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  • Writer's pictureJane Wheeler

The Reluctant Farmer

Cattle farming is a true art. We have 8 cows (only 7 in this picture). 7 Steers and 1 Heifer called Starlette (we have only named 4 of them).

I confess that I am a reluctant farmer, it was never on my "must do" list: ever.

I had no idea we knew so many people who either have raised cattle or have cattle now, it’s kind of freaky how many people we know who have cattle experience. Their knowledge is a treasure chest of information, they did not have the information highway back then so it was the trial and error and they learned what works and what does not.

Then there are the complete strangers who you do not know but will help you out. We had to try to find treatment for pink eye for one of the cows. The local vets are not taking new clients, so we went to the Coop Agriculture store. We had no idea what we were looking for. Brian spotted a Mennonite fellow (by the way he was dressed) in the first aid isle of the livestock department. So, he asked him about our cow.

This fellow knew immediately from our described symptoms what we needed, except they stopped selling it over the counter a couple of years ago. Such a nice man, he went out of his way to help us, looking up and down all the isles and ended up phoning a friend and in the end, he text us his vets name and number.

Another fellow we talked to said – “oh that’s easy use carnation evaporated milk” – that is what he said and it had to be carnation. I even looked it up – it is a thing! The thing of it is you have to squirt it into the cow’s eye or if you use the powder, you have to get it right in there. So by saying “that’s easy” he was not meaning the method, simply the product. Now our cows are not small, they are big guys – the smallest being about 900 lbs. You do not want to tick off a 900 lb animal.

We have managed to get some good squirts in the eye, the cow hates it of course and prances and bolts away but the eye is looking better and there has been no harm or foul done on our part or on his. I feel kind of silly trying to “psych” out a cow by approaching it with a spray bottle of milk hidden in my jacket.

Brian and I went to check on the cows one day on the quad. He suggested I turn off the quad and sit there and wait for the cows to come over to see how close they would get. I will admit that these big boys (and girl) intimidate me by their sheer size. So, this one guy, Brian calls him “Brisket” wanders over to us. I am starting to get nervous as he gets closer. I whisper to Brian that if he gets any closer, I am starting the quad for an escape. He encourages me to wait. Brisket gets about 6’ away – I start the quad. Well, if that does not send the old boy into a kangaroo type of hopping up and down. Terrified I hit the gas and got us out of there. I told Brian that I did not appreciate getting that close to those cows.

The next day Brian tells me that Brisket got really close to him – then Brisket proceeded to bite my quad! Good thing I was not there I might have been tempted to take Brisket down for that one even if he is the biggest one we have.

Other questions we have had to ask others about our cows:

- Do cows eat wild roses? No they do not, but we were hoping. Then a wise farmer said to put the salt block in amongst the wild roses and the animals will trample them down eventually killing them.

- What kind of grain to use to fatten them up? Corn, Barley

- Best way to keep mice out of the grain? (besides putting the bags in my car). I now think we have a bear hanging around looking for the grain and of course Mocha seems to like to munch on the grain as well.

- How are we going to get these cows into a trailer to take them to the butcher shop next month? Two of our cows almost killed the poor guy who loaded them up to bring them here. Imagine our shock when a total stranger has offered us his cow panels to use to load the cows into the trailer when it is time, such a kind gesture. I'll keep you posted on how this goes the end of next month. (Want to buy some beef? Let me know).

- Do we let the cows go into the dugout for water? We were told that cows can suffer from hoof disease or can get stuck in the mud of a dugout, so we now pump water into a water tank for them. I can assure you that I will not be climbing into a dugout to try to push a stuck cow out of the mud – not this girl.

We are now feeding the cows’ grain; the cows have gone from ignoring our presence and running away from us to standing at the gate and “mooing” for more. Brian has even pet them now. I prefer not to be the cow feeder person as I still do not wish to be that close to them. When Brian now enters the field, the cows come to meet him, and we do not have to try to get close as they crowd around that feeder expectantly waiting.

My biggest pet peeve is the cow poop. Seriously! There is a lot of it, and it is everywhere in the field. I am the fence checker; this means I ride around on my new quad to check the fence. I often miss large areas of the fence because I am distracted and disgusted trying to dodge the cow paddy’s that adorn our field. Did I mention that it is a new quad and I do not have running water to hose the cling-ons off the tires or sides of the quad? I no longer bring Mocha to the cow field because she is not cow savvy and just wants to run and chase them thinking she is playing until she finds a paddy and then I won’t tell you what she does. Let’s just say it’s gross.

I am still amazed that 8 very large cows can hide in the trees so well that I cannot find them. Sometimes I have to check around the field twice to make sure they are still there – those are extra cow paddy days.

I had no idea cows are perimeter walkers. They walk around the fence line daily – you can follow the trail they make. Being herd animals, they like to stick together, usually if you find one, you will find all 8 of them.

I think for us, in our first time having cows, having larger animals works better. These big animals will make a predator think twice before attacking, they will not be easy prey. Not sure if that means they will come for me and Mocha up at the trailer instead…just saying, I chased a bear down the driveway with the car yesterday.

Yes, we are definitely newbie cow farmers, but we are so blessed to have some many wonderful fellow farmers to glean advice and knowledge from.

If you see us driving “Old Blue” our farm truck with the water tank in the back, expect to see “the farmer wave” from Brian. He tootles along and does this 3 finger wave thing that he now gives most people. I asked him about it and he said that now that we are farmers, it is farmer code and the farmer way of a salutation, I gave him an eye roll and have never personally done the farmer wave. But then again, I did not ever think I would have cows either…..

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