Sorry, friends, I took a week break after last week’s post (on a totally unrelated post, Twitter and preschool are those two places where everyone is your friend). It really got under my skin and I’ve sat back and just let things go for a bit. But, I have to write on Tuesdays, and honestly, I’ve had this one percolating for a while! 🙂
We’ve had Brown Swiss heifers for a while now, but it looks like this will be the first year in many where we won’t have “four-leggeds” on our place. They’ve always been gentle, curious, and a little bit stubborn (I’ve only really lost my temper once with one of our animals, a beast of a heifer named Ashia, who knew she was bigger than I was and it showed). Brown Swiss are famous for all those traits and not having them with us will be sad.
However, over the past winter, I was introduced to beef cows. We had a herd of them on the land that surrounds our little piece of heaven and they were SO FUN to watch!
My wife thinks I’m a little weird, but watching them move together as a herd, finding shelter during the windy days together, huddling together when it was cold, gathering together and being hangry went they were hungry (yes, it’s a thing) was just an eye opening experience for me. Our herd was only four and Brown Swiss tend to be a little more independent than most bovines, so it was an education.
However, my awareness of just how much cows care about each other went up in mid-April. There have been some calves born in this field, which has been awesome. Calves are so dang adorable and beef calves just have a cuteness factor that makes them that much more so. However, a cow gave birth and the calf, for whatever reason, never got up. We first noticed it on our walk because the mom was standing near the calf, licking it and trying to get it to stand. We’d come up, and suddenly there were three or four “moms” around, each giving it a go, nudging the calf, trying to help it stand. We went inside, had supper, and when I returned, I saw this:
A quarter of the herd had come over and stood with the mother cow, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say they were grieving the loss her calf. It was an incredible sight for me because I never knew the depth at which cows could show emotions. Then, this article popped up on my feed one day: Study Finds that Cows Talk and Show Compassion Just Like Humans.
In the article:
Alexandra Green, a Ph.D. student at the university and the study’s lead author, said:
“Cows are gregarious, social animals. In one sense it isn’t surprising they assert their individual identity throughout their life.”
Between the anecdotal evidence given and the article read, beef cows are some pretty amazing animals. They care about each other, they “talk” to each other, and in their herd, they will protect each other.
There are so many things we learn daily about those who share our planet with us. For me, while they aren’t my Brown Swiss, they still are very unique, curious animals.
May 12, 2020 at 10:19 pm
I have never known any Brown Swiss cows, but they sound nice. My father-in-law raised some beef cattle for a while, and leased some of his land to a larger group. He named a heifer after me, and named a steer Dinner Plate. I was never certain if I was supposed to be flattered or if I was supposed to play the alarmed city slicker, but I went with flattered, and calmly praised the photo of Dinner Plate that was passed around as we ate our steak.
May 12, 2020 at 10:37 pm
We visited some “city folks” (college friends) with some beef we’d gotten from our nephew. As we were eating our steak, we told our friends their steak was named “Dexter”. The looks on their faces were priceless.
I love my heifers, but I also love beef. 🙂
August 11, 2020 at 11:24 am
Haha! If you are going to eat beef, it is only fair that you know its name!
May 13, 2020 at 7:01 am
I’ve always marveled at the “nursery” that beef cattle, both ours and any standing in a pasture in the spring, design. If you notice, whenever the babies are sleeping, theres always one or two females gathered near, keeping watch.
May 19, 2020 at 11:10 pm
Exactly! We noticed this “nursery” option a couple of times and were amazed. It’s just so interesting to observe them and their behaviors! 🙂
May 14, 2020 at 5:40 am
I’ve always been fascinated with cows. When we rented some of our land to a guy who ran some cattle, I loved sitting on the porch watching them amble, hearing them moo, and watching the calves play. I guess that’s why I’ve always enjoyed your Brown Swiss stories (and your wife’s story about them was great, too!) It may come down to having to raise a cow for your own food…how hard would that be after getting to know it???
May 19, 2020 at 11:09 pm
>how hard would that be after getting to know it???<
Our first Swiss were one heifer and one steer. We had to take the steer to the locker ourselves. Everyone cried. Yes, everyone. So, no, we'll purchase our meat from farmers around us. I can butcher a chicken. Raising a steer for two years, then having to send him off. Nope, not right now at least! 🙂
May 14, 2020 at 9:25 am
This is so interesting, Darin. I have read that elephants act like the way you described the cows responding to the mother losing her calf. I guess it’s a “herd mentality”, but in a good way? Don’t know, but it makes me think how we are more alike than we are different from some animals we share the planet with. Your pictures are great, by the way.
May 19, 2020 at 11:07 pm
So many ways we are alike, it’s scary. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
May 19, 2020 at 4:52 am
I appreciated the images and the way you made connections from the cows to us.
And this —>
“… watching them move together as a herd, finding shelter during the windy days together, huddling together when it was cold, gathering together and being hangry went they were hungry (yes, it’s a thing) was just an eye opening experience for me …”