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Brown: Best cows are good mamas


March 31, 2016

Audra Brown Down on the Farm

On the animal intelligence spectrum, cattle fall somewhere above deer and somewhere below horses.

Within this range of intelligence, the individual cow can vary from dumb enough to get stuck in a fence to smart enough to always be going the wrong direction when it’s time to gather the herd. In my experience, smarter cows are a little more ornery, harder to catch, but are bottom-line a better investment.

Audra Brown

Down on the Farm

What are the properties of a profitable cow? Number one, a live one. Dead cows don’t produce anything but methane and coyote problems. Number two, a good mama. Calves are the cash crop in a cattle operation. The best cows will have a calf every year and keep that calf healthy and alive.

I’d love to have a whole herd of such creatures, but alas, as in most collections of critters, you have to settle for some sort of average. Some great mamas, some decent mamas, and some dumb ones.

What do you call a cow that won’t take care of her calf?

On the way to the sale barn.

Now, heifers — young, dumb, and inexperienced cows-in-training that they are — get a little slack. Nobody counts on the crop of calves from a bunch of first-calf heifers to be anything but trouble. Trouble calving, trouble taking care of their calves, and just plain trouble is par. But old, experienced cows? They should know better. Bad cows shoulda been culled long before they made it into middle-age. But just ‘cause it should be, doesn’t make it so.

When you go to the trouble of pulling the calf out of a mature cow, manage to keep both the calf alive and cow in good health — a rare feat in such troubled birthing situations — the work ought to be over. Call it a good day and go check the next pasture.

Occasionally, punching cows is quite a literal temptation.

Such as after you save an old cow and her pulled calf, but she won’t even look at the baby. Bag near bursting, baby sucking anything he can get his mouth on, but the mama won’t let the baby suck her. She kicks him off every time and one feels the urge teach that 1400 pound cow a lesson.

One restrains the urge and the cow and lets the calf suck the captured cow, hoping she’ll find some sense before the calf ends up in your yard on a bottle and the cow gets a one-way ride to the sale.

Audra Brown has both punched and kicked cows, but she is a trained professional. Contact her at:

[email protected]


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