With a dozen calves already born and one more to come, I have much to be thankful for this year. All the newborns are alive and some even have new homes. This year, people across the country bought babies and young cows from Miles Smith Farm.
Crystal from North Carolina bought Grace, 2, as a companion for the only Scottish Highlander she already has. Doug from Vermont has two work horses but wanted two heifers he could breed and bond with. Lily from Colorado bought a heifer and a bull for her “backyard”. Sally took Elsie and Molly to her house because she loves cattle. The demand for cute and cuddly Scottish cows and calves is extraordinary. Adopting a cow is not quite the same as adopting a dog or a cat, but the goal is the same; have a pet that provides support and acceptance. Pets, even cattle, are non-judgmental and can calm a stressful day. All they need is food, protection from predators, and discipline, and they will do almost anything we ask of them, well, almost anything.
The other day we were loading cattle into the cattle trailer for a short trip to join the cattle grazing in our remote Audubon pasture owned by St. Paul’s School. Hope, an older cow, decided she didn’t want to get in the trailer. With time and patience, I’m sure she will end up being a willing passenger in our “Cow Taxi”, but she didn’t want anything to do with it that day. She and her calf are still on the farm eating hay, not rich green grass.
I bought Hope pregnant in the spring, so she never had the hands-on training that we give to all calves born on the farm. Early training is the key to raising livestock that will be good support animals. (No, you can’t take them on a plane.)
Not all cows benefit from the program. Some, like Christa, might never accept me as a partner. While it is easier to train a calf, older cows can also be educated. But it takes longer. For her first three years, Christa and her grazing partner Ruby lived on a farm in Vermont. They were well cared for and lived in a pasture, eating grass in the summer and hay in the winter. But they barely interacted with humans until I bought them a few weeks ago. The first time I tied her to a halter and tied her to a pole, Christa leapt through the air like a swordfish hanging on a fishing line. Ruby did the same, also throwing herself to the ground, but there was a difference between the two. After 10 minutes of fighting, Ruby stopped and looked at me. Looking at me, she recognized my presence, and after a few more sessions, she was sniffing my hand in a friendly manner. I don’t know why, but cattle like to sniff human hair, so I took off my hat, leaned over and Ruby stuck her nose up to my head, and I knew she had accepted me.
It took a whole week before Christa looked at me. Maybe like an ostrich with its head in the sand, Christa thought to herself if she never looked at me, I would go. She finally looked and finally sniffed my hair. She even reluctantly followed me, but she still didn’t trust me, so I decided not to sell her as a pet. Instead, Christa will stay on the farm. She’s with Ferdinand, the bull, and I hope they produce a calf.
We have other babies on the farm, and soon Gina will give birth. I am grateful for the donation of calves my cows have given me and for all the wonderful homes across the country where these calves have found loving and forever homes. That’s why I’m grateful. What makes you happy this year?
Author Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local produce.