Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Me and My Cow-Conspirators

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Me and My Cow-Conspirators

Article excerpt

Nothing gets our cows moving like the sound of the storeroom door opening, followed by the dry slide of grain from scoop to bucket. Having recently retired with us from the dairy business, our herd has nothing better to do all the midwinter day than to focus on the barn, where the grain has always been stored. Ears erect (the better to catch any signal, however subtle, that I might be about to feed someone), they attend to the possibility as only bovines can.

I give grain to the draft horses and to our nanny goat on a daily basis, but the cows subsist nicely on hay, now. When we were a commercial dairy, they too enjoyed daily grain rations as they stood in their milking-parlor stanchions during milking. But we have had to wean them off this expensive supplement, now that the last milk check has come and gone.

I tell them they have nothing to complain about, even so. We're not selling them off to the unknown, are we? Those who have left have gone to good homes nearby. The remaining cows, all dry - 15 of them - can jolly well eat their hay and do without the $6-a-bag grain habit.

But that is my take on things, not theirs. And so they follow my every move when I chore about near the barn, ears swiveling like softly haloed satellite dishes whenever I slip inside. Getting grain to the goat and horses without their noticing and trooping en masse to the old parlor door for their share is almost impossible, but it can be done with stealth and patience.

I have found that the best time to make my move is when the herd feeds at the outdoor hay racks behind the corncrib. With scheming heads plunged into six or seven bales of grass, alfalfa, and oat hay, they may not notice me working my way into the barn. But occasionally, the end cow, glancing around the corner of the linear racks, spots me. Then it is all over.

Within minutes, big, moist bovine noses line the windows, doors, and wider cracks in the barn's siding. Elsie even has the nerve to butt the door, and the know-how to do it obliquely so that it might just slide open. …

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