An Ode To The Mothers

As today is Mother’s Day, and since we are in the middle of calving so there’s a constant source of inspiration at the moment, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to profiling 10 types of Mothers you can find in a herd of cows.

So, from the wonderful to the wonderfully incompetent, here are my 10 (let me know if I’ve missed any out!):

1. The Free-range Mother

A competent mother who happily tends to her offspring’s every need, whilst allowing them to run wild and ‘be calves’. She sets no rules, and half the time, has no idea where her precious darling is. Her calves can usually be found trying to lead the others astray (much to their Mothers’ annoyance), or are nowhere to be found, as they have already escaped. The Free-range Mother isn’t concerned in the slightest, she champions the laid back approach to parenting and is confident the offender will return when it gets hungry.

2. The First-time Mum

Some cows seem to have it all figured out from the start and don’t ever fall into this category, but for others, becoming a mum is a completely alien experience… The First-time Mum typically makes quite a commotion when she goes into labour; sprawling out on the floor whilst shouting at the sky, then whipping around to see if that was it’. You can tell when the calf actually does make an appearance, by the speed she retreats to the other side of the shed; a moving creature covered in gunk was obviously not what she was expecting! She gingerly returns to the calf, sometimes needing a bit of a push from the farmer, and once she reaches it, a switch flicks and instinct suddenly kicks in. That is, until you try and move them into an individual pen, and realise she hasn’t quite got the “stick to your calf like glue” memo yet…

3. Mumzilla

The cow everybody has been warned about. You pray there are no problems with her calf, as you risk life and limb if you want to get within 20ft of it! Luckily, she’s usually a very attentive and experienced mum, so rarely requires assistance, and once the hormones die down she generally goes back to normal (although that does sometimes take a few months!). Mumzillas earn themselves a one-way ticket around here; I quite like having a father and don’t really fancy the prospect of scraping him off a wall one day. On the other hand, if cows are calving on an exposed hillside with little assistance available, I can see how these uber-protective mothers would earn their place.

4. The Take-it-or-leave-it Mother

This cow is the complete opposite of Mumzilla; she has the mothering instinct of a brick, after clearly missing out on that vital gene. She sees parenthood as a part-time job and can usually be found trampling straight over her calf, in a bid to get to any fresh silage or grass on offer; to her, the food perks which accompany motherhood far outweigh the actual calf. Her offspring soon learn that if they don’t keep up with her, they don’t get fed. There’s certainly no mollycoddling around here!

5. SuperMum

SuperMum has this parenting lark down to a fine art: pop calf out, feed calf, then carry on with your day, whilst always keeping calf within a few metres of you or successfully ordering it to lay in a secluded spot until you return for it. If only they were all like her, she’s like the bovine Mary Poppins!

6. The Scatterbrain

This cow is the definition of ditzy. She will be besotted with her calf one second, then get distracted and completely forget which calf belongs to her. It’s very entertaining to watch a cow wandering around with a confused expression, sniffing every calf, desperately trying to work out which is hers! You’d hope that she’d know its smell, but when you’ve got a couple of them who have mistakenly bathed the wrong calf, before rediscovering their own, the waters get a little muddied… And don’t even get me started about what happens when they have twins; their maths is even worse than their memories! We tend to have a lot of Scatterbrains here, at least their hearts are in the right place, they’re just a few bricks short of a load.

7. The Foghorn

You don’t want to be anywhere near when the Foghorn calves, unless you’re armed with earplugs! She likes to tell the world that she’s in labour, and then that she’s calved, then that it’s stood up, or moved, or fed… you get the picture. At first, the constant murmuring to her calf melts your heart, it’s one of the most precious sounds you will hear. But soon, the gentle murmurs turns in to ear splitting shouts of “look, I’ve got a calf!”, “how amazing is my calf!?” and “I’ve lost it! I can’t see it! Found it!”, which soon wears thin when you get serenaded every time you are in her view. I’m sure her calf has a permanent headache! Unfortunately, we have a lot of Foghorns here too.

A dark brown cow stood on straw in a stable, with two orangey brown calves laid next to her.
Gertrude, one of our resident Foghorns. Twins mean twice the volume!

8. Helicopter Mum

As the name suggests, the Helicopter Mum is always hovering around her calf. Every interaction with other calves/cows/humans is closely supervised. Her calf is bathed to within an inch of its life and can never escape its mother’s gaze, however hard it tries! Some would say her affection borders on obsessive, but you can guarantee she’ll have one of the best (and cleanest) calves come weaning time!

9. Too Posh to Push

This is more of a personality trait than a mothering technique. There are certain cows who always need assistance at calving time. Not because of any physical issues, their calves are mostly small and easily born, but because they seem to be under the impression that calving is a team effort. They get the calf out up to its hips, then just lay waiting for somebody to come and pull the back legs out and drag the calf around to their head to begin to be cleaned off. If no human assistance is available, the Too Posh to Push brigade have even been known to allow other cows to begin washing the calf, before they decide to get up and begin their mothering duties!

10. The Milk Bar

Some cows can often be found stood in a trance-like state, oblivious to the fact that they are feeding up to four calves, instead of just their own. They have a Mother Hen type personality and will happily take any calf under their wing, even before they give birth to their own! Your mum’s at the other side of the field? No worries, the Milk Bar will feed you, and probably give you a bath if she thinks you need one!

A deep red coloured cow stood in a field with three calves feeding from her.
A Milk Bar in action.

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