Feb. 9 2023 08:00 AM

Our cows have personalities that make working with them more interesting and only occasionally more difficult.

Most of the time, once calves are a few days old, they are full of sass. I’ve had calves throw their head, turn away from me, and lift their tails, while others just outright “roll their eyes.” I attribute this mostly to their mother’s disposition, but usually, they grow out of this stage. However, some never do.

Buddy is a seven-year-old cow on the farm. I have written about her antics in the past, but it’s about time I broke down why her behavior has become sensational. Buddy was born premature. Her lungs were not fully formed, and she developed respiratory issues at 3 days old. Several antibiotics and much time and money were spent in order to make her comfortable. After three weeks of constant treatment, we opened the panel of her hutch and let her roam.

In hindsight, letting her roam worked. She got better and, although she was small, she eventually was bred, conceived, calved, and became an intricate part of the farm.

However, letting her roam meant she got away with extra bites of grain and the freedom to go anywhere and do anything, and it gave her an ego. As a milk cow, Buddy will roll her eyes, give you a “cold shoulder,” completely walk away, and take whatever you have out of your hand.

The other morning, I started chores earlier than usual due to a doctor’s appointment I had to get to. When I went to get the cows out of the barn for milking, Buddy was sound asleep. I went up to her and shook her, and she shot me one of the dirtiest looks I have ever received. It was a mix of “what the heck do you want” and “how dare you wake me.” She is definitely not a morning cow. She slowly rose and continued to cut her eyes hard at me as I waited for her to migrate to the parlor.

It was in that moment that I realized that Buddy and I are not much different. We both can be as sassy as the other. We both hate being woken up, and we both give looks when we are done with people or cows. She must have learned it from watching me. All I can say is, it’s not as much fun when a cow has just as much sass as you.

Courtney Henderson

The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.