Howdy, Hat Gang! Do you want your cows to be happy? Sure you do! Do you also want more milk AND more nutritious milk? Who wouldn't? Today we are going to be discussing how to maintain the mental health of your cattle so that they are happy and more healthy. Let’s get started!
The first thing we need to do is educate ourselves on the emotional landscape of your herd. Cows don’t just walk around and moo all day and eat grass from time to time. Well, maybe they do BUT, cows, in the grand scheme of things, are quite complex in the range of emotions they can experience. Just like me and you, cows can experience stress and fear, and just like me and you, cows can experience happiness, excitement, and even love. Here in this blog I would like to hone in on how to keep your moo-flock happy, calm, and (inturn) healthy.
The happiness of your cattle starts with the fundamentals, the basics. Cows need a good source of food, check [x]. And, cows must have a fresh source of water at all times as they can get easily dehydrated. And don’t overlook the wintertime either, if your cow’s water freezes that can lead to them getting dehydrated as well so make sure to insulate or bury your water trough and be sure to remove ice from the top and then to replenish the water lost. Be sure to also have an area where your cows can shelter from wind, rain, snow, and the sun as cows can be sunburned in UV intensive areas. This shelter can be as simple as thick woods that the cows can retreat to naturally or something also simple like a 3-sided shack that has adequate drainage to keep it dry (cows don’t like puddles) and room to get up and sit down.
Secondly, cows need play. Play is important for many mammals: cats, dogs, humans. The list goes on and cows are no exception. Cows can get this playful urge out in many ways, and first and most important on that list is play with other cows. Cattle are a herd for a reason, they are social creatures and do not do well in isolation from their fellows. Such isolation can manifest in stress, behavioral issues, and developmental issues. And such stress can lead to less milk produced (and of poorer quality), a weakened immune system, weight loss, and digestive issues. If you suspect your cow/bull is lonely they may, quite literally, cry out in pain (vocalize). It’s a sad thing to hear and something no cow or bull should have to go through.
Other ways cows can get their play needs met is by playing with toys you set out for them: things such as balls, hay barrels, and hanging ropes attached to trees or posts in the ground (make sure they are driven well into the ground as they can easily knock them over, as we have learned first hand).
Be sure that your cattle are vaccinated and see a veterinarian once or twice a year. Your cows enjoy gentle treatment and seek out your compassionate actions. Scratch their ears, neck, and upper back *by hand or with a thick broom (it can even be posted to a tree or a well driven post in the ground). Love your cows and they will love you back and be proud to hear their happy and contented moos!