When You Take the Dairy Farmer off the Farm…

When You Take the Dairy Farmer off the Farm…

…He has a lot of fun! With Rosebud recently dried up (not making milk because she’s due to calve in a couple months), we headed across the state to visit family and friends and so Jay could judge some fairs~

We started out on Highway 20, with our first stop at Cinnamon Twisp Bakery for Quiche, Coffee, and a signature “Cinnamon Twisp” – We will definitely be back!

On the top of the scenic highway, we stopped to switch drivers and Jay got his picture taken:

Then we headed to Mount Vernon to shop for used books (found several Grace Livingston Hills at Easton’s Books) and ate at Calico Cupboard, splitting a sandwich:

Fresh roasted turkey grilled with Havarti cheese, cream cheese, cranberries, Dijon mustard and red onion.

We took back roads to LaConner, staying at historic Katy’s Inn . The Indian POW WOW drove us crazy – pounding and chanting until 10 pm. Note to self: Make sure there is no pow wow going on in any town we stay over in!

3 Tomato trellis

A cute tomato trellis idea we saw when walking the streets of LaConner


I’m not sure how we fit it in, but we bought dinner at Seed’s Bistro, a restaurant that promotes local foods. Jay had hand battered Fish and Chips, I had an Asian “Weed” Salad.

Breakfast at the inn with three other couples and the inn owner and her daughter brought about several conversations from Young Life to Education to Modern Dairy Farming. Breakfast lingered til almost 11am with all the conversation, so as we traveled north we were not very hungry … well, until we found ORGANIC BLUEBERRY ICE CREAM made locally by Lopez Island Creamery using Bow Hill Organic Blueberries.

Monday night we checked into a hotel and watched Rio Olympics while eating light snacks.

Tuesday morning saw us headed to Lynden for the Northwest Washington Fair:

First Jay judged 4-H Fitting and Showing –

Second up, FFA Fitting and Showing after a nice lunch and a stop at the Whatcom Dairy Women Ice Cream booth (of course!) –

Wednesday morning before dawn we headed to Moses Lake to the Grant County Fair:

4-H Fitting and Showing –

Then an impromptu Novice Open Class to entice some of the kids watching the show to participate … with the hope that next year they may want to show a dairy animal at the fair!

Thursday morning we traveled again – this time back to Lynden. I know, crazy. But Jay was invited to judge a show – for a 50th anniversary of a dairy club. Here’s the kicker – the participants in the show were all past dairy exhibitors of all ages! Jay judged three classes (Young folks, Middle Age, and the AARP group):

Ferndale FarmsteadWe also squeaked in a quick visit at a new creamery, Ferndale Farmstead. We thought the farm was open to customers but instead found out it was wholesale only. As often happens in life, we just happened to drive in as the owner was driving in and he came over to see what we needed. We ended up getting a tour of the facility and dairy and came home with Italian cheeses to taste!

Before heading home Friday morning we stopped in to see some friends at Pleasant Valley Dairy and brought home several cheeses – It’s so hard to find a good Gouda, so if you’ve got a craving for real Gouda, here’s the place to get it!

We stopped in to visit another (fellow dairy) friend at his work, WoodStone, and got a tour of a factory that makes stoves for pizza restaurants and more. Now we know how to properly cook a pizza!

Because of our delayed timing, Cinnamon Twisp Bakery and the coffee shop were both closed, so we headed on to Omak to eat at the Breadline Café and Bakery for the first time. We ate their food at a catered event (Okanogan Fiber Festival a couple years ago) and really wanted to try the restaurant. It did not fail.

Jay had the “Thanksgiving Anytime” dinner while Michelle tried the Florentine Crepes (with Ginger Carrots and Rosemary Potatoes). The meals also came with access to the “Bread Bar” which offered several freshly baked breads, herb butter (real butter!), and oil/vinegar. We took home a Bread Pudding with Raisins and Cream for dessert.

