Dairy cow story or a lot of bull? My B.S. meter is flashing...
I always shake my head when people say "horses can't feel jealousy! horses can't feel love!" I'm not sure about either one of those and maybe just am happier skewing observations the way I'd like to see them.
But this story has raised a whole lotta skepticism. What say you? (Note-everything below the line of *** has been pasted in from a single FaceBook post, including the links, etc.)
A TOUCHING TALE OF A "DAIRY" COW TOLD BY A VET
A "dairy" cow made the tough choice to hide one of her calves after giving birth to twins. As her fifth birth,
the cow remembered her previous agony and knew that both of her babies
would be taken away unless she tried to save one. The intelligence and
care displayed by this mothering cow is both heartbreaking and
breathtaking. Told by Dr. Holly Cheever, read this touching tale about
an amazing display of motherly love that proves animals love and feel.
Dr. Holly Cheever graduated from Harvard University, summa cum laude, in
1971 and from The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University
in 1980 with a class rank of #1. She has been in private practice ever
''I would like to tell you a story that is as true as
it is heartbreaking. When I first graduated from Cornell’s School of
Veterinary Medicine, I went into a busy dairy practice in Cortland
County. I became a very popular practitioner due to my gentle handling
of the 'dairy' cows. One of my clients called me one day with a puzzling
mystery: his Brown Swiss cow, having delivered her fifth calf naturally
on pasture the night before, brought the new baby to the barn and was
put into the milking line, while her calf was once again removed from
her. Her udder, though, was completely empty and remained so for several
As a new mother, she would normally be producing close
to one hundred pounds (12.5 gallons) of milk daily; yet despite the fact
that she was glowing with health, her udder remained empty. She went
out to pasture every morning after the first milking, returned for
milking in the evening and again was let out to pasture for the night —
this was back in the days when cattle were permitted a modicum of
pleasure and natural behaviors in their lives — but never was her udder
swollen with the large quantities of milk that are the hallmark of a
I was called to check this mystery cow two
times during the first week after her delivery and could find no
solution to this puzzle. Finally, on the eleventh day post calving, the
farmer called me with the solution: he had followed the cow out to her
pasture after her morning milking and discovered the cause: she had
delivered twins and in a bovine’s “Sophie’s Choice,” she had brought one
to the farmer and kept one hidden in the woods at the edge of her
pasture so that every day and every night, she stayed with her baby —
the first she had been able to nurture FINALLY— and her calf nursed her
dry with gusto. Though I pleaded for the farmer to keep her and her bull
calf together, she lost this baby, too — off to the hell of the veal
crate. [Organic, small-scale, local, family-owned, humane-certified or
not, dairy farmers kill the male babies]
Think for a moment of
the complex reasoning this mama exhibited: first, she had memory —
memory of her four previous losses in which bringing her new calf to the
barn resulted in her never seeing him/her again (heartbreaking for any
mammalian mother). Second, she could formulate and then execute a plan:
if bringing a calf to the farmer meant that she would inevitably lose
him/her then she would keep her calf hidden, as deer do, by keeping her
baby in the woods lying still till she returned. Third — and I do not
know what to make of this myself — instead of hiding both, which would
have aroused the farmer’s suspicion (pregnant cow leaves the barn in the
evening, unpregnant cow comes back the next morning without offspring),
she gave him one and kept one herself. I cannot tell you how she knew
to do this — it would seem more likely that a desperate mother would
All I know is this: there is a lot more going on
behind those beautiful eyes than we humans have ever given them credit
for, and as a mother who was able to nurse all four of my babies and did
not have to suffer the agonies of losing my beloved offspring, I feel
I believe my pony gets jealous and because of it gets turnout by herself. One day I went to bring her in and she came up as normal but then spun around and went after the other mare. She then approached me again but then took off after the poor mare again. This was her bestest buddy and it looked like she was going to run her through a fence! I left the pasture and she finally stopped and waited by the gate for me.
Recently I started working with another little pony and my other one will just stand and stare at us. I wonder what she is plotting
BS. Not because cattle don't think, but because they don't plan like that. Beef cows and heritage breeds make excellent mothers. Dairy cows are a mixed bag because they get accustomed to their calves being separated at birth. That part is true. Dairy calves are not very vigorous because they have not been bred to have strong calves. They are bred to produce milk.
I worked on a dairy farm as a calf feeder and our maternity area had many mamas giving birth. Most would show limited interest and walk away. A few gems would come by and help me clean off the new baby while I bottle fed it. The new babies would bond with me and other people right away. This helped make them easy going dairy cows. Did you know that a dairy cow that isn't stressed will give more milk during milking? Dairies are very picky about who actually works in the milking parlor because if the ladies don't like him or her, their production goes down. They also get very agitated. About the worst thing you can do is to mess with them while they are going into the milking parlor. Each cow has her spot in line and her stanchion. If one gets out of order, none of the ladies are happy.
