Jousting for poll position

Scuffles broke out right across the paddock as the weak winter sun lit the stage for a bovine pugilism festival. The cows were feeling magnificent and, unable to contain their energy, were ready to take on all comers.

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The kids and I love watching the cows “do butter-heads” and the cows seem to love it, too. For every pair or trio engaged in warfare, there will be a group of curious onlookers and one scuffle seems to inspire more outbreaks.

Does butter-heads have a serious purpose though? Yes, it does. The herd has a very structured pecking order. Cows come into the dairy in roughly the same order every milking and the smallest and most timid are inevitably last. Mess them up by splitting the herd into seemingly random groups for a large-scale vet procedure like preg testing and you can expect trouble. There are cows thrust into leadership positions who don’t want to go into the yard first and lots more poo than usual.

I am sure that in days gone by, these battles were often fought to the death. Strong, razor sharp horns with 550kg of muscle and bone behind them are fearsome weapons. Our calves have their horn buds removed as painlessly as we can manage it early on to avoid far greater traumas later in life and for our own protection.

Soon, they will be spared even this discomfort. Dairy cows are being bred “polled” (without horns) and, eventually, we will have a herd that is naturally hornless. It’s not easy finding suitable polled bulls yet but our breeding centre tells me that demand from dairy farmers for polled semen is now “huge”.

I have my eyes on a couple of German polled beaux for our ladies. I only hope we can get them in time for this year’s mating season.

10 thoughts on “Jousting for poll position

  1. Hi Marian,

    It’s interesting to see now that at shows/campdrafts that have roping events that often the bovine target now sports a set of plastic strap on horns. Farmers have done a fantastic job of eliminating horns in both dairy and beef! Biodynamic people msut really struggle to make preparation 500 these days. people

  2. It’s lovely to see the cows with so much extra energy. The “silly cow dance” is a favourite here, where these ungainly creatures attempt to frolic in the paddock especially when they are in the wrong paddock !!
    It feels a lot like Springtime and the cows are behaving likewise with many bare backs from bulling so vigorously. As we start joining just a few weeks things are looking very positive.

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