Jan. 26 2023 08:00 AM

One cow on our farm holds a particularly special place in my heart.

As farmers, we understand that things don’t last forever. We have seen firsthand that with life, there is death. Humility and humanity have taught us to not allow suffering or pain amongst our herds and crops. Even in the fields, we know it would be better to till a damaged piece of ground and try to start again than to let it lay barren and forgotten. Yes, we as farmers know when and how to let go, but sometimes, you just can’t.

On December 1, 2007, we had a little heifer calf born named Dison. Dison and I were best friends. She was always there when I needed her and followed me everywhere. Every time she had a calf, she’d show me, and every time I got out of school, she’d be waiting. On December 7, 2014, Dison had what would be her last calf — a little heifer named Trigger. A week later, Dison would pass, and Trigger and I would quickly become a dynamic duo.

I was home from college for winter break when Dison passed. After her passing, I spent every free second of the day curled up in Trigger’s calf hutch. She and I would sleep next to each other or run around the farm jumping and playing. As she grew older, playing became a lot more painful on my end. She loved to head butt me and chase me down, and don’t even get me started about the feed bucket. Lord help your soul if you walked by her with a five-gallon bucket; her nose would be in it faster than a bolt of lightning. The camaraderie she and I shared isn’t something most would ever find.

At 8 years old, Trigger is still my best friend. Though she now weighs close to 2,000 pounds, she’s a gentle giant. We still play while she waits to be milked, although I do have to find escape routes to avoid her huge head and body. She’s been a constant in my life for 8 years and has become known as “the cow that won’t be sold.” Everyone knows her and the unspoken agreement between my dad, granddad, and me.

Trigger will stay here. I’m not heartless and know that if she were in pain, sick, or her quality of life was otherwise not where it should be, then I’d make the right call. She’s my best friend and deserves the best of the best of my abilities in everything she does. So, she remains the cow that won’t be sold, and will remain here for as long as she can, which means a lot more head butts, head scratches, and love for my big Tiggy Monster.

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.