Just before dark, at the top of the hill past Tonasket on the road to Republic, we got some pictures of the stunning field of Sunflowers:

I’ll admit, I wasn’t overly excited about all the driving, but the trip ended up being tons of fun. We’ll have many fond memories to rehash all winter with anticipation of more dairy shows next year!

Coming down the hill from Republic towards Colville after dark, we nearly struck a Moose casually crossing the road. As often happens – we got our moose sighting! Sweet!

For all the fun, there’s nothing quite so nice as driving in to the ole homestead, seeing our animals and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Now, off to canning flavorful Organic Peaches from Crandall’s Riverview Orchard while drinking some freshly roasted Organic Espresso Blend coffee.🙂

Lessons from Historical Agriculture: #2 – Ice Cream

Lessons from Historical Agriculture: #2 – Ice Cream

While spending mornings gardening in the direct sun we often joke about heading in for a bowl of refreshing ice cream. Many days we do just that, and I realize that those of us wishing to have lived in a bygone era could only do so if our memory of ice cream was erased!

The history of ice cream is a relatively short story – one that mirrors the availability of ice throughout the seasons.

  • Vague historical documents indicate “Ice Cream”, in some form, may have been around for centuries. Due to the expense in creating the product, ice cream was limited to those with a cow and extra cream or the monetarily wealthy. (I’d rather have the Jersey cow with cream!)
  • Early 1600’s & 1700’s references and recipes speak of “cold pudding” & “water ices” & “cream ices.”
  • Europeans (primarily France and England) brought the concept of ice cream to America.
  • In 1784, George Washington acquired a “Cream Machine for Ice” (and while he may have gotten some use out of the machine, likely not as much as he hoped, since his dairy operation ended in disappointment.) Many presidents recorded a fondness for this specific dessert.
  • In 1843, Nancy Johnson patented an ice cream freezer design. Quite the clever 1840’s housewife!Patent Diagram 3,254
  • In the early years of Washington statehood, citizens enjoyed ice cream for holidays and special occasions as long as the ice held”:

Women came in the afternoon bringing cream, eggs, whole milk, sugar, flavorings and cakes. Ice was bought from the butchering shop in gunny sacks…” (Williams, The Way We Ate)

  • By the late 1800’s, electricity and commercial production of ice allowed for large scale production and transportation of iced desserts.
  • In 1906, the increase of ice cream products for sale led to USDA regulations stipulating that products labeled ice cream must contain not less than 14 per cent of milk fat.”
  • Alas, ice cream of the 21st century has gone the way of Margarine. A cheap imitation of what once was an amazing natural product.

For home production of ice cream, many historical references speak of frozen custardessentially ice cream with egg yolk added to provide smoothness and soften the ice cream.

It is …advisable in making ice cream in the home to use a recipe which includes eggs, and to prepare a custard.” (Eckles, Milk and Milk Products)

Below is a recipe adapted from a book on the history of English dairies & ice houses.

Custard ice cream, with the addition of mint leaves, mint essential oil, and chiseled mint dark chocolate chips.

Rich Custard-Based Ice-Cream

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Flavoring:
    • 1/4 cup freshly picked mint leaves, muddled
    • 5 to 10 drops food grade Peppermint EO (mine came from a farm in Oregon)
    • 1/2 bar Mint Dark Chocolate, finely shaved or chopped

Makes about 3 ¼ cup. Tip: Use leftover egg whites for macaroons.

Caution: Do not fill ice cream maker more than half full. Custard ice cream expands greatly – more so than regular ice cream.


Combine milk, half the sugar, and mint leaves in a medium sized sauce pan. Bring to just below boiling point. Remove from heat, cover, steep 15 minutes or more, then strain out leaves.


Meanwhile, in a double boiler, combine the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and beat until mixture is pale and thick enough to hold shape when trailed. Warm up milk mixture, then slowly pour the milk over the egg mixture while whisking. Heat mix to 185 degrees while stirring often.

