Cow Hierarchies

It’s raining here (again) so not much to report about the farm, except everything is growing– from the lawn I didn’t finish mowing before the rain hit, to the corn in the fields, to the calves at that barn. It’s a good thing.

Looks like the Jersey boys have settled in to their new surroundings and Frack has submitted to Bruno, the black angus, as the dominant bull of the herd. They’ve wandered and grazed out to the far reaches of their acreage and hunkered down for naps in the high grass there. It is suggested to give one acre of pasture to each cow, but ours will have a bit less. It’s no problem, since they will be sold in the summer/fall market and there is plenty of food, both on the ground and with the feed Mike gives them every day. Everyone seems to be healthy, although the fresh grass tends to give the cattle loose stools, so Mike also gives them dry hay and minerals to counteract the ‘slip and slides’.

Since we got the calves, we have only lost one, Fernando (Nando) due to shipping sickness, something I wasn’t aware happened to young calves. Seems the stress of being moved from one farm to another, or even from one pasture to another, can cause respiratory illness. For cattle people, it is one of the most expensive aspects to raising herds…I mean, beyond fencing, cattle gates, transportation, troughs, head gates, and so forth. Nando, for example needed antibiotics which were not cheap and once opened needed to be discarded if not used entirely. There is a danger in giving a sick calf a shot too. At least one medication, even a drop of it on human skin, can cause immediate cardiac arrest. We didn’t get that kind.

But Nando did get antibiotics by syringe and mouth (tube fed), and electrolytes in his water. We put him in a pen by himself and took care of him, making him as comfortable as possible. We propped loose hay under his head, which he no longer had the strength to hold up on his own, and we rubbed his neck and shoulders as he lay panting for breath. We stayed with him for hours and checked on him frequently. He died in his sleep.

I was reading on the internet an exposee by ABC about a dairy farmer’s cruelty in New York, but also the public’s replies to the story that aired last January. I thought: if only these people knew that dairyman was an exception not the rule. There are a lot of cattle farmers around here and, I dare say, the majority treat their animals just like we treated Nando– with nurturing concern, respect, and sympathy. How do I know? Because when Nando got sick, it was the farmers in the area that told us how to treat him, where to get the medication, and even came over themselves to check on him. I saw the concern in their eyes.

Kentucky has the highest number of beef cattle east of the Mississippi. These animals are not confined to eating grain in some over-crowded stockyard, but are ‘free-ranging’ (to use a pop, city, chicken term) on fenced-in areas of farms where they have plenty of food and water, shelter from the heat and cold, and families that care about them as much as they care for them.  Keep that in mind as you see exposees in the news that only highlight one farm out of thousands.

About cattlebaroness

I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History, nearing completion of a Master of Arts in American history. Born and raised first on military bases around the world, then in Orange County, CA, I moved to Kentucky when my children were small. I now live on a small family farm and am learning about farm life, planting and our newest addition to the landscape--cattle. Until a month or two ago, all I knew about 'cows' were that they came in brown, black and white and that some are raised for milk and others for meat. I am a quick study out of necessity.
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