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Reader Question

March 1, 2013

Ahh, the search for meaningful blog posts has been answered.  Chris wanted to know about Jane being by herself, and I was meaning to get back to that comment because it struck me as a good question and an even better subject for a blog post.

Here is her question:

I think I asked once if Jane liked hanging out with the other cows or is she pretty much just a mama’s girl? :)

Well the easy answer is that Jane is a mama’s girl for sure.  With a house cow you really form a bond, and especially when they are so sweet like Jane.  But the other side of that is that being the house cow comes with certain responsibilities and being the milkmaid carries several responsibilities as well.  She needs to produce milk, and I need to keep her happy and well fed, but also need to keep her close so  I can keep the home fires burning (literally) as well, along with all those other pesky chores like gardening and cooking.

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So mean ol’ cow mama here, Jane does not get to hang out with the other cows winter or summer because I need her in close proximity all year, and two, which is the biggest, she doesn’t know them.  I could put them together, let them fight it out and then take her away twice a day, but in the cow way, even though they would possibly beat her up, once they got done with that they would all be crying when it was time to remove her from the herd twice a day.  Cattle are herd animals.  And they are very astute, they know she is getting special feed and they want a piece of the action.  So, to save my salvation (and fencing) I need to act as Jane’s herd-mate.  Our little “herd” consists of Jane, Willy, Blake and Ruthless and I.  We talk the same talk, and are on the same schedule.  Think of it as your group of co-workers, your work “family” if you will.  The beef herd already is a family complete with grandparents, teenagers and babies.  Jane is a distant cousin that you may want to see at a family reunion, maybe.

Jane learned the ropes of cowdom when she was a baby as I detailed here.  These days Ty and Susie are both gone, and now that Jane is all grown up she shares a fenceline with her weaned calf Blake, and the saddle horse Willy.  They are close but no monkey business is allowed.  It’s amazing what one little strand of wire can accomplish.  The hotwire keeps everyone on their best behavior and still in close enough proximity for some socialization.

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So for my part of the herd I act as a cow friend would, and the easiest way to do that is to groom her.  It’s not rocket science really, it’s actually just reinforcing what I learned as child in 4-H.  Of course, you groom your stock for the fair, but grooming enables you to befriend them, and as I have learned as an adult, brushing can open up energy meridians in much the same way as acupuncture.  So in the evenings after I’m done with the milking chores, I brush Jane, and she pretends to listen to my endless chatter much like a you listen to the hairdresser when you’re in the beauty shop.  If Jane was part of a cowherd she would be getting groomed by her herd-mates, but because I need to keep her separate I need to step up and fill that void.

I can’t begin to say if she misses something she has never really known, but I suspect because she is so in tuned to us, that we are her herd.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2013 11:37 am

    Excellent post! I agree completely about the benefits – the power, eve – of routine grooming of animals. Also makes it much easier to add in the non-routine things like hoof trimming or such, without the drama!

    • March 1, 2013 11:44 am

      Quinn, exactly! Just like the rotational grazing, you see almost every inch of the field instead of viewing a green blank slate. Horse folks get the grooming thing, because it’s not uncommon to see horses in a one-on-one setting with a human. With cattle it’s rare. It’s our quiet time, and it gives me a chance to give her a once over.

  2. March 1, 2013 7:28 pm

    cool post, even though i won’t ever have a milk cow.

  3. March 1, 2013 7:57 pm

    You’re giving me some good ideas for our Siobhan. Right now her herd consists of her mother Sara, the two mares and the pony. However, Siobhan really craves interaction with my husband and me, and she loves for us to pet and scratch her. Ah ha! We’re grooming! :) I think I’ll get out a brush and go for some real grooming/bonding so she won’t miss everyone else as much when they go out to pasture and she stays “home” to become our milk cow.

    Thanks again for taking the time to blog. You’re always teaching someone something whether you know it or not! This time it was me!

  4. mica permalink
    March 2, 2013 4:49 am

    don’t know why, but I found this post relaxing…
    maybe it was imagining being brushed by someone I trusted and being a part of such a nice friendly herd…

  5. Chris permalink
    March 2, 2013 9:21 am

    This reminded me of a PBS special I was watching one time about an old farmer in the UK and he picked up a rake while he was being interviewed and began to scratch the back of a very, large bull standing next to him. The bull seemed to go into a trance and it was apparent that they had a special bond. :)

    • Livia permalink
      March 4, 2013 10:43 am

      Yes, I found this post relaxing, too. It reminded me of when I was a child on my grandparents homestead, and grooming the family milk cow with a brush. I loved it and she loved it. I can still taste the fresh milk my grandma would give me every evening right there from the milking bucket. Sometimes I would hold my cup and she would milk right in it. Yumm!

  6. Tammy permalink
    March 12, 2013 9:36 am

    I was so happy for this post! Having just purchased a 10 month old jersey heifer, I was wondering about this very thing. I’m also interested in continuing her education. You have often said you want to retain a flight zone with your milk cow. What do you mean by that? I keep my cow draging a lead rope, (to train her to be staked, I tell myself, but in reality it is because it is difficult to attach the rope when she is swinging her horned head around) I’m very familiar with horse training but she does not react like a horse. There must be some way to train her to stand still with her head up and allow me to do what I need to do.

    • March 12, 2013 2:59 pm

      Tammy, a flight zone with a cow is making them respect your space like you expect your horse to do. Basically you can go in their space but they aren’t supposed to come into yours. If she has horns, you can whack them to get her attention and 10 month old heifers are brats no matter how much they are trained. You just have to take the bull, er, heifer by the horns sometimes. I’ve never been one to let them drag a rope, but I would tie her up each day to make sure you can do with her while she is young and little and she will start being grateful when you “save” her and turn her loose. A whack on the nose works too, a kindling stick, or crop or something small like that, that’s light and you can carry in your pocket for when you need it. Even as easy going as Jane is she gets silly once in a while and she gets strong words and sometimes a whack. You’re right they do not react like a horse, and they do not hold it against you or become head shy like a horse. I just had to go out here in mid-answer and help my daughter catch my 10 month old brat. She pulled her stake out and was having a grand time getting into stuff and in general being a brat! It took about 5 minutes to catch her, halter her, and lead her with her tether line and adjustable halter and put her back where she belongs. Spring fever, and most likely coming into heat :p.

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