Once temperature and thickness is achieved, remove pan from heat and place into an ice water bath to cool (mixture will thicken more once cool). Stir occasionally. Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.

When ready to freeze, fold custard and cream together with essential oil, then pour into ice cream freezer. When almost done, pour in chocolate shavings.


~Just looking at this makes me want to run to the freezer and eat more~

If you’ve made ice cream at home before, you have likely learned that most ice cream becomes rock hard when frozen for more than a few hours. Not so with custard!

  • I made a batch of custard ice cream and froze the contents in 8 oz. glass containers.
  • 24 hours later I sampled the product – scoopable!
  • A few days later, I sampled another jar – still just as scoopable! I also noticed that the product did not immediately melt (if eaten fresh, custard ice cream will melt fairly fast like regular home made ice cream, but once frozen longer will hold its shape reliably well and scoops into a nice round curl).

For more detailed instructions, reference “Recipes from the Dairy” – a worthwhile addition to your dairy library!

In the comments section, feel free to write in what your favorite ice cream flavors are – Some of my favorites are Huckleberry Buttermilk, Pistachio, and Lemon Custard.


Eckles, Clarence, Willes Combs, & Harold Macy. Milk and Milk Products. 2nd edt. New York and London:McGraw-Hill, 1936.

Thompson, Mary V. Ice cream. Mount Vernon Estate. http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/ice-cream/

U.S. Patent: Artificial Freezer. http://todayinsci.com/Events/Patent/IceCreamFreezer3254.htm

Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream Recipe: https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/ice-cream

Williams, Jacqueline B. The Way We Ate: Pacific Northwest Cooking, 1843-1900. Pullman: WSU Press, 1996.

Weir, Robin, Caroline Liddell and Peter Brears. Recipes from the Dairy. London: National Trust, 1998.

New Series: Lessons from Historical Agriculture

New Series: Lessons from Historical Agriculture

I have been looking for a subject to write on that combines my two passions: History and Farming.

The result is the beginning of a new series entitled “Lessons from Historical Agriculture” in which I research wisdom (or folly!) of the past in order to enhance our knowledge and abilities in modern agriculture.

Arthur Young, a correspondent of George Washington’s, “believed that each generation of farmers could benefit from the knowledge and advances of those who preceded them.”

Hopefully this series can help bring to light ideas of the past to stimulate conversation about improving practices in farming today.

Speaking of George … One of the most famous early American examples of using sustainable agriculture practices was George Washington. He grew up being taught the farming mindset that tobacco was the crop of choice to grow, but soon learned that tobacco was not a sustainable or realistic option. In fact, growing tobacco threatened the future of American farming because of the demands tobacco crops put on the soil. After only four years of growth, tobacco might require 20 years of lying fallow or growing wheat before being able to grow tobacco in the same location again.

Realizing this misuse of land was not a good business plan, George Washington bravely changed his farming philosophy from the common mindset of the day and began studying and implementing “new husbandry” with ideas on maximizing soil productivity for business success along with longevity of soil health for future generations. George Washington realized a problem in agriculture that persists today – mismanagement of land.

Nothing in my opinion would contribute more to the welfare of these States, than the proper management of our Lands…” GW remarked.

WAquoteCrop rotation, one of his well-known experiments, involved the use of different crops for harvest while concurrently building soil quality. What George may not have been able to put to scientific words at the time is that different plants take up (and/or return to the soil) particular nutrients. By changing the crops growing in each field year after year, different elements could be added back to the soil or removed at different levels to help maintain a balance of nutrients. Washington purchased several seed varieties, including cabbage, turnip, sainfoin, rye, winter vetch, wheat, field bean, barley, and oats. Crop rotation also included pasturing as a part of the rotation.

A book on the subject of George Washington’s farming practices states that “Washington … considered the proper use of crop rotation to be the most important aspect of good husbandry.”

