We’re all individuals: the herd mentality

The Life of Daisy

The Life of Daisy

A quote from the Life of Brian (1979) springs to mind whenever I see our cow ‘Solo’ at the end of the yard:

Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
Brian: You’re all different!
The Crowd: Yes! We’re all different!
Man in crowd: I’m not…

The herd instinct remains strong, even in our dairy cows who’ve been domesticated for thousands of years. It’s so strong that if one cow heads the wrong way during rounding up, we generally don’t worry – she’ll head back to her herd mates anyway.

But every now and then you meet a true individual like Solo. The entire herd faces the dairy in anticipation of breakfast or dinner with the exception of this one member, who, without fail, heads to the north-west corner of the yard and gives everyone else the cold shoulder. She doesn’t want to rush out the gates (as you can see, they’re wide open in the pic above). Instead, Solo likes to poke her nose into the gatepost.

Generally, cows that hang towards the back of the yard are at the bottom of the pecking order, pushed back by more dominant cows eager to get into the shed. That’s not Solo, who’s strong, average-sized for our herd and in her prime. Just a little different, that’s all.

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