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Is there anything more frustrating than moving a cow to a place she doesn’t want to go?

Ginger Rowsey, Senior writer

April 15, 2022

2 Min Read
cow calf pair
A protective mama with her calf.DFP Staff

I recently spent the better part of an afternoon helping corral a loose cow. The cow and her calf escaped from their pen at a local 4-H event. I guess the grass looked greener in the neighboring subdivision. 

Considering the lay of the land, there was really no good way to push the pair back. And it certainly didn’t help that most of the “cowboys” were 4-H parents like me who are “slightly” past their prime. To my knowledge, none of us had attended a Temple Grandin cattle handling training. 

It also didn’t help that the cow just didn’t want to go back in that pen. Several times we thought we had her, only to watch her suddenly turn in the opposite direction and hit the gaps with all she had. 

I’m sure you’ve been there. Is there anything more frustrating than moving a cow to a place she doesn’t want to go? I saw a meme once that said, “If a cow gets out of your pasture, and the only person there to help you is your spouse, shoot the cow and save the marriage.” That’s a little extreme … maybe. 

Long story short, the cow and calf were eventually successfully corralled. We kept them off the highway. No one was hurt. No property damaged. And the pair was promptly loaded, not in the pen, but back in the trailer where they seemed perfectly content. 

As we caught our breath and began the post-game analysis, someone asked if that cow had a high hair whorl, which is a good indicator in cattle of an animal that is easily agitated.  

She certainly wasn’t very cooperative, but I want to give the cow the benefit of the doubt. She was in a new place with unfamiliar people, and I’m sure she was scared. She also had her calf to protect, and in that she was extremely vigilant. Separating the pair was a strategy briefly, but we weren’t getting between this mama and her calf. 

Sometimes the best mothers are not the most docile animals in the herd. Calm temperaments have been prized by the beef industry — and for good reason. A calm temperament has been proven to increase weight gain and improve meat quality. Besides, no one wants to work with wild cows. And as urban sprawl brings more people and traffic to the farm’s edge, aggressive cattle are truly a liability. 

But there is a difference between aggression and vigilance. The ideal mother would never be dangerously aggressive toward people, but not so docile that she would not protect her calf when needed. 

It’s funny the similarities between humans and animals. I know some sweet-natured moms who can also get protective quickly when it comes to their offspring. Of course, there are also those humans among us that seem to be sporting a high hair whorl. 

About the Author(s)

Ginger Rowsey

Senior writer

Ginger Rowsey joined Farm Press in 2020, bringing more than a decade of experience in agricultural communications. Her previous experiences include working in marketing and communications with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. She also worked as a local television news anchor with the ABC affiliate in Jackson, Tennessee.

Rowsey grew up on a small beef cattle farm in Lebanon, Tennessee. She holds a degree in Communications from Middle Tennessee State University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She now resides in West Tennessee with her husband and two daughters.

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