I am fascinated with the concept that 1700’s science and 1700’s farmers were sharp enough to understand this concept that “modern” science is again confirming to be accurate and effective. Modern studies are now re-realizing the value of crop rotation, cover crops, rotational grazing, and soil improvement as essential tools for maintaining or “fixing” our soils from years of depletion. Our agriculture for many years has focused on mono-cropping, the growth of one crop on the same soil season after season for years with only the addition of a few major nutrients (N-P-K, and perhaps a few more) without the balance of micro-nutrients or measuring of soil health in organic matter and microbial activity.

A recent article in Furrow magazine discusses the benefits of crop rotation, cover crops, and use of livestock for soil health. Some of the listed cover crops include vetch, rye, triticale, crimson clover, radish, and peas – not much different than George Washington’s list! Farmers are using the cover crops as temporary pasture for cattle, where amazing gain and health benefits are being observed – for both cattle and land! NRCS must be convinced these techniques work, as funding is now available for farmers to implement cover crops and other more sustainable practices.

Imagine what our soil could be like if generations before us had all listened to George Washington and his “new husbandry” scientific correspondents.

While we cannot change the past, we can change the future. Each improvement to soil we make will bring benefit to our lives as well as for future generations – perhaps American farming will not be lost to history after all!

Up next in the series: Custard Ice-cream for the modern Ice-house


Our articles on rotational pasturing and improving pastures: https://spiritedrose.wordpress.com/jersey-cattle/2b-feeds/rotational-grazing-pastures/

Quotes and information on George Washington – Fusonie, Alan & Fusonie, Donna Jean. (1998). George Washington: Pioneer Farmer. Mount Vernon, VA: The Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

Furrow Magazine article: Link, Joe D. (June 2016). Building Soil with Livestock. The Furrow, 121, 10-13. (Read online here: http://johndeerefurrow.com/2016/06/03/building-soil-livestock/ )

NRCS – Note, each state has a NRCS and different opportunities. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/climatechange/?cid=stelprdb1077238

Showing Dairy Cattle

Includes detailed information on clipping an animal, preparing for show, show ring etiquette, tips from a dairy judge, and show photos.


How to Clip a Dairy Cow or Heifer – Part One Video:Clip Video 1

How to Clip a Dairy Cow or Heifer – Part Two Video:


Copy of an illustration found online:


Tips on Showmanship from a Dairy Judge (in no particular order):

