What I Learned Working Cows

Growing up I had the great opportunity and unique experience of working with livestock. It was just a small cow calf operation done more for enjoyment than the need of the income it produced. Having done this since before my teenage years and up until now I’ve spent a lot of time around cows and still enjoy it as much as ever.

Cows are not complicated and if you understand how a cow thinks they’re not hard to figure out and manipulate them into doing what you want and moving them where you want to move them. They are very much a herd animal. If you don’t have experience with herd animals it’s really amazing. For example new cows introduced into a herd will almost always be the lowest on the pecking order, therefore the last to eat and depending on the situation often times have to watch the other cows fill themselves and only once they move on do the lowest cows get a chance to eat the hay. A few years ago we moved about 5 or 6 of these lowly cows to a pasture of their own so they could have their fill of hay without having to compete. Within a day or 2 those cows had broken the fence to rejoin the herd! They would rather be hungry, but part of a herd than have their fill separated from the herd.

Every so often you have to round up the cows and put them in a pen with several smaller pens inside of it which leads to a chute. This chute is used so you can work with them single file and minimize the risk of them or you getting hurt. The chute is how you load them on a trailer to take to market, to de worm them, to put ear tags in etc. etc.

So when you need to do any of the aforementioned things you have to put the cows in this pen. But cows are not dogs, and unless they’re hungry they will not come when you call them. So you’re required to (depending on the size of your operation)be one horseback. As a general rule you try and push the cows along a fence line, you need less horses this way since they will follow along the fence as you ride behind them and beside them on horseback.

But cows and horses are around each other all day why would cows allow themselves to be herded by horses? Because you’re on top of the horse making noise, cracking whips, yelling etc. You have to keep them disoriented. You cannot give them time to think about what’s going on. So long as the herd is moving in the direction you want to move it they will all keep moving but if they slow down and come to a stop….100% of the time they will just scatter and you will have to start over (it’s always more difficult subsequent times because the cows are more high strung by this point).

So you have some horses behind them, and beside them and you’re making noise and everyone is heading towards the pen. All is well. Except you see a cow about to turn away from the fence and head back to the pasture. It is absolutely paramount that you stop this cow and turn it back into the herd. If one breaks, two will break and depending on how many horses you have it gets to a point where you just have to start over and regroup the herd.

This is where the experience comes in because you don’t just yell like a banshee constantly, you don’t ride your horse a foot from the cow in the rear, you don’t push them at too fast a pace because if they’re too desperate and think they’re in mortal danger they will absolutely go through a fence. So it takes finesse, you keep them disoriented but not frantic, you never let them stop moving but you don’t push them so fast that they get too worked up.

The realization that We The People are the cows allowing ourselves to be herded into whichever direction TPTB wants, came to me several years ago and I’ve wanted to put it down ever since. I don’t know if the allegory will be as obvious if you’ve never worked cows as it is for me but hopefully it is.

They keep us in a state of confusion. We’re bombarded with distractions. If one of us is wise to the game and tries to make a break, we’re swiftly dealt with lest we lead others away from the direction we’re being pushed. Being that we’re bombarded with distractions we don’t have time to think, just like the cows. So sure we take out a loan for a car, we spend 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of dollars on college, we consume consume consume and make all manner of bad decisions why? Because your friends and neighbors do. The herd does, and it’s, if nothing else, comfortable to be with the herd.