"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Imaginary Cows

My husband wants a cow. He's wanted a cow for years now. I do not want a cow, which is why we don't have one. Yet.

I don't see the point of a cow, for one thing - we have goats for milk, and when we are milking two or three goats (I say we, but I mean I) there is more than enough milk for drinking, for making yogurt and cheese, and even for the dog. There is no way we could possibly use the amount of milk a cow gives, even if I were to get rid of my goats altogether. Which is ridiculous: goats were my whole reason for moving here in the first place. Goats are the point of this operation, as far as I am concerned.

Also, goats have many advantages over cows which are entirely objective and have nothing to do with my personal preferences.

Goats are cute; cows are not. Goats eat blackberries and all sorts of weeds; cows do not. Goats are light on the land; an acre can support four or five of them. Cows are decidedly hard on the land; according to the county you need an acre of pasture for each cow. Goats poop neat little dry pellets that don't have any smell. Cows poop great runny piles of liquid stink that smears all over their backsides and udders. Cows carry tuberculosis; goats don't. Goat kids grow to butchering weight in about 5 months; cows take a year and a half. Or more. A goat goes through the whole winter on about six bales of hay - a cow eats six bales of hay a DAY.

Most of all, I know how to take care of goats. I know about their diseases, about how to help them have their babies, about their hooves and their parasites and their eating habits. I know which plants are poisonous to them and which plants are medicine. I son't know how to take care of cows. That's because I've never studied cows. I've never studied cows because I don't WANT a cow.

My husband says he will take care of the cow, that I won't have to. I ask him to please spend one full minute considering whether or not he will really get up at the crack of dawn every day and go out through the howling wind and sleet to hand milk a cow. Does he even know how long it takes to hand milk a cow? He says he will keep a calf on her so he doesn't have to do that. I say, oh great now we have TWO cows?

I just wish my husband would carefully consider reality before he up and buys a cow. Right now, we have no space for a cow to live. The barn floor needs repair. It's good enough for dainty little goats, but a massive bovine would fall right through. That's one thing. Then there's hay. We've laid in our winter supply of hay - about forty-five bales. That's for two ponies and three goats. To feed a cow through the winter, we'd need to double that. Like I said, I haven't researched cows, but I'm pretty sure a pregnant cow (which is what he wants to buy) would go through forty bales of hay over a long winter. Then there's the issue of the pastures.

We have about three acres of fenced area, theoretically divided into three pastures. The big pasture, which has low boggy areas that need hoofed animals kept off of them in the winter; a smaller high pasture; and the sacrifice area, which is where the hoofed animals spend the winter so they don't ruin the big pasture. In actual fact, the fence between the big pasture and the smaller high pasture is mashed down and it's all one space. That means I can't practice pasture rotation.

Without pasture rotation, I need to keep the animal burden on my pastures very light, to avoid degrading my pastures over time. The county suggests one horse or cow per acre, and up to five goats. That's what I've got. Adding a cow without adding a pasture would be putting too much strain on the land. It's unsustainable.

So, if we get a cow we need to fence in a new pasture. That's in addition to fixing the barn floor and buying and storing forty bales of hay. And I don't have to do any of this work, right honey? You are going to do it all by yourself? By the way, where's the money for all this fencing and fixing coming from? And how much does a pregnant cow cost, anyway? Do you know how much money is in the bank account? No, because paying the bills is my job.

Our imaginary cow has already caused a first class marital spat. Cows are obviously evil.


Laura said...

I totally sympathize. I think cows are stupid. A Jersey around here goes for anywhere from $900 to $1500... not pregnant.

While I believe you were exaggerating the amount of hay a cow eats per day (my horse weighs about the same, and an 80 lb. bale lasts 5 days...), you're still right on on all the other points - hay, pasture, work involved. Some of the "miniature" breeds are slightly less intensive feed- and pasture-wise, but the other work is the same.

If he wants a cow to eat, get a steer. Keep it penned up to minimize damage. That won't eliminate the hay problem, but you wouldn't have to milk it...

Hope you can make him see reason...

Aimee said...

Hey Laura - I know I was exaggerating what a cow eats, I'm pretty sure it's not six bales a DAY ;) I wouldn't mind keeping a steer in the sacrifice area. What with the price of beef these days - even by the half from local farms - it seems like it would probably pay off.