From Pipi’s Pasture: Celebrating Mother’s Day at Pipi’s Pasture

Diane Prather
Diane Prather

On Sunday mothers everywhere will be celebrating Mother’s Day. That’s gotten me to thinking about other mothers. Yesterday while I waited for a stock tank to fill, I was looking out at the mother cows in Pipi’s Pasture. The cows had finished their breakfast and were stretched out, chewing their cuds. In some cases, their calves were lying right next to them, and the mothers lovingly touched them with their noses. So I thought about the different ages, sizes, and personalities of the cows. Taking all of that into consideration, there are some general statements that we can make about the mothering abilities of cows.

• After giving birth every mother cow, even the first-calf heifers, know instinctively to get up and clean the calf off, “talking” to it at the same time.

• Once the calf is up, the cow knows that it needs to nurse, too, but sometimes the cow doesn’t stand real still, forcing the calf to move around; we have seen this so many times that we think there’s

a reason she does it — to get the calf moving perhaps?

• The cow also knows instinctively to get rid of the afterbirth, probably to keep predators away.

• A cow knows that she can get her calf to follow by letting it nurse a little and then starting to walk away.

• A cow hunts up a calf when it gets out of sight.

• When the calves are young and start to run and play with other calves, the cows get very excited, gather up their own calves, and “talk” to them.

• Cows know when there is something is wrong with their calves and sometimes come to get us to help.

• Cows have different “bawls” that mean things such as “Stay right here” or “Danger” or “Don’t drink milk from that bottle.”

• Sometimes a cow will stand on one side of a creek or outside of a barn (or a similar situation) and bawl and bawl to get the calf to come to her; the bawling goes on for some time so we’re not sure if the cow is being lazy or there’s a lesson to be learned for the calf.

• A cow knows her calf by smell.

• If a cow and calf are separated during “turn-out,” a cow will jump fences or cattle guards, even cross a highway and travel miles to get back with it.

• Cows will protect calves from animals, such as dogs, cats, and skunks that wander into a pasture.

• Sometimes calves are born with their feet turned back so that they walk on their “knuckles” (they eventually straighten out), and the cow will position herself over the calf so that it can nurse.

Cows are remarkable mothers!

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