Things I’ve Learned: Cow Edition

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Before moving to the country, my knowledge of farm animals was fairly limited. Take, for example, what I knew about cows:

  • Cows spend an awful lot of time laying in fields.
  • Baby cows are really cute.

Clearly, my vast experience of driving past cow pastures didn’t teach me much. A grade-school trip to a dairy farm taught me the difference between beef cattle and dairy cattle, but since all I can recall is that they might be different colors (maybe?), I don’t think that counts as knowledge. Plus, I don’t even know if that’s true, I may have just made it up.

However, as a rural rookie, I’ve learned a lot about cows. While probably not useful in most people’s daily lives, some of it is actually very interesting.

First, I was wrong about cows laying around. They spend a significant amount of time standing around eating, and laying around chewing their cud (more on that in a minute), but they aren’t quite as lethargic as they appear. Cows are wildly curious creatures. Who knew? One day Mr. B and I were feeding the cows, and since it was calving season, we walked through the herd to see how everyone was doing. At one point, Mr. B looked at me and said “stay right where you are, stand very still and be quiet.” And then he walked away from me. Confused, and a little worried, I obeyed. For about 30 seconds. Then my need for information and my inability to “stand very still and be quiet” prevailed and I began questioning this little exercise.

Mr. B explained that standing quietly alone in the pasture would show the cows that I was not a threat, and because they are so nosy, after a few minutes they would swarm around to investigate me. This prompted me to want to fight my natural tendency to move and make noise for longer than normal, after a few minutes Mr. B’s prediction came true. Want to experience something intimidating? Stand in the middle of a circle of cows. It makes you feel reallllly small and squish-able. 

Fortunately, I had already learned another important lesson: cows are pretty skiddish. Any sudden movement or movement in their direction is likely to send them rushing in the opposite direction (hence the “sit still, be quiet” instruction). So when all the attention started to make me uncomfortable, all I had to do was flail my arms and say “get”. When I did, they all promptly fled, thankfully taking the flies with them.

Also, did you know that cows have two stomachs? They do. When they eat, they chew up the food and swallow it down into stomach #1. Later, when the first stomach is full, the contents come back up in the cow’s mouth as “cud”. The cow chews the cud and swallows it into stomach #2. How gross is that??

But, I was right about baby cows being cute. See what I mean?

This little guy was only a few hours old when this photo was snapped. Look at those eyelashes!

This little guy was only a few hours old when this photo was snapped. Look at those eyelashes!