Cranky cow? Tips to stay safe

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When you think of “when animals attack” what is the first animal that pops into your mind? Shark? Bear? maybe dogs? Yesterday I had an unfortunate run in with a cranky momma cow. I never take being around livestock lightly, but I was seriously unprepared, and ended up sitting in the cow pasture for an hour thinking about my choices.

At 1:30 yesterday I decided to run out to the pasture and check on Big Red and her new calf. My cell phone was dead, my livestock cane was down at the other barn, but that was ok it was going to be a quick check, I could totally do without those. I grabbed my iPod and camera and headed out. Over the weekend we opened up a new pasture area for the cows to craze in, Big Red was in the old pasture we have been using but all the others were in the new pasture. Big Red and her little one where doing fine, and it occured to me I had not seen 2 other calves today, so I headed out to the new pasture.

Once in the new pasture I was greeted with a  pretty scene. Cows were crazing and lounging, and just enjoying the new pasture.


As I worked my way slowly up the hill, one cow kept giving me the “stink eye”. I kept my distance and turned off my iPod and removed the one earbud I had in. I found all the calves and started working my way back down to the gate area. Who  was standing in the the gate are ? Yup, Stink eye, and clearly agitated. I think I should mention she is close, very close to having her calf, which I think is also influencing her current state of moodiness. Whatever her problem is she is cranky.

I stand there for a minute and think. Going through the gate would put me a little to close for comfort to stink eye, and I know it. So I decide to start walking along the creek to see if there is an area narrow enough for me to jump, I could easily crawl under the fence on the other side of the creek. During my search for a jumping distance spot, I come closer to stink eye than I realized. She drops her head, stomps her hoof to the ground and blows air out of her nostrils so forcefully I can even hear how not happy she is with this situation.

Clearly ready to charge me, I slowly back away, and ease into a groove of trees. Now with trees in between me and stink eye,  I continue to move back up the hill, never turning my back to her. When I get a good distance away from her she relaxes and goes back to crazing, right there in the gateway, FOR  LIKE EVER.

I found a rock and sat there, and thought about cow attacks. My cousin, just last week had a run in with a cow on his dairy farm that left him bruised and sore, but he is lucky he walked away. Farming is dangerous, most of the accidents are related to tractors and machinery but accidents happen when handling livestock also. While shark week terrifies many, far more Americans are killed each year by domesticated cows than sharks. Large livestock such as cows are powerful, quick, protective of their territory and offspring, and especially unpredictable during breeding and birthing seasons. I did safely get out of the pasture eventually. But I wanted to share some safety tips when you find yourself in a situation with a aggressive cow or a cow prone to violent moodiness.

  • Firstly,  If you have a cow you know becomes too aggressive send her to your freezer. There is no need to keep around a 1000 lb. walking attitude problem. Trust me the best way to deal with her is with Montreal steak seasoning and A.1 Sauce.
  • Just avoid bulls if possible, they are big and full of testosterone. Nuff said. You can read more on How to Avoid/Escape a Bull over at Wikipages.
  • It is true in Pre-k and on the farm, use the buddy system.  If you walk together you both appear bigger to the cows, and if needed distraction techniques can also be used.
  • Avoid working in tight spaces with cattle, I once read most cattle attacks occur when moving cattle through gates, which are often tight in barns. If a cow does have a violet outburst they are very likely to ram their victim against a wall or fence.
  • If you find yourself getting uncomfortable stares from a cranky cow, put something, anything in between her and you. A tree, feed wagon, shrub, even another group of cows.
  • Don’t turn your back on an angry cow , but do not make eye contact.
  • If you find yourself in a dangerous situation get out of it as fast as possible by any means necessary. Our pasture is fenced in with electric wire, I will take the fence any day over an angry cow.
  • Shoes
    My livestock cane to the left.
  • Walk softly and carry a stick… or livestock cane. I carry a cane so much it feels like an accessory. They are extremely useful, you can hold it to your side to make your self look wider or above your head to look taller and more intimidating. If you do find yourself in close proximity to a charging cow a good swift whack across the nose is supposed to be enough to deter the cow, and to give you a few precious seconds to escape. We are always concerned with the cows welfare, but this classifies as a life or death situation, hopefully the whack will give  the cow  a sore nose, you will live to tell about it. I know this seems drastic and I have never had to resort to this, but it is good info read more at How to scare away cows to avoid being trampled to death  over at Hub pages, or this is also covered at How to Avoid/Escape a Bull .
  • Remember cows have brains of their own, and they are not known for being the most intelligent animal on the farm. Never underestimate their power, or natural instincts.

Please be safe, alert and prepared! I got lucky, and I know it, a fact I will not soon forget.

I have a call into the Cornell Cooperative extension for any more useful info I can share here, they are the experts and hopefully share any points I may have missed. If so I will update this with any tips they have.

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