“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift,
And the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors
The servant and has forgotten the gift.”
This week the topic of my post sort of fell onto my lap, and I cannot resist sharing it with my readers, I think that you will agree it was worth taking a break from the books to find everything you didn’t know about the secret life of cows. It will make you smile – become happier in just five minutes!
I hope you will excuse me from not following the usual pattern of discussing books but this topic was too good to miss!
It was reported that there is a new bizarre (not to me!) practice of cow hugging. Of course, it was invented as a result of the pandemic. As we were forbidden from cuddling other human beings, we began to look for comfort elsewhere. In Holland, where the practice originated, they call cow hugging “Koe knuffelen.” In the US, farms are charging anything up to $75 per cow-hugging hour.
At the Mountain Farm in New York (shown above), visitors pay to hug cows called Bella and Bonnie, and they are booked solid to the end of May.
Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary in Queen Creek, Arizona, also reports a boom. Owner Aimee told a reporter from the Washington Post that her nine cows, among them Moonicorn, who has only one eye and one horn, all love being cuddled by strangers. One visitor, Renee Behinfar, said that she cried when Sammy the cow lay her head in her lap and fell asleep. I suspect that I might cry too, if a 1,300 lb cow decided to have a nap on top of me, but Ms Behinfar insisted that hers were only tears of gratitude.
Scientifically, there are all sorts of biological reasons why cow hugging is good for us. It promotes positivity by boosting oxytocin, the hormone released in social bonding.
I have empathy with all animals but unusually with cows which stems from my earlier experience when I was 15 years old. During my summer holidays, I would travel to a farm situated on top of a mountain and stay there for a few weeks every year. I loved to travel on the open carriage of the goods steam train because I could sit on the floor of an open platform and watch the passing landscape, while listening to the soothing sound of the steam and the wheels singing in unison.
The farmers, long-time friends, knew that first thing in the morning after arrival, I would take all the cows to their grazing field, and then clean up their shed. It meant washing the walls and the floor thoroughly, wiping it dry, and filling it with fresh straw. The cows would come back for milking and to the clean, straw-smelling shed. They slept well that night. I slept very well too, happily tired, and in the most comfortable bed, I have ever known. It was a big wooden bed with all the pillows and eiderdown so light and fluffy, you just wouldn’t know that they were there if you didn’t see them. There were the freshness and the faint scent of wood as the house was built of wood, although you would not realise this as the walls were rendered and painted white. The house was large and spacious, and my bedroom had the additional pleasure for me – the branches of an apple tree filling the open window.
During my stay, I learned many things about cows’ personalities, intelligence, and memory. At the farm, the cows had space and liberty, and because of this, their response was to reveal their true and lovely nature. It was obvious that they responded better because they were well looked after. I instinctively knew already that animals deserve our care, respect, and understanding, and I wasn’t surprised that the cows recognised this, and I was never hurt by anyone of them.
In one of my posts, I wrote about a herd of elephants who remembered the man who saved them from being killed and would come back to the compound every year on the anniversary of his death to mourn him in silence. During my holiday stay, I would witness amazing examples of my cows’ logical, practical intelligence. The point I am making here is that animals living alongside us should be regarded as sentient creatures and not some inadequate servants of human beings.
One of the things that I have noticed during my weeks of observing the cows, was that if they were given the opportunity to be able to choose what to do during the day, for instance – staying outside or coming in for shelter, or walking on grass or straw or concrete, or a choice of their food – they would always know and choose what was the best for them. Cows are as varied in temperament and intelligence as people. Some can be highly intelligent, friendly, considerate, docile, inventive, and proud, others could be not so, the main thing is to treat them as individuals.
It is a well-documented fact that animals kept in cramped unfriendly conditions, and without the ability to move freely, would be badly affected in their development and behavior. Stress can affect animals as well as humans, with similar consequences. The most important is that stress hormones reduce the efficiency of the immune system, which compromises the natural ability to resist parasitic infections. If made to stand or walk on unsuitable surfaces, cows are very often affected by lameness, which could easily become chronic. When cows are in pain, they eat less, if at all, and it is greatly important to remember this when designing a new cow-shed.
Cows regularly seek out plants they sense they need. They pick up blackberries, various leaves – hawthorn or willow, herbs – wild thyme and sorrel, even stinging nettles. But cows’ particular favourites are apples.
Many people assume that animals have no feelings, and they couldn’t be more wrong. It is enough to see the way cows respond to being cuddled even by strangers, let alone people they know and like. They like the companionship of other cows too and, they love their calves like we love our children.
Being so intelligent, cows can work out what to do in many circumstances and are capable to ask for help when it is needed. The companionship is very much evident between cows and sheep. Further on, I will explain why I am mentioning this here, and why I am writing so much about cows today. When writing about many aspects of cows’ personalities I have to mention their language of communication. Cows moo for various reasons: fear, disbelief, anger, hunger, or distress. Often, when it is a question, it would be a stare, followed by a quiet moo.
It was reported that the cows who have sustained an injury will eat a large amount of willow tree leaves to relieve the discomfort. We know that origin of aspirin came from the willow tree. They will eat the leaves for as many days as they need and then they stop. Another proof, if one was even needed, how intelligent cows are. Those who live with cows will confirm that part of their communication skills is the use of stare. By persistent staring at the person whose attention they want to attract, they get the reward, it could be food, especially apples, or some help with a problem in the field.
