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col Some cows are nothing but trouble

And they can be set in their ways

The trouble with dairy cows is that you can never tell whether they are going to kick you or not. A cow that looks like she doesn't have a mean bone in her body can turn into a ferocious animal whose only purpose is to give you the business end of a hoof.

And a high-strung cow that is always first to find a hole in the fence can be meek and mild-mannered at milking. Some cows kick only when your back is turned and seem to laugh at you and gloat in their Pearl Harbor success.

Others wait until you are putting the last teat cup on and are about to come out of your crouch. Still others don't target you at all -- they're after the half-filled machine.

Other cows aren't true kickers. They are jumpers who leap over the top of you and knock you down. They don't really care if they knock the milk machine off or not -- they just want to watch you scramble out from beneath them.

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All of us have our own way of dealing with it. Some restrain kickers the best way they can; others give up on a cure and ship them off.

Even the most mild-mannered have tried to fight fire with fire by striking back at the cow. I suppose an animal rights activist would be taken aback by that approach.

Clearly, most animal rights activists haven't felt the wrath of a 1,200- pound Holstein cow.

Every dairy farmer knows his own cows' tendencies and makes adjustments for them. But a milker who is filling in for a vacationing neighbor can't possibly tell which cows are friends and which ones aren't.

While the soon-to-be-gone neighbor tells you about feeding, milking and equipment-washing procedures, more often than not he doesn't mention which cows do the kicking, and most fill-in milkers assume their neighbors don't have any kicking cows.

I never had much trouble milking for neighbors until one fellow that never ever took a vacation finally decided to take time off.

He was very set in his ways and so were his cows. And they didn't take kindly to me. His cows kicked hard and often.

The neighbor forgot to mention that he always put the milk machine on from the right side of the cow and assumed everyone else did, too.

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