The Taming of the Crew

We got most of the shorthorns heifers in April. They wanted nothing to do with us.

Shorthorns2It was like they said, “Look, dude, we’re cows. Not pets. Just leave us alone.”

Then, in November…

ScratchingThePollSo what happened?

I’ll tell you specifically. I was scratching one of our dairy cows on the poll and 41 decided she wanted to see what that was all about. 41 has been curious all summer. Some of the cows keep a safe distance from me. Sometimes I can touch them on the rump. Once in a great while I can put a hand on their rumen. Here I am reaching out to 111 while she grazed in the barn lot a few days ago:

Rumen

But 41 was different. 41 let me touch her nose. Twice. Yeah.

So today, with bellies full of pasture and the sun setting I guess things just lined up the right way. 41 decided she wanted a little of the attention Flora was getting. I picked some burrs out of her poll. She was a little wary but wanted more scratching at the same time.

I won’t win every cow. My chances are better if I can make a positive impression on a young calf but even then it’s not 100%. The key is to let the cow pick you…and to let the cow pick the time. One of our milking cows is only my friend at milking time. I need to stay 3 feet away at all other times. Both cows see Julie as another calf but I am just someone to be tolerated.

I have experienced similar things with dogs. Some dogs really like me. Some, when they first meet me, cower. I met one dog, I later found out completely dominated her owners, who found me to be a threat. There is some weird herd dynamic thing that I don’t fully understand and it certainly applies to cows. Horses too. There is some almost subliminal issue of dominance I am completely oblivious to. That is certainly felt in the cow herd.

I will never get around being a predator. I will always be a threat. My eyes face forward therefore I am a predator. The cows know this. I could raise a bottle calf in a stall away from the herd and develop a closer relationship with her but cows in the pasture will only let me in so close. Sometimes I can pick off the burrs.

Things change over time. I need to be consistent. Patient.

Why is this important? Because those cows are going to calve and when they do they need to see me as a friend, not a threat.

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5 thoughts on “The Taming of the Crew

  1. They look like a very good looking set of cows from the pictures. I like the Shorthorn breed and they are normally very calm and docile. I enjoyed reading your blog and there is a lot of truth to the end of your post, those animals do need to see you as help and not harm however that is going to be hard for them to overcome because of natural instinct.

    • Thanks. The cows know the routine and everybody stays cool. One of our heifers (the small, white one) was out this morning. She’s making a habit of that. No big deal, really. Just drop the fence to the ground and she went right back to the herd.

      The tight rotational grazing helps keep the herd close together..something they seem to desire. The routine seems to comfort them too.

      We’ll see about the white calf’s future on the farm though.

  2. Great post! Cows get used to us over time and realize we are here to feed them. That’s when they like us the best. Some our cows will come up to me and some walk the other way or back up if I get to close. The bull can be a bit cocky at times, and sometimes his stares can be a bit intimidating. While I did pet all but one of the calves when they were first born, no chance of getting that close again for a long time. It is almost like the mama calves warn them.

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