Troublesome Cows – November 1921

A week ago, I had the privilege of hearing Sir Robert Greig speaking at a conference of women’s institute delegates and members in the north of England. In giving illustrations of the human tendency to laziness of mind to repeating an operation without conscious thinking of the reason for it, he told how in Australia, he had watched the milkers on a range tie each cow’s hind legs together before sitting down to milk her. When he was asked why they did this, the reply was “to prevent her kicking.”

“But does she kick?” he was queried and the answer was, “Well, we run no risks.”

He told these Australian milkers that he had travelled over all English and Scottish farms and he had never before seen a milch cow’s legs tied which was evidence that it wasn’t necessary. It is impossible to be so well travelled that one cannot have missed seeing something and it rather surprised me that Sir Robert had never seen the “barrach.” ( I am not sure of the spelling) .

This is the broad leather strap with a buckle at one end and a rectangular ring in the middle. The strap is passed round the right hind leg, the end passed through the middle buckle and the two ends round the other leg then drawn tightly and buckled securely. This used to be in quite common use in Ayrshire byres for restless cows which were liable to lift the leg and tip the pail. There were sometimes two or three barrachs or burraghs in a byre of 40 cows and I have often heard one maid cry to another, “Hae ye the tither burragh.” They were not applied to every cow’s legs as on Australian farms but only to those cows that were troublesome.

One more illustration — quite up to-date. A newly calved heifer was reported very fidgetty and had several times knocked over a young relative who was milking her.

One afternoon, I sat myself on a stool to watch the difficult and tedious operation. The cow moved about constantly from one position to another, lifting a leg swiftly now and again and and aiming at the pail and the hands that irritated her.

The young milker showed infinite patience in lifting his stool to follow her movements and gently but firmly putting the back of his arm against the leg every time she attempted to lift it.

Would it not be worth while tying her legs? “ I asked. “No.” was the emphatic answer. “We never use a rope. It is a bad practice to begin with. She will quieten down before many days.”

And she did.” There are probably few cows of vicious nature and most kickers are made such by harsh or injudicious treatment at their first calving.

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