Calf and Toddler

I have no experience with cows. Actually, in my first year in the animal science program in college, a part of an introductory course had us looking at cows and judging which had the best udder. That didn’t teach me anything about the essence of what a cow is -although I’m still able to point out good dairy cow conformation!

A hundred years ago, small farms would have had one or two cows. These animals would have been considered women’s work. Extra milk would have been churned into butter and sold locally. Often, the butter money was what enabled the farm wife to bring essential groceries, like flour, salt and sugar, home.

In order to make milk, a cow must give birth. (Think about it – that’s why milk is produced. For babies.) A female calf would have been especially welcome.

By the time this calf was ready to join the milking herd, this child would have been old enough to help care for the cows. I think that they would already have been friends.

cow and toddler


Have you had a cow (or an entire herd) in your life? Tell me about these animals.


  1. I’ll try to keep this short.

    My dad always purchased a couple of just weaned steers. They were raised to slaughter weight, went away and came back in little white packages and then shared with the extended family.

    It was my job to give the steer’s their evening feed and clean water. Like all animals it didn’t take them long to figure out what that steel pail meant. Grain!!!

    I was probably 14 or 15 when we obtained this one steer that just would not wait until you put the feed in the trough. He would come running or should I say charging from wherever he was in the pasture. He would take his head and swing it and often connecting with my legs, knees or rear end. Needless to say it hurt and at times it would knock me to the ground. Is goal was to knock the pail out of your hand and get to it before the other steer could. At least this is what I figured was going on in his brain.

    One day I guess I had enough of the head butts and the dodging of a swinging steer’s head. He saw me and here he came. I stood my ground at just the right moment I swung that pail as hard as I could. I hit him square on the side of the head. The steer wobbled and stumbled around for a bit. I thought, oh boy don’t you dare die, have brain damage etc. and I thought if it does my rear end is mush.

    The steer was ok and he never charged me again. ;-)

    • I imagine that the only recourse you had when you were a boy was to swing the bucket or run. I would have suggested dumping a small amount of grain on the ground to distract him, then finishing the chore, or, instead of one trough, two buckets :)

  2. You know how chickens all run when they see you coming but won’t dash towards a stranger? Cows are not so fussy, they run towards anybody who is in their field.
    When you are smaller than they are, a whole herd of them hurtling toward you is a problem.
    I have had to run as fast as I could and then dive through a (prickly) hedge, once I ran & made the gate but my shoe didn’t and once I even sat for an hour up a tree while they stood patiently in a circle around it waiting for me to come down.
    I’m told (by people better acquainted with them) that they are gentle and docile but my experience was always of them seeing me before I saw them and it always seemed to happen when I was in the middle of a field, never near the gate!

    • LOL. diving into prickly hedges OUCH.

      The one steer was the only one that every gave me trouble. Most of them would see me and run to the trough and for the most part wait for me to put the feed in or run to me and then follow me to the trough.

  3. I grew up on a dairy farm. In those days a herd of 150 head of dairy cows was large. Now I still live in the same county I grew up in, and the dairy industry is made up of huge farms of hundreds of cows, plus replacement animals….We had Holsteins which are very large. We loved them, I helped to feed the calves. It was the tradition of our cows to break out of their pasture every spring and head over to the neighbors front lawn, and make a mess of everything….needless to say she was not happy with my parents………..We also drank the fresh milk, right out of the cooler, everyday..good memories, lot’s of work.

  4. No cow story here, but did you notice that the child’s hands have mitts on them? How curious.

    • Looks like she’s wearing her “Sunday” clothes. The family was probably just headed out to church or some other special occasion. In those days whenever there was a dress-up event, girls wore gloves.

      • I wonder if maybe she/he got into a patch of poison ivy/oak and the mittens are to keep she/he from scratching.

    • I checked the original photo and enlarged it – not gloves or mitts – she has hands in a pocket that is strapped diagonally across her chest.

  5. We had a steer when I was 12 or 14ish. Raised him for meat. My mom took care of him. Afterward, she couldn’t bear to eat him. Cattle are very gentle but I never stepped in his pen that I remember.

  6. When I was an adolescent we moved back to my step-dad’s family farm in TX – from SoCal! I had seen enough cows walking by dairy farms in SoCal to know that they are curious, but in TX I got intimately acquainted with our herd of mixed-breed beef cows, several of whom would eat from our hands. I love cows; they are calm, silly, curious, strong, beautiful, stubborn, and maternal. I can’t imagine EATING one; becoming a vegetarian was not hard!

    • Agree with you Michelle, becoming a vegetarian isn’t hard.

  7. My dad raises beef cattle (mostly Limousine and Charolais crosses), so I grew up with lots of mama cows and calves. There were tame ones that would come over for scratches and to eat out of your hand, some that were skiddish and wild (especially when they had new calves), and most somewhere in between. They all come running when they see my dad, and they’ll follow him anywhere if he’s shaking a feed bucket. My mom was always afraid we’d get kicked; she’d say, “don’t walk behind a cow” when we’d go out. Now she says that to my niece and nephew. :)

    My grandma (dad’s mom) milked a cow for most of her life, and she still talks about it fondly and says there’s nothing like it you can buy in the store. She preferred a Jersey cow for their temperament, their milk, and the quality of butter she could make. Dairy cows in general are supposed to be more calm and mild-mannered than beef cattle, but still a lot of it is how they’re handled.

    I want to try milking when we move back to the country someday. I think I’d start with a milk goat, though. We also had some goats growing up, and my uncle once gave us a part LaMancha nanny. She had the tiny ears, and she was so sweet. We didn’t milk her unless we had a weak kid who needed some extra, but I’d like to try a few goats to keep the brush cleaned up with one or two LaMancha nannies to milk regularly.

  8. teri, it’s late thursday p.m. and i have to go to a meeting and i just saw your post about cows. i can’t – i couldn’t – no matter how much time i had – tell you all i want to say about cows.
    think how you feel about your horse. there. that’s it. i can read their body language – if there’s a sick cow and she’s standing within her herd – she can show me something – i don’t even know what – but it says – hey, i’m in trouble – wanna help? if she’s calling “moo” for any reason other than she’s just making a little noise, – i can tell what’s probably on her mind (only two things, really) and i can tell by her coat and her tail if she’s -oh, and her ears, too – if she’s being well cared for. hoard’s dairyman – an old dairy industry magazine called her the “noble mother of the human race” and i agree.. i loved my girls when i had them, and they were happy, pretty strong guernseys. all with little quirks of personality of their own.

  9. I had a cousin who had a small dairy herd in Canterbury CT. Remember going to the barn to see the cows come in from the pasture, go to their stanchions to be milked and fed while on my summer vacation as a child. Truth be known they were more pets than business. Loved the “meadow ladies” but was too young to pick up anything very practical about them. But I do remember a particularly beautiful Jersey calf named Tennessee with big doe eyes and luscious brown coat.

  10. I had a pet cow for 18 years. she was a sweet and happy animal. She used to lick my horse from tail to head and make her hair all stand on end!