Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Have you hugged your cow today?

Bridget and Molly, the new Irish dexter heifers, are just as sweet as I had hoped they would be. I went out to the barn several times today to visit with them. They are not skittish at all, and they let me pet them all over. As their breeder said, they love alfalfa cubes, and I think I may have already spoiled them! Now that they realize I have alfalfa cubes, they start to moo when they hear me come into the barn, and they quieten down immediately when I give them some cubes. Since the girls will be completely grass fed, the cubes are their special treat.

If you don't know my history with cows, you might be wondering why I'm so over-the-top excited about these lovely heifers. Well, the last time we had cows here, I thought one of them killed Jonathan. We had worked with her for months trying to get her tame, and the day that I saw my son's limp body being dragged across the pasture was the day I decided that was a cow that needed to leave the gene pool. I didn't care how rare the breed was at that moment. I felt confident that our ancestors would have never tolerated a personality like that, so she became hamburger.

Even though our first experience with cows was such a dismal failure, I kept thinking that someday I wanted cows. I thought about dexters again, and I thought about Scottish highlands and milking Devons. I wanted triple purpose cattle that could be used for milk, meat, and draft, and all of those old breeds fit the bill. But unless you're willing to buy completely untrained cows, most people were charging more than we could afford. Finally, a couple of months ago, I came across a listing for a breeder in Missouri that had calves. I was so excited when Marian at Five Ponds Farm told me how naturally sweet they were, because that's exactly what I wanted. I know Marian also spends a lot of time with them, so they know that people are their friends. Of course, there was a skeptical side of me that wondered if the heifers could really be so sweet -- mostly because we'd had such a terrible experience last time. More than once, I told myself I should just forget this crazy idea about cows. Who needs cows? We have goats for milk, sheep and poultry for meat, and this summer, I'm teaching Hercules the goat to be a draft animal. But cows were a dream that just would not go away.

Now they're here, and I'm reminded of how much I love the sound and the scent of cows. They're such bulky, muscular animals, yet these girls are so calm and even-tempered. I know I'm still in the honeymoon stage, and there is a lot of work ahead before they'll become productive members of the homestead, but it's a challenge that I am eagerly anticipating.


Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Ah, bovine love; how sweet! :-)

tonya fedders said...

Glad to hear that your cows have arrived and that you have a good feeling about them!

Caprifool said...

Aw, I havn't had a cowhug since my neighbor and good friend across the village sold her jersey. I would hang around her neck or listen to her rumen perculate like it was music. I miss her!

J. M. Storther said...

Nice piece. So glad you got a couple of winners. I had never thought of cows as draft animals before. Is that common?

Deborah said...

Oxen were used a lot up until about 100 years ago when the gasoline-powered engine was developed. I think they can pull more than horses, and they certainly can survive on a poorer diet than horses.


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