The Secret to Happy Cows

This past weekend my brother forwarded me an email he received from a coworker.  He knows how much I love my lifestyle and the animals I care for and thought he should share it with me.  I’m glad he did.  The letter made me realize how much we need America’s farmers and ranchers to continue sharing OUR story.  We need to share on a daily basis and do our best to reach consumers of all backgrounds – both urban and rural.

The lady who wrote this email is well educated, as she is an engineer in California.  She thought she was witnessing animal cruelty everyday as she drove to work during the winter.   It bothered her so much she wrote a letter to her human resources director, hoping he would fix the problem.  She wrote “no matter how cold it was combined with wind and rain, cows and horses were forced to endure the weather with no form of shelter.”  She thought it would be nice to “not” be subjected to witness animal cruelty on her drive to work during the winter months.

Were these happy cows?  Let me explain.

Happy cows don’t come from just California!  They are not limited to any part of the country.  They come in all colors and sizes.  Happy cows are all over our country!

I am very passionate about the cattle my husband and I care for.  We have a large responsibility making sure all our animals are well taken care of.   This is a 365 day a year job.  We don’t get weekends or holidays off.   Ice needs chopped and the cattle and horses need fed before any gifts can be opened Christmas morning, and this includes winter storms, blowing snow and freeze-your-nostrils-shut wind chills.  We don’t have regular sleep patterns during calving or haying season.

As farmers and ranchers, we do everything possible to make sure our animals are comfortable during all types of weather.  This includes bedding them with straw or another source of forage during cold weather.  We also provide shelter belts, which are long rows of trees planted with the purpose of providing a windbreak and lessening the wind, and also building permanent shelter when possible.

This shelterbelt, or windbreak, provides protection from the harsh elements around our calving barn. This shelterbelt protects the animals from the north and west winds.

There are some species of farm animals that benefit from year round housing in manmade buildings.   America’s poultry and pork farmers do a fantastic job providing year round housing for their animals.  These animals are in a climate controlled building designed with the highest degree of engineering for their comfort.  They are safe from freezing temperatures during the winter, the scorching sun during the summer and all the weather Mother Nature gives us between those seasons.   These buildings are designed to keep the animals safe from predators and disease as well, including those harbored by wildlife.

There are situations where cattle are housed inside.  Dairy cows are housed in freestall barns.  These barns are state of the art buildings where the animals comfort is number one priority.  The cows can mingle around the barn.  They can eat, drink and lay down when they choose.  Typically, they are bedded with sand in the stall area.  Sand is an excellent bedding choice for cattle barns.   It provides cushion, traction, and support at the time when the cow most needs it.  Think soft mattress for a cow!

Our calving barn is bedded with sand.  It is easy to clean (a good thing, because I don’t enjoy mucking stalls!) and most importantly, doesn’t harbor bacteria like a dirt floor will.  The harsh cold can make it hard for a mama cow to lick her calf dry and keep it warm.  Farmers and ranchers bring newborn calves and their mothers into a calving barn during winter months to dry the calf and keep it warm during winter months.  If a barn isn’t available, it isn’t unusual to find a newborn calf in the house or pickup if a calf is chilled and needs a jumpstart.  If you visit with very many farmers or ranchers, you will find they probably have either had a calf in the pickup or house.  And that includes us!

A newborn calf is licked dry in our calving barn. It will remain inside the barn during the night, protected from the winter weather outside.

Cattle and horses are most comfortable with temperatures between 25 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  Farmers and ranchers know this.  Our California friend did not know this, as she doesn’t make a living taking care of animals.  When we walk outside in the morning and need a coat, a cow is most comfortable.  They have multiple layers of insulation and hair that keep them comfortable during different temperatures, including the cold and wind.  Good thing the cold weather follows the sweet treats and big dinners of the Holidays for us humans because we will have more insulation to keep us warm going into the cold weather of January and February!

Newborn calves lay not far from their watchful mothers in a bed of straw. The tarp is used as a windbreak to protect them from harsh Nebraska winter winds.

When given the option of a shelter or pasture during a storm, most horses and cows will choose the pasture.  They feel most comfortable in a natural environment.  They will scout out a tree or a hill to block some of the wind.  If no natural protection is available, they will stand with their heads down and tails to the wind.  These animals have survived centuries without manmade shelters.  My horses would much rather stand outside during a storm even when given the option of a shelter.  Sometimes I don’t understand why they would want to stay outside.  But if they weren’t happy, why would they stay outside during a storm?

So what is the secret to happy cows?  The secret is the endless hours of hard work America’s farmers and ranchers do to provide a comfortable environment for their animals.  Whether the animals are housed inside or outside, we know what is best for our animals.  Thank a farmer or rancher today!

Herbie Husker and Little Red, my pasture ornaments as Troy calls them, lead cows into a night calving trap. The cows are locked in at night so it is easier to find newborn calves during night checks. They are turned out during the day.

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About Husker Cowgirl

I am a ranchers wife, regional sales manager for Turnkey Computer Systems feedyard accounting software and an avid Husker fan. I am passionate about agriculture and especially beef cattle. My husband and I do things on our ranch the old fashioned way - using horses. I also enjoy taking my horses to town and competing with them at local, state and national events on the weekends.
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2 Responses to The Secret to Happy Cows

  1. farmnwife says:

    Hi, Meghan. I would love to have you as featured farmer at http://farmnwife.com . If you would like this use the contact page to let me know. thanks

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