I have mentioned before that cows have a very good memory; they remember us as individuals, and that includes our faces. It is accurate as they notice our height, the way we walk, and even our voice. I noticed the same thing with all the wildlife in my garden, there even wasps and bumblebees come and ‘talk’ to me, not only as a greeting but when they need more sugar on the plate I provide for them in late summer. And, no I am not on ‘something’ or hallucinating, this is a fact, just ask Dr Dolittle. I am joking but only about the doctor, not about my close friendship with my wildlife. But back to the wonderful creatures, that the cows are. They recognised me, even after not seeing me for a year, and remembered that I would clean their house better than anyone else.
As sheep are good companions to cows, I need to say that they too have accurate memory. It might seem to be an unnecessary thing to say that all animals respond to kindness, but as not all humans do (“No good deed goes unpunished”, Oscar Wilde), I can, from my experience, vouch for that kindness to any creature is returned tenfold. This is why cuddling is so much appreciated by cows. It is useful to always have a small brush to hand to do some grooming during this bonding session, it will be appreciated. Cows are not colour blind, so they recognise their young among many by looking for the one that, firstly, is the same colour, then on close inspection use their sense of smell. Their sense of smell is used in many ways in their daily life, but one thing is certain – cows don’t like anyone wearing perfume. The subtle changes in head movement, the tightening of the neck muscles, or relaxing, all are significant signs of the cow’s mood or intentions. Head is used in their communication to greet, accept, and recognise another, a new member of their group.
Cows and other animals sharing their lives, all need the right food, fresh, clean water, and a comfortable place to rest for the night, or during heavy rain. I will now tell you why I wrote so much about cows’ lives here. One of my long-standing Indian friends is interested in building a farm that will have several cows, sheep, hens, and other animals living together, including birds. Of course, I am talking about wild birds, and, please allow me to digress.
Scientists proved that listening to birds singing or chirping not only boosted physical health but also mental wellbeing. Birdsong can have striking health advantages by combating stress and annoyance. The research looked at recordings from 251 sites across 66 US national parks and found that tuning into nature can decrease pain, improve mood and enhance cognitive performance. One of the scientists, Dr Rachel Buxton said: “The pandemic has emphasised the importance of nature for human health. As traffic has declined during quarantine, many people have connected with soundscapes in a whole new way, noticing the relaxing sounds of birds. How remarkable that these sounds are also good for our health. These sounds are beautiful. They deserve our protection.” The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
I keep my Alexa switched on with a camera showing the back garden, and the sound of birds singing is so enjoyable that my writing seems to flow, and that is why so many readers like it! But back to the cow-farm in India.
As India is well known for reverence to cows, a Sanctuary Farm set up on the outskirts of any big city would be a great asset. It could provide a place where school outings will give children an important, practical lesson on why they should respect and protect animals. The adult visitors would learn a few valid things too, including how pleasurable is bonding with all creatures.
It might be helpful to outline the basic rule:
The plot needs to be at least ten times the size of a football pitch.
Once the ground is clear of any stones, the next job is to install strong fencing.
The stones should be saved in containers as they could be used later.
The fencing can be made of wood but needs to be strong and a minimum of 6 feet tall. Ideally, a proper brick wall would be better and it would last forever. The bonded brick system is the very best method of building the strongest, solid wall.
I will perhaps go to excess by showing you the technique of building a bonded wall but this is because my house has got all outside bonded walls, and you would need a pneumatic drill if you need to do any work. No hurricane or even volcano eruption would bring the house down and this is why it is worth using this technique.
The next job would be to erect the farmhouse itself. It should be very spacious, to accommodate various accommodations, with three barns standing at 90 degrees as this will create a quadrangle. There has to be a cafeteria/eatery for fresh, good food and all sort of drinks, of course, no alcohol. The visitors will love to have refreshments, and children will love the ice cream bar.
A special pancake treat
The barns for cows and other animals should have a space for tonnes of straw and hay.
The entire ground around the farm will need at least half a metre of good soil, as it will settle naturally over a short time to the right level for making a few pathways from the farmhouse all the way to the outside walls.
Once the pathways are ready, marked with yellow or red sand, it would be time to spread evenly the grass seeds.
The planting of apple trees at regular intervals should be at the sunniest site of the farm. On the opposite side, there should be a hedgerow, at least 2 metres wide, and growing along the whole length of the outside wall. The hedge needs to be planted with many fast-growing plants, some with thorns, as it will provide protection for all the inhabitants of the hedge. By now you must have guessed that this is going to be a home for many birds, who will build their nests in safety and chirp and sing to the delight of grazing cows and sheep, and all the people working on the farm and the visitors.
There should be blackberry and wild roses planted at the edge of the hedge.
It would be a good idea to create one separate, walled field, outside the farm, and not accessible to cows and sheep, to grow many vegetables and fruit, bushes and trees, for use in the farmhouse kitchen. It also could allow the organically grown produce to be turned into chutneys, pickles, and other condiments for sale.
This farm would need a full irrigation system to be installed throughout.
Here are some examples of a vegetable garden:
The farm should be generating a large income that would assure the farm’s future.
As it is quite an extensive and diverse program, it would be too long to elaborate here. Needless to say, it would involve many things already on the farm but used with ingenuity and imagination. Anyone interested in creating such a place in India or indeed elsewhere, please contact me directly on my email, and I would provide the details.
The farm, like the one I have described above, is, in my opinion, the closest place to heaven on Earth, the true Paradise.