From Pipi’s Pasture: Putting up with pushy cows
Everyone who knows cows is aware that they live a hierarchial “lifestyle”—even though they don’t realize it. In a small herd there’s usually one cow that “rules the roost” (sometimes more than one). She manages to get the best feed and the best place to sleep at night. She pushes the others away when she wants to use her favorite scratching post or when she wants to lick the mineral block. I’ve seen a boss cow even push the bull away. Even though the boss cow is in charge, the others have their places in the herd, too, pushing and shoving others around to get feed. It’s nature’s way.
Recently, people have taken notice to how I’ve been feeding this winter. They want to know why I’m feeding cows in small bunches. After all, it requires a lot work to move bales of hay around. So that brings me to the pushy cows in our little herd.
The first little bunch of cows doesn’t have anything to do with pushy cows. They’re in the smaller part of the corral. Sarah, my 25-year-old cow, needs shelter so she’s there where she can get into a loafing shed. Her roommate is BoCo, our granddaughter Megan’s prize-winning cow, knows how to jump wire fences so that’s why she is there. Two calves are there, too. That’s bunch # 1.
The other cows chow down in the larger part of the corral, bunch # 2. This year I’ve chosen to throw hay over the pole fence. We are used to spreading hay out on the feedlot where there’s distance among the cows, but here’s plenty of room for all of the cows to eat in the corral—if they don’t fight. That’s where the pushy cows come in.
There are about three boss cows in the little herd now. They’re all great big, red Simmental cows that weigh as much as 1700 pounds, and their names are Kitty, Moose, and Blaze. We’ve had these cows quite awhile. Because of their sizes, the cows push all of the others around when I put out the hay. As I throw more and more hay over the fence, they follow along, undoubtedly thinking they will get tastier hay or, even more probable, not wanting the others to get any. They push so-thunk!- the target cows hit the fence. In their efforts to get the hay the three boss cows stand sideways on it.
Cow Kitty is vociferous as well as pushy. Just this morning I came face-to-face with her through the corral poles. I told her I was tired of listening to whatever she was complaining about.
Long story short—the less aggressive cows have to work to get hay. So I decided to move some hay up closer to the house, to allow some cows to eat there, spreading them out. This is cow bunch # 3. And you know what? The less aggressive cows, the ones that get pushed away from the hay, come up to this hay every morning. As a result, all the cows get plenty of hay and get to eat in peace.