  • Be in charge – Let both the judge and animal know that you are confident and experienced in what you are doing (even if this is your first time showing!) Many showmen like to be either first or last to “catch” the judges attention. Some will briefly greet the judge, “Good Morning” etc. or at least politely respond to the judge if the judge speaks to them. Keep in mind, though, your primary goal is to present your heifer or cow to the best of her abilities – work at getting the judge’s focus on her rather than on you.
  • Have fun – the judge will often place someone higher if they are smiling the whole time, enjoying themselves, and having a positive attitude.
  • The show person typically wears all white clothing* – a button up white shirt with collar, tucked in to white pants. Cleanliness is more important than type of fabric.  Leather boots and a belt (hard sole, lace up) are ideal. If your hair is long, tie it up out of the way so the judge can clearly see your face. Do not wear a hat! Many dairy shows use a show harness – which is a nylon strap that goes over your white shirt and has plastic slots for your number(s) so the clerk can keep everyone straight. *Note: FFA dress may be different, such as the wearing of a FFA jacket and tie.
  • The animal should have on a leather show halter and lead. The lead can be rolled or looped and held in the hand that does not have primary control of the halter.
  • Know your animal – assume the judge WILL ask you questions. The judge may ask:
    • Breed of animal (If you’re in a class of Holstein yearlings, you better bring a Holstein and know it’s a Holstein.)
    • Age of animal or birthdate
    • Sire of animal
    • What farm the animal came from
    • If a cow –
      • how many calves has she had,
      • when did she calve,
      • is she bred,
      • sire she is bred to
  • Pay attention: Keep equal attention to your animal and the judge. Don’t stare at the judge, your animal may slip out of the halter and run away. Once Jay judged a show where the train ran behind the ring – only two participants continued to watch the judge and their animal while all the rest stared at the train going by. Another example is when the judge motions you to a position when placing the animals, be quick and efficient to move where the judge wants you to go. Moving too slow to get to third place may put you in fourth – and the judge will just leave you there!
  • Sneak a peek: If you are not in the ring, be on the sideline watching the judge – what does the judge prefer? What questions are being asked? Survey your class-mates – if someone else has a heifer in heat or an unruly animal, avoid being in front of or behind them! (Shh, observe but don’t tell these secrets!😉 )
  • Grooming: Study up on what well-groomed animals look like. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make sure the inside of the ears are clean; tail is brushed and fluffed; toes are trimmed, cleaned and polished; proper topline (if necessary); if a milk cow – make sure she looks like a milk cow and has at least some milk in her.
  • Head carriage: Keep the animal’s head up and alert. If the animal is heavy-headed, don’t be afraid to use two hands.
  • Be prepared to switch animals: A judge may ask you to exchange animals with someone in front of or behind you – to see how well you act with a different animal and … to see if YOU can present someone else’s animal better than THEY can!
  • Back up! Be an expert at backing your animal up. Ideally, just using the halter and using the palm of your off-hand to push/lift on the point of the shoulder.
  • Pre-care for the cattle:
    • Let the animals rest as much as possible before the show. Participating in one or a few classes with the same animal is very wearing – you may get to the championship round just to lose because your animal is drooping or laying down.
    • Soaked beet pulp before and during the show season can help provide a shiny coat and also regulate the rumen to avoid constipation/diarrhea from lack of eating/drinking and stress.
    • Many will either bring water from home or a water filter if the show barn has different or bad tasting water – make sure your animals drink regularly or have a auto-waterer hooked up in the stall. Don’t share water tubs with other herds – avoid spreading disease!
    • Bring along a variety of hay – even if the show provides hay, bring something from home to guarantee your animals will eat. Hay and water are also very important for the show ring – the judge wants to see that your animal is “capacious” and has a large belly (therefore, a large rumen – not pot belly, but “hay belly”) capable of consuming a lot of feed, therefore capable of making a lot of milk!
    • Body condition is important too – a perfectly conformationally correct heifer may end up in last place if she’s too fat!
  • Be happy with your placing: Even if you placed 22 out of 22, keep that smile on your face, at least until you’re back to the barn! Then reflect on why you placed last and how you can improve for next time – the true goal of showing is to know both the STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES of your animal and/or yourself in order to build and improve! Be thankful to the judge for their honest opinion and don’t be afraid to walk up to them after the show ends to ask honest questions! They like being asked more questions! If you’re the winner – be gracious to others and know that there’s always room for improvement, even for #1.




A bedded pack is the best to offer a show animal: A one foot layer of shavings/sawdust/shavings/sawdust to provide a cushy resting place for the animals. If you think they don’t need it – try sleeping on concrete for a night yourself! Double ties and a neck chain/strap allow the cow some movement when tied (you’re also going to take her on walks and walk her to the wash stall).




Everyone has their own style!

Setting up feet (for when the animals are stopped):




Additional Resources:

“Get Growing!” – Pasture

Our never-ending quest for improved pastures has lead to some fun discoveries in the past few years along with some moments of thinking, “Will they ever improve!?”

I thought I had written quite recently about our work on an old pasture, just to find it was June of 2013 when that post was written! (Read here: Pursuing Pastures June 1, 2013 article & click on underlined words for links to additional information and references.)

Our same field, circa 2016 – Still needs a little burning, but improved forage every year:

Pasture burn 1

Early spring burning to clean up the edges of the field and areas thickly matted with old grass. Found a few gopher holes to trap as well.


