Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

If Cows Could Talk, Here's What They Would Say . . .

Dear Hopeful Cow Owner,

Before you decide to bring me home and keep me as a family milk cow, here are a few things you should know about me . . .

1) I am a ruminant. I eat my food quickly and burp it up to chew my cud. When I swallow, my cud goes to my rumen, a large “stomach” full of good bacteria that help me ferment and digest my food. My rumen produces gas, which I burp up.  This means I have different needs than horses and other animals you may be used to.

2) I am a herd animal and do not like to be alone.  I’d rather have other cattle for company, but even a sheep or a goat will do.  I also hope to be treated kindly by you because I depend on you.

3) I need some basic infrastructure—at least a fenced pasture, a shelter if you get bad weather, a small pen to confine me when needed, and a way to hold me still in case I need treatment. 

4) In most cases, I need free-choice hay. Even out on pasture, please keep hay available for me. The fiber helps me digest my food. No matter what some people tell you, please don’t feed me moldy hay. If you wouldn’t feed it to a horse, don’t feed it to me.  All pastures are not equal, so my “good green grass” might not be as good as you suppose. And those clumps of long, green grass? That’s where I pooped, and it’s not on the menu!

5) Avoid abrupt changes in my feed, whether grain or spring grass.  Change it gradually and keep it that way for several days before another change. This gives my rumen time to adjust.  And by the way, PLEASE keep all feed double-locked.  If I can, I will sneak in and gorge myself—and that could kill me.

6) I need plenty of water, and if my tank runs dry I will suffer. I use a lot of water for digestion and even more for producing milk. Even in cold weather I need water, and if it’s too icy I won’t drink enough.

7) I need free access to minerals. What I need depends on what part of the country you live in, so please find out what I need. Salt is only one of the minerals I need, and horse salt blocks aren’t sufficient for me.

8) I need shade, enough to lie down in to comfortably chew my cud--trees or a shed, I’m not picky.

9) Think about pests. Flies really bug me. They bite my udder and teats and can give me mastitis or pink eye. Please control the flies! Sometimes I get worms, even though you may never see them. Try to rotate my pastures, and take fecal samples to the vet twice a year. He will tell you what wormer to use for me.

10) I need vaccinations against various diseases and probably a rumen magnet, too.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

11)  Think about my love life.  When I'm in the MOOOd for love, I can bellow loudly, day and night!  If I don't have secure fences, I just might go looking for love in all the wrong places.  I won't produce milk indefinitely; I'll eventually need a new calf, which means either getting a bull, sending me off to a bull, or AI.  How will that work with milking me?  

12) If I should get sick or hurt, PLEASE call the vet if it’s beyond your skill! I can have calving problems, mastitis, milk fever, ketosis, bloat or other things that could permanently hurt or even kill me. If you want me to take care of your family and provide you milk and meat, please care for me in return.

13) And finally, if I’m ever suffering from sickness or injury or old age and not even the vet can help me, PLEASE give me the final gift of love, a peaceful death.

Now let me tell you what I will do for you . . .

1) I will look beautiful in your pasture, giving you joy just by being there.

2) I will give you a calf every year and raise it for you.

3) I will give you affection in return for scratches.

4) I will teach your children responsibility and where their food comes from.

5) I will keep you in tune with nature and the cycle of life.

6) I will give you manure to compost for your garden.

7) I will keep your pastures and your lawn mowed.

8) I will let you be the boss of me--or at least let you think you are.

9) I will give you a reason to get up and go outside every day.

10) I will even be your friend and companion, if you so wish.

11) With care and good management I will share with you the milk that God intended for my calf.   I will not begrudge it, but will give it generously.

12) And when my life is over, I will feed you one last time if you so desire

. . . for I am a cow.

I, the undersigned, do agree and covenant to fulfill my responsibilities toward you, my owner—

The Cow

Will you, Future Cow Owner, agree and covenant to fulfill your responsibilities toward me?  If you do, I have one favor to ask:  Before you bring me home, please buy a copy of Keeping a Family Cow, by Joann S. Grohman and read it from cover to cover!


  1. I don't normally post comments, however your "If Cows Could Talk, Here's What They Would Say . . ." article is outstanding!!! BRAVO!

    Legend Rock Ranch

    1. Aww, Barbara, you are SO sweet! Thank you so much! I feel a lot better since my cows got this off my chest! ;)

  2. I think the cows would tell us to eat more chicken:) great post Susan I can use this information.

    1. Very funny, Gordon--I'm sure they would! I'm glad you can use the information.

  3. Awesome Susan, well presented and beautiful pictures to go along.

    1. Thank you so much, Copperhead, it was so sweet of you to take the time to comment here. :) As for the pictures--I can't miss with such good models. ;)

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Matron of Husbandry! That means a lot coming from you!

  5. Taking my hat off to you, excellent !

    1. Aw, thank you, Elnini! It means so much to hear from my fellow Dexter breeders and fellow Keeping a Family Cow friends!

  6. Dear Susan, this is one of your finer blogs I think. I also think you love those tiny cattle. I am from North Georgia and am looking for a permanent change out of Arabia. Where do you live and would you recommend that area for a small farm?

    Rich in the Mecca Province.

    1. Thank you so much, Rich! I appreciate the encouragement. And yes, I do love my little cattle! I would definitely recommend this area for a small farm. Can you use the "Contact Susan" form to send me your email and I'll be glad to give you some more information about this area.


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