Thursday, July 20, 2006


My love of cows developed during the many holidays at my uncle’s farm at West Wooroolin. Uncle Bill and Aunty Flo operated a mixed farming enterprise which included a small dairy, a small pig sty and the cultivation of crops such as peanuts, sorghum and corn.

But it was the cows that captured my heart and, many decades later, I have the good fortune to be able to look out my windows and watch as our own small herd of Poll Hereford beef cattle stroll about our farm.

I say “love of cows” because bulls aren’t quite so lovable. Especially when you get between them and where they want to be and they start scratching at the ground with their front hooves and begin to give out a warning in an unnatural growl. Cows are supposed to “moo”!

I learnt early that cattle are wonderful placid beings if treated with sensitivity. They also provide many products to sustain the human race. It seems that every atom of their being is exploited by us. They provide us with milk, meat, leather, gelatine, blood and bone.

If only humans could contribute to the planet as unselfishly and environmentally friendly as these dear creatures do.

Okay, I know about their flatulence problem, but cows don’t jump into their huge gas-guzzling vehicles that spew out toxic exhaust fumes and drive just one block to purchase a carton of milk and some carcinogenetic cigarettes, do they?

Uncle Bill’s herd was a mixture of breeds and each animal would be given a name such as “Daisy” or “Pet”. Also there was “Peter” the bull who ensured that there would be calves for sale sometime in the future.

My favourite cows were the three Jersey cows. They were the closest thing to Bambi that I was going to find, and be able to cuddle, in the state of Queensland at the time. There were rumours of wild deer roaming in the hills around the small town of Esk which we passed through on the way from the city of Brisbane to the farm. But I could never sight one, let alone get close enough to one so I could toss my little arms about its neck.

Being young and a city kid meant that I didn’t play a large role during the twice daily milking of the cows. My duties involved coaxing the next cow up to the half dozen bales and perhaps participating in the tying back of the leg with a very loose leg-rope and then wetting the teats in readiness for the suction caps to be applied.

Milking machines are a most efficient way to extract the milk from these willing creatures, that is, if electricity is available.

When the power failed, which it often did, it was back to the old fashioned method where you sat upon a three-legged stool, head resting against the cow’s warm soft belly and then tugged away at the teats to squirt the milk into the bucket clasped between your knees.

The only fun part of this practice was when you tested your aiming skills by trying to squirt a stream of milk into the open mouth of a hopeful cat.

I still marvel at the memory of my diminutive Aunty Flo’s strong hands and determined nature during one of these powerless milking sessions.

My sisters, cousins and I had a game we would play with our bovine friends. It was called “skiing”. We would grasp the tail of a cow and ski behind it, barefoot in the powdery bulldust. It was quite a thrill as our respective cows would pick up pace in the hope of losing its passenger. The boy cousin, being a boy, would up the ante by choosing the less amiable bull as transport.

I am sure the cows were not overly upset about this game. We were only little mites and they still let us cuddle them afterwards and, bottom-line, their milk supplies never dwindled.

At some stage I acquired some literature about dairy cows which featured very colourful pictures of the various breeds available in Australia during the 1960s. Perhaps I found it at The Royal Queensland Show in Brisbane. Better known to us as the Ekka.

Armed with this vital information, I gave a lecturette to my fellow Grade 6 classmates at Mt. Gravatt State School. I spent some time pointing out the various breeds available in Australia and the origin of the different breeds.

I suspect that if my classmates were asked about the regrets they harbour in life, some would recall the 10 to 15 minutes loss of real education that transpired that day.

They may well still bemoan, “If only I had spent that time studying Maths and Science instead of having to listen to her rabbiting on about cows, I could have been a Noble Prize winner!”

Well! Where are you now my indifferent classmates I ask?

I would like to muster you all together in that sweatbox of a classroom and lecture you not only on dairy cows but on the innumerable breeds of beef cattle available to the farmer in 2006.

Back then I only had a handful of dairy breeds to offer. These included the Fresian, Illawarra Shorthorn, Guernsey and my cherished Jersey.

In 2006 I can offer well over 250 breeds of beef cattle. Indeed, someone is cross breeding and using Artificial Insemination to increase the bloodlines as I write this essay.

So, my ignorant city classmates, bring food, water and a swag because I predict that it will be an all-nighter.

Michelle ©


Enyo said...

I'll be back to read some more when it isn't close on midnight after a day at work ... which is inane and meaningful at the same time

Rubes said...

You tried squirting the milk into the cat's mouth but when I stayed on my uncle's farm we used to love having someone aim it into our mouths.I can remember the warmth of it.
Makes me feel quite ill when I think of it now!

Michelle said...

Hi there rubes,

Aren't we so lucky to have had uncles who owned farms!

I was unable to drink milk from an early age due to my experiences on my uncle's dairy farm.

Love the cows. Hate milk!

Thanks, Michelle.