Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cows and their strange appetites

Spring is that lovely time of year when every flower that blooms seems like a miracle.  One of the early flowers to bloom in my yard is the Iris.  I have several colors of them.  Most of them are surrounded by grass and weeds and not properly cared for or divided yearly, and yet the beauty of those blooms overwhelms me at times. 

Cliff likes to see pretty flowers, but if it were up to him, he'd only be seeing them in the yards of somebody else.  They are just something for him to mow around.  But he patiently puts up with my casual flower-growing, maybe figuring if nothing else, he'll outlive me.  Then he can cut down every tree and mow every flower.

Walking around the back yard, I noticed something amiss with the Iris planted along the back fence.  

Those spots on the leaves are, I believe, a fungus.  They won't kill the plant.  Wouldn't you think the calves would have the decency to eat the spotted leaves?  Nope, they chose the good ones.
Seeing this, I recalled an incident from last year:  Whatever cow was in the calf pasture then had waited for my red iris to bloom for the first time, stuck her long tongue through the fence, and gobbled up the new blossom.  I was beside myself.  Apparently the Holstein calves growing out there have the same sort of cravings.  Indeed, they already devoured one flower-to-be:

Of course I went whining to Cliff with my problem and he went right to work on it, as any dutiful husband would.  I suggested chicken wire in that area, something no cow could graze through or stick her tongue through.  He went searching through odds and ends of junk he saves for such an occasion and found some used chicken wire.

Everything goes a little better when you have a good lead man (or girl) to oversee the work.  

Please notice the calves have lots of grass; Cliff has already mowed that pen twice, and the grass keeps growing.  And yet, those steers go to all the trouble to reach through the fence and eat my Iris.  

Cows, of course, will eat anything.  Even nails.  They really don't chew their food much, they just swallow it whole.  That's where their four stomachs come in:  When they've had enough, they go to a peaceful spot, lay down, and spit up the food a mouthful at a time, and THEN they chew it.  If there are nails or sharp, small pieces of metal on the ground and they happen to pick one up as they graze, they swallow it and are none the wiser.  If a sharp piece of wire or a nail penetrates the wall of the reticulum, they're in trouble.  Some farmers put a magnet down their cows' throats so any stray pieces of metal will cling to it and not cause damage.

We once bought a bred Jersey cow whose appetite came and went.  One time she'd come in the barn to be milked and eat the dairy feed I gave her.  Other times, she wouldn't.  She also had a tendency to bloat.  We knew something was wrong, and figured we'd just take her to the sale barn and give someone else an opportunity to find the problem.  But Cliff's boss at the butcher shop said he'd buy her for the price we'd paid, so away she went.  

Some weeks later, the cow died.  Richard, the boss, decided to do a autopsy on the cow.  What he found was a double handful of roofing nails in her.  She had hardware disease.  Now, I truly doubt the cow walked up to a bucket of nails and began eating them deliberately.  I'm thinking somehow, for some reason, somebody poured feed of some sort atop a bucket of nails and in eating the feed, she ate the nails.  Maybe an angry neighbor plotted to kill the cow?  Maybe some youngsters poured feed in the wrong place?  Who knows. 

Anyhow, if the calves eat any more Iris this year, they'll have to get out of the pen to do it.   

1 comment:


hopefully the chickenwire will save your pretty flowers from getting eaten. fascinating about what cows eat.