Black becomes brown, then green! The same area as the first picture a few weeks later. Getting a taste of early pasture & acclimating ‘winter rumens’ on fresh grass – April 21st, 2016

Although we’ve had an unusually warm spring and decent rain, grass in our country is not exactly thick and abundant. The only spots in the field that are extra plush are the old cow pie spots. (We harrow in the fall or spring to break them up, but some low spots get passed over.) The rest of the field is growing, but I’ve seen better fields.


May 7, 2016 – The cows have been on full pasture for about a week. The grass is finally growing. In the background, tall blobs of grass indicate an overall need for fertilizer in other parts of the pastures, still.

One way we measure the productivity of the pasture is how the cows respond in milk production. This year was significant – Rosebud jumped in production by 1/4 and her cream line stayed the same (sometimes early spring grass jumps overall production, yet cream line decreases). Yay for grass -makes good milk!


After morning milking, Rosebud heads to the trough to refill on water and lick up some loose salt and minerals – the cows have been consuming a lot of salt and minerals since going on pasture, confirming that cows have different needs at different times & they know when they need it!

We’ve been troubleshooting the lack of apparent overall growth and all we can think of is that there is a general lack of nitrogen & nutrient friends needed for green growth. Our soil test confirms that our soil is well balanced in nutrients (meaning, proper ratio of NPK, plus others, nothing super high or low) but it’s on the low end of normal for all nutrients.


THE LOOK – “This is OK for now, but how’s it gonna perform in August??”

From day one, we put into practice pasture management techniques based on the concept of Rotational Grazing. We had some weedy rough patches when we moved here 4 years ago, so brought in Mulefoot pigs – they did great eating weed roots and plowing for us. We harrowed those areas (and we now have a disc which is even better for heavy duty management) then reseeded with a barley cover crop, dryland pasture mix, and clover.


Young cover crop up close – doesn’t look like much, but the barley is protecting the new seedlings. Next year this section will be plush dry land grasses and clover!

To get a proper “take” on the seeds, the soil needs to have enough organic matter and moisture that the ground doesn’t form a hard crust that seedlings are unable to penetrate. One or two good waterings with a sprinkler are very helpful.


A new seeding, about a month after germination. Barley comes up first (within a few days of putting out the seed!), then fragile grass and clover pop out of the ground, protected by the taller cover crop! Weeds too? Hardly any!

The few patches we’ve done have come back amazingly well. How do we know? The cows stare at those gates in preference and the White Tailed Deer … eat it all!!!


As Jay asked, “Do I win Star Farmer Award?” So gorgeous it makes you want to cry in joy!!

Some days I wish we had just done the whole field at once, but we’ve had to build up the nutrients to get a good take on the seed, which takes time when done organically from the farm without buying organic matter to be shipped in and applied.

Our latest venture is sheep – their manure is small, so no harrowing needed. They eat down the grass and weeds really well, so that when the second crop comes up, it’s even and plush for the cows. Sheep have a different palate (and non-competing parasites, bonus!) than cows, so between the two most of the forage gets eaten.


A sight for sore eyes – happy sheep!


We have the pastures well managed – Our question now is how to continue improving the ground?

The neighbors have been working on their pastures for many years now, organically, and the only things they do are:

