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Close calls at calving time

Bow Creek Chronicles: Being lifted into the air by an angry mother cow is something you don’t forget.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

June 20, 2024

3 Min Read
cow and calf
RESPECT: After running for my life multiple times over the years in the calving pasture or pen, I have learned to respect mother cows and their ability to cause me harm.Farm Progress

All I wanted to do was tag her calf. But on that day, things did not go as planned.

I crept up to this rather large Hereford-cross cow that had just dropped her calf into the world and onto the ground in our calving pen, directly adjacent to a round bale feeder.

This cow was normally as docile as could be, so I didn’t worry about her temperament as I moved closer to her calf to place a tag in its ear.

Then, I made a mortal mistake. I turned my back on this new mother, crouching down toward her calf to place the tag. As I bent down, between the mother cow and her newborn calf, the mother lunged at me, catching my backside under her head and lifting me at least 4 or 5 feet into the air.

Stunned, I fortunately landed on my feet and climbed, quite quickly, into the empty bale feeder. She pawed around the bale feeder, snorting and bellowing out her dismay at my presence inside the calving pen. This cow, which you could almost scratch on the head on any other day, had turned on a dime and decided that I was an invader and not to be trusted.

Luckily for me, the calf got up and ran toward another corner of the pen. I jumped out of the bale feeder and got out of the pen before she could notice me again.

No injuries, but perhaps a little loss of pride.

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More recent encounter

Usually, cows that acted that way during calving time for us were the first ones to get a ride to the sale barn when it came time to cull the herd. But somehow, this mother cow had made it through the cut.

That said, this is just one small example of the numerous times over the years when I had been chased into the truck cab or across a barbed wire fence or cattle panels, running for my life from an angry cow. While most of our cows were very good mothers, yet not dangerous, the ones who took my presence more seriously were the ones I remember most.

I hadn’t been chased in years until last spring, when another of our tame, home-raised cows gave me a surprise. She and her calf broke out of our calving pasture and grazed on their own around the farmstead. After noticing their breakout, I opened the gate and began chasing the calf toward the pen where they were supposed to be.

Surprisingly, the old cow came up from behind me and knocked me down, rolling me on the ground, as her calf continued to run in the wrong direction. I got to my feet, redirected the calf again, and once again I felt the cow on my heels. After four tries, and being completely out of breath myself, I was able to corner the calf against another panel and get it into the pen, with the cow running behind.

I learned a couple of things from this close call. I am not as fast as I once was, and I bruise a little easier too. And you can never trust a cow with a baby calf, even if you think they are tame and friendly. I won’t forget those two lessons. You can count on that.

Questions or comments, email me at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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