It’s just a cow . . . but it’s not just a cow. The importance of our duty as caretaker to the ladies within our herds is not lost on me. They provide quality nutrition though the milk they produce and are only able to do that when each individual is cared for in the best way possible. That includes quality feed monitored by a nutritionist, fresh water, veterinarian care when needed — and a head scratch here and there! We all do our best every day to make sure their every need is met.
Some days, that’s making the hardest choice of all in the interest of their welfare: to send them to greener pastures. It feels even harder when that choice must be made for a favorite, those special bovines who somehow work their way into that spot reserved in our hearts.
Sometimes it’s the great cows that earn the distinction as favorite. They’re the ones that blow us away with their production and form; they’re show cows who, due to extra time spent together, just earn their place in the favorite category.
Other times, it’s a slower process that might sneak up on us. A personality — for better or worse — has us spending more time with an individual cow, or a hard event such as injury or illness has us willing for recovery and the spark of life restored.
Somehow, those special favorite bovines find that spot reserved just for them in our hearts. Ask any old timer or ex-dairy farmer and I guarantee they still have fond memories of their favorite cows. Having favorites is just a part of the deal with dairy farming, just as saying goodbye is the part we never look forward to facing.
To the favorites: may they grace our herds and hearts as a reminder of our love for this dairy life.
The author is a third-generation dairy farmer from Oregon where she farms in partnership with her husband and parents. As a mother of young sons who round out the family-run operation as micro managers, Darleen blogs about the three generations of her family working together at Guernsey Dairy Mama. Abiqua Acres Mann's Guernsey Dairy is currently home to 90 registered Guernseys and transitioned to a robotic milking system in 2017.