  1. Spread out winter cow manure over the field in early spring – We have not had good luck with this, perhaps still too much of wood shavings and straw mixed in with the manure and not enough nitrogen to break it down. We’re working on ideas to get our compost aerated better so it will break down faster. Any design ideas out there?DSC05982
  2. Use sprinklers around the house to keep nearby pastures growing in hot dry months – We are limited by how much we can legally water, but notice that the areas with more organic matter and clover tend to keep producing. As we cultivate new pastures, we’re working on seeding in dryland mixes of grasses and continue to look for legumes that will persist longer through dry weather yet are still palatable to the cows. DSC05992.JPG
  3. Brush hog areas when they get tall (or use a riding lawn mower) – Cutting promotes growth and division of plants, excess grass provides organic matter back into soil, and grass is kept at palatable height so animals like to pasture it and it gives them the best nutrition. Cutting also has helped eliminate weeds. – Improving the soil and bringing in new seed, especially the clover, has reduced weed populations – particularly the knapweed, mullein, and other local problem weeds. But, we’re still fighting thistle. Weeds indicate to us there’s still room for improvement! Each year we have better access to equipment for mowing the fields to prevent weeds from going to seed. This is great, because I’m tired of deadheading/digging up and bagging weeds by hand.

    A lovely trick of nature: Improve the fertility and water holding capacity of the soil and the good soil will choke out some of the bad weeds (or at least make them more palatable to eat in the young stage) – ha ha ha – Death to Knapweed! (Although knapweed is a known pollinator for honeybees, knapweed is an invasive weed we’re trying to limit/eliminate!)


    Hopefully frequent clipping of the pastures will help stop thistles from setting and spreading seed. The sheep get quite mad at thistle when it pokes them in the mouth!

  4. Pasture-raised broilers to add fertilizer to the fields – Our layer hens free range, and we don’t raise broilers due to the cost of grain, but a recent addition to the farm of a small grain mill, plus locally sourced “cheep” grains (So far, barley and peas, with the hope of finding nearby wheat) may allow us to have more chickens in the future. As we buy grain, I just have to remind myself we’re really buying something that will make healthy eggs & meat and powerful fertilizer. I recently found an article on making a “Poo Hammock” which can help keep the chicken coop clean and concentrates the chicken manure from the coop so it can be spread exactly where we need fertilizer. One more thing to add to the “to-do” list!

It’s not even officially “summer” yet, but we’re already watching the fields for issues, clipping fields as needed, monitoring water levels, and taking care to not overgraze the land. A few prayers for decent rain this year and we might be able to pasture several months!

Just writing about it makes me tired, it’s a long process! But well worth it once the pasture’s improved – hopefully more production, less work, and satisfaction of improving the land in a healthy, sustainable way!

How to Hoof Trim a Milk Cow

After a long winter, the mad rush of the dairy herd to the fields for fresh spring grass makes a farmer cringe in fear, peeking out of the corner of one eye to spot a slipped ligament in the udder or a good twist of the foot.

Thankfully, both can be avoided – one by improved genetics and the other by good management!


Good management:

Spring pasture season is a logical time to evaluate your cows to determine whose feet need attention.

The soil is still moist – meaning hooves are still soft & pliable.

Dewy grass cleans the toes and legs of the cow, making hoof care a significantly cleaner endeavor.

A good trim prevents chips or tears from long toes and improves mobility when walking around uneven pasture terrain.

Our milk cow Rosebud modeled for the pictoral “how-to” photos below. She has good strong feet, but they tend to like to grow long. Maintaining her feet through regular trimming keeps her at top health – important for a 12 year old milking cow!


Rosebud, age 12, getting a taste of first pasture in 2016


Let’s Get Started:

Hoof Trimming Tools.png

Other needs:

  • Halter and lead rope to secure cow – preferably in a stanchion or against a wall to limit how much “wiggle room” the cow has.
  • Recommended PPE – Work boots, long pants, eye protection, gloves
  • Tight-grain wooden board to stand feet on during trim
  • A refresher course from Progressive Dairyman: Visual Dictionary of the parts of a Cattle Hoof


IMPORTANT NOTE: STOP trimming a section if you hit blood. Blood can be limited/avoided by trimming off very small sections at a time. The most likely spot to hit blood is at the tip of each toe toward the center, where the toes tend to touch when they get long as is shown on the “Before” hoof blocked in red in the photo above.

For more in-depth detail and commentary, please visit our website page: Trimming Hooves