I really admire the farmers and ranchers who have found an additional income stream through what is being called "agritourism." From the dairy in Indiana that welcomes tens of thousands of paying visitors each year to watch cows being milked, fed and cared for to the ranch out West where guests pay big bucks to help round up cattle, just like people did in the 1800s. In between, you can find farms that offer corn maze adventures, pumpkin-picking opportunities and Christmas tree cutting — to give you the old-time experience of cutting and dragging home your own tree, complete with eggnog and fresh cookies at the end of the excursion — all with a healthy price tag.
Just last week, I read an article about a couple who gave up their high-paying jobs in the city and purchased a small farm in upstate New York, where they opened a quaint bed and breakfast. They happened to also purchase a couple of older, very gentle, barren cows that became quite the attraction for the people staying there.
To make a long story short, the entrepreneurs decided to offer "cow cuddling" with the two older bovines for their guests. For only $75 per hour, the guests can go out in the pasture to pet and brush the beasts, feed them from their hands, and even lie down under a shade tree with them. The waiting list for this activity is booked solid for the next few months! Not surprisingly, this got me to thinking …
I’ve got quite a few cows, and over the years I have culled them down to a pretty docile bunch. With a little work and training, I believe I could have most of them gentled down to the point that they would eat range cubes out of the hands of paying customers. With even more work, I think they would even let you pet and brush them. I don't know about lying down under a shade tree with them, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't mind if the guests swam or waded with them in the pond where they spend most of every afternoon escaping the heat and flies.
Heck, if I could even get close to the amount the New York couple is receiving, it could add thousands of dollars to my farm income each year — and might even make it show a profit for a change. Of course, I would have to do something with old No. 43.
No. 43 is a black cow with one stub horn, a white spot right between her eyes, and an attitude that needs to be adjusted. When I attempted to tag her newborn this past spring, she appeared out of nowhere and "cuddled" me right into an oak tree beside her baby. Somehow, I managed to get up and she proceeded to "“cuddle" me again, this time into a barbed-wire fence. If I hadn’t been able to roll under the fence, I'm certain she would have "cuddled" me into a shallow grave there in the mud.
Of course, there will always be guests who are looking for more adventure and risk than petting an old cow. You know the ones — those who want to bungee jump, skydive or climb a rock wall. I could put No. 43 in a pasture by herself and offer "extreme cow cuddling" for, let’s say … $95 per hour.
Crownover lives in Missouri.