The Business End
ooking a cow in the face is not as useful as looking at the back-end. I spend more time looking at the back-end of cows than seems normal. Unless I am talking to my friends who have cows, then it all seems routine. Not that Jane doesn’ t have a pretty face, and nice symmetrical hair whorls above her eyes, but most of the time I’m checking on her well-being by looking at her rear end, among other things.
At five months along, Jane’s calf is about the size of a house cat.
You can tell a lot about a cow’s general well-being by looking her cleanliness, and if her tail has manure on it, or sticking to it. As a general rule a cow that doesn’t feel well will lie in her manure, and if there is manure sticking to her tail, and anywhere else on her coat, she’s probably got something going on, it could from overload of parasites, which is common in permanent pastures that livestock have constant access to, or a poor or wrong diet. Those two, diet and parasites go hand in hand too, if cattle have enough of the right diet they are parasite resistant. Also a vibrant coat is oily enough that if manure does get on the cow, it doesn’t stick. Slick cows are what you want to see. In the winter, most cattle have winter coats, but you don’t want a fuzzy coat look, more of a lying flat look. Curly coated breeds are a different story, but as a general rule cows that are well fed and have access to minerals usually have a smooth coat.
Jane is one of those cows that will lie in her poop if she is under the weather. And it can be frustrating, when your cow has 10 acres to roam around on and she picks the one square foot that has cow pie on it! It’s up to me to notice something isn’t right, and take some action.
This is something to look for if you buy milk at a small farm, you don’t really want to see a poopy tail or manure stuck on the side or legs of the cow you’re drinking milk from. Especially raw milk, which really has gotten a bad rap lately, and in some cases the bad rap is deserved. I understand it’s pretty hard for consumers to really vet a small farm, but small little tidbits of information like this can give you an idea how healthy the cows are, more than the marketing buzzwords like small, raw, local, pastured, and grassfed only. Sometimes the farmer is new at this and doesn’t understand and assumes cows just naturally have manure on them.