Regarding this story, twining in cattle is very rare. Most often, one calf is weaker. Cows have their schedule. Mama went to the barn to feed or be milked, probably called her weaker baby several times but the baby wasn't ready to go that far yet. Farmer took the newborn calf that was with her and she went back to check on the weaker one. Sometimes, my cows, usually a first time heifer, will come in to eat soon after calving and then return to check on their calf. They are usually nervous and anxious about their calf while they are eating. My best cows stay with their calves because I will bring their breakfast to them, check the calf, and dip it's navel.
I raise Irish Dexters, the smallest breed of cattle (hence my name) and all my cows will let me handle their newborn calves. I can also halter and lead them in from the pasture easier than many people's horses.
Most cows will feel a loss regardless of whether or not they nurse or clean their babies. Dairy cows are not as maternal, so it might show it as much.
Most mama cows, (I used to work at several large ranches out west) will mourn, even their stillborn calf, for about a day. The best thing to do is to put her in a pen with the dead calf for a day so she can realize that he isn't getting up. The call they make is one of the saddest sounds on a farm. I've only had one cow lose her calf at birth (he was stepped on). She hollered for three days and I couldn't take it anymore so I went down to our local dairy and paid $15 for a two day old bull calf (Holstein). She accepted him and stopped hollering, finally. After a few months, it was pretty funny to see this big black and white Holstein nursing from his shorter, pure dun, adopted mama. He was castrated, dehorned, and we named him Porterhouse. We fed him out until he was an 18 month old steer. He was a big butthead by then. He was quite tasty, though.
A cow's bag has four quarters.
Even a beef cow, when calving, is giving more milk than a newborn can handle.
When you check calving cows, you have to watch to be sure the calf, as it gets older and stronger in the first few days, does nurse his mother out all around.
If a calf doesn't use all quarters, keeps missing a quarter, maybe one that is harder than the others, it can become plugged and dysfunctional.
It happens rarely, but you have to watch for it and interfere, get the cow in and milk her out until the calf can take it all.
The cow may even lose that quarter completely, some times even two quarters, where they become big and draggy and next year, the next newborn can't handle it at all again.
A milk cow has much more milk production than a beef cow, their bag is even bigger, so much that, if you keep a milk cow for the family, not to milk for commercial production to sell the milk, one family generally can't use all that milk.
Many times that extra milk is fed to pigs or draft one or two calves to the cow to clean her out after the family gets a bucket full for the kitchen at each milking.
My point with this information, it would be extremely rare that one milk cow was "nursed out" by a newborn, much less a newborn twin.
That alone tells you the story is the figment of someone's imagination, that really doesn't know cows, or thinks no one in it's audience does.
Our little Dexters are dual purpose and ideal for small farms so they make excellent family milk cows. All the heifers I have sold are working. Several are used to make gourmet cheese. They produce enough milk to share milk (leave calf with cow most of the time).
That is very true about nursing all quarters. The big dairy cows make far too much for a calf to drink.
BS BS BS BS
A cow will naturally try and hide a calf if they are given the opportunity. It had nothing to do with her remembering the previous calves being separated after birth. Cows really don't have that power of reason. Odds are the bull calf had something wrong with it and couldn't follow.
2 days after freshening a Brown Swiss could be giving 50lbs of milk a day or more. That is over 6 gallons. Unless she had given birth to Babe the Blue Ox there is no way on God' green earth that a single calf was sucking her dry.
There were several other inaccuracies in that little fabrication.
We have two Brown Swiss milk cows-no way could either one of them get remotely drained by one calf. We share our milk with the calf through-out and still get 2-3 gallons per daily milking. A black angus easily keeps up with twins or even triplets in the case of a rancher friend's "litter" two years ago.
"the hell of the veal crate"? LOL goodness. This is a Bambi story, it's a story for young lactating human mothers to get them all upset. It has only its small toe based in reality-that a cow could have twins and it might MIGHT take the owner a little while to figure out there was still a calf in the pasture. Cows are excellent mamas but they aren't humans.
Cows are smarter than many think. We live next to a dairy. Sometimes the young heifers will break through the hedgerow and we find a small herd in our meadow. After a while I will see them all find their way back through the hedgerow in the same place they came through originally. Sensibly. The horses on the other hand if they break through the hedgerow will run wildly up and down the fenceline past the place where they broke through originally. I have always been amazed by this....the horses always need assistance to get back into their own field. the cows never do!!!
"Over the Hill?? What Hill, Where?? I don't remember any hill!!!" Favorite Tee Shirt