Cattle Characteristics Put the Fun in Cattle Ranching

How different the world would be without cattle ranching and cows heading home to the barn.


| March/April 2010



Herd of Colorful Angus

Grazing peacefully, a herd of cattle prefer eating to politics.

iStockphoto.com/Michaela Steininger

I admire cows the way other people like dogs, cats, horses or even goats.

Some folks rave about the beauty of the maples turning color in New England, or a grove of golden aspens in Colorado. I see the same beauty in a herd of purebred Herefords grazing on a lush, green hillside, or a golden field of cornstalks peppered with a group of Black Angus. I like to watch Holsteins waiting in line outside a dairy parlor. And I get a big kick out of those cattle-drive reenactments where cowboys trail Texas Longhorns down Main Street during the annual Pioneer Days celebration.   

Lots of people think there’s nothing cuter than a litter of puppies or kittens. I feel the same way about a newborn calf standing on wobbly legs, learning to suckle at its mother’s udder. And, to my way of thinking, watching a cow quietly chewing her cud has the same calming effect as chanting a mantra on a yoga mat.

Cattle are sociable animals and seem to enjoy one another’s company every bit as much as a group of old friends at a bridge party. Granted, every herd has at least one sociopath … the cow that stands alone at the far end of the range while the rest of the herd gathers around the water tank. But as far as I know, cows don’t start wars, they don’t look for ways to cheat other cows, and they don’t seem to discriminate against one another. Black Angus and white Charlais seem perfectly content to share the pasture with Herefords or Jerseys or black whiteface crossbreds.

Barring a stampede caused by a thunderstorm, most cows are better behaved than a room full of first-graders. Not only do they solemnly walk single file behind the herd boss to the feed bunk, they know their place in line. Every dairy cow in the country knows if she’s the third, 10th or 20th cow to be milked.

Cows tend to be good mothers. Like some other animal species, cows will take turns at watching the spring calves while the rest of the group is off grazing, and they are fully prepared to take on a predator looking for an easy meal. If a calf happens to become orphaned, another mother cow with plenty of milk can generally be persuaded to let the orphan suckle.





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