My family and I have been country folk for several years now. Although we started out as basically city slickers, we’ve learned a lot over the years dealing with animals. Probably the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that animals are animals, not people. However, they do have some of the same physiological needs that humans do and they respond well to some of the same natural approaches to health and wellness that we might use for ourselves.
Our first big addition to the family farm was our milk cow, Ramona. We read all the books before we brought her home. We talked with the rancher and other cattle owners and got her fence put up and shed nearly completed by the time she arrived at our house.
We were so excited that morning that she was due to arrive. We had a pretty new, red cow halter and lead rope, yummy fresh hay and brushes for grooming her. The rancher dropped her off and she immediately began eating her new hay. We got her halter on and brushed her for a while and let the kids pet her. After half an hour or so we decided to leave her alone and go run some errands. Now, all the cows in our area were always grazing contentedly in their pastures and we hadn’t read anything to the contrary.
So here comes...
Lesson #1: Lock Your New Cow In Cow Prison Until She Is Used To You And Her New House!!!! Have Spotlights, Armed Guards And A Tranquilizer Gun Handy!
Why wasn’t this chapter 1 in any of the cow books? Within an hour our cow had jumped out of her pen and over the hot wire fence and was roaming our neighborhood. After we got the call from our neighbor, we ran home from the grocery store leaving a cart full of groceries in the middle of the aisle. We ended up chasing that cow for 5 hours on horseback, through brambles and briers. My husband even attempted to jump on her back at one point.
Fortunately our neighbor found her with his cattle the next morning and brought her home. We fortified her “castle” and bought a bag of sweet feed the next day. Cows will love you forever if you give them sweet feed!
Our next lesson starts 4 weeks later. Ramona had come to love us and even started playing with our cocker spaniel who liked to lick her nose.
One morning she was bellowing and pacing wildly. I was afraid that she was sick because she wasn’t even interested in her food. I noticed that she kept looking toward the hills where other cattle were and she kept pushing up against the now 6 foot high field fence that makes up her pen. “She won’t try to jump will she?” I asked my husband. “No way, she can’t jump that now” he said.
Lesson #2: A Cow In Heat Will Jump ANYTHING!!
Ramona proceeded to jump that 6 foot field fence. My husband called the rancher and he said that it sounded as if Ramona was having her first heat. Why wasn’t this chapter 2 in the cow books?!
Well, we had been praying about how we were going to train her to the hot wire fence. God is good and he took care of that for us. After she jumped out of her pen she ran straight for that wire, thinking she would just knock it down I guess. After two good shocks she left it completely alone. We finally lured her with some grain and got her locked up in her stall. Cows are only in heat for about 24 hours so we only left her locked up for another day. By the time it was over she was her sweet, docile self again.
So how do natural remedies and herbs fit into this?
If I had known more at the time I would have recognized that even humans have digestive disturbances when they travel or move to a new environment. A probiotic supplement when she arrived would have been beneficial for her, helping her to assimilate to the new feed and grass on our pasture.
After our cow had been with us for a few months and the flies were really bothering her we began buying the expensive chemical fly sprays and powders. They had limited success but I hated dusting her with chemicals knowing that it could affect her milk and she hated the can of spray that made a scary noise. At our house I would never spray chemicals on our bodies. Every spring I make up a double batch of Vinegar of the Four Thieves
and keep it refrigerated. I pour some into a spray bottle to spray on our clothes and legs when we outside. If it works for us, why not try it on the cow?
Two gallons of Vinegar of the Four Thieves mixed with four cups of olive oil to help it stick to her fur made a wonderful fly repellant massage for the cow.
The children would tie her up and give her a good brushing to remove all the loose dirt. Next I would dip a large sponge in the vinegar and oil mixture and rub it on her concentrating on the areas that the flies liked the most; udder (but not the teats), rear end, face and ears and the belly and legs.
Ramona would actually fall asleep during her massage and let her mouth hang open.
She would remain mostly fly free until the next big rain storm.
Don’t have time to massage every one of your barnyard animals? No problem. Keep a spray bottle handy and spray them with the mixture as they come in to be milked. Just make sure to clean the teat area very well before milking to remove any residual spray.
Oh, and don’t forget, don’t try to jump on them. They don’t like it!