.
I am hopeful that once we have barn pens and a milking stanchion in place we can get Sasha and Darth trained to come up to the barn at night, and we can start training Sasha to stand in the milking stall and be handled ... then it's just one more step to milking! Darth is still nursing, so Sasha is still in milk, and I'm hopeful that we will be able to start the milking routine before the spring calf arrives. It's early to know yet, but she's calmed down so much already, I'm really quite hopeful that we'll be able to do the remainder of the training sooner than I'd initially thought.