Monday, August 19, 2013

Can You Really Tip a Cow ?

Picture courtesy of Lehigh Co. Farmland Preservation
Cow tipping is an activity that allegedly involves sneaking up on a sleeping, standing cow and pushing it over.  Is there any truth to it?  Can you really push a cow over?

The answer is “no”.  Cow tipping is an urban legend and there are two major facts that debunk it: first, cows do not sleep standing up, (unlike horses, they lie on the ground to sleep) and second if the cow was standing, one person would not have the strength to push over a cow - mature beef cows can range in weight from 1,100 to 1400 pounds!

You also wouldn’t want to hop a fence to get close to a cow.  Farmers raising cattle need considerable cow handling expertise in order to protect both themselves and the cows.  In order to reduce stress on the cows and protect the farmer, there are a few behavior traits that farmers keep in mind, especially when they need to move the cattle. 

For instance, cows can see almost all the way around them, with a field of vision in excess of 300 degrees; humans, by contrast, have only a 180 degree field of vision.  However, despite their excellent panoramic vision, cows cannot focus quickly. They also have poor depth perception and vertical vision.  Because of this, a mere shadow on the ground could appear to be a deep crevasse to the cow.  Small distractions, such as something as simple as a coffee cup on the ground, in their field of view could also alarm the cattle.  Farmers can decrease shadowing and distractions by having uniform colors in handling areas and moving cattle through solid sided alleys (as opposed to an open fence). 

Cattle also have comfort zones, just as people do, that are referred to as “flight zones”. A cow’s flight zone could be from 5 feet to 25 feet for tame cattle.  Invading the flight zone too much can cause the cow to panic.  When farmers need to direct the cattle in from the pasture, they stand at the edge of the flight zone and move slowly.  Cattle naturally want to go around humans, so farmers position themselves in such a way, that the cattle will move around in the desired direction.  Other cattle handling tricks include working with and approaching the cows slowly, as well as never leaving one animal alone in a pen; they want to be with other cattle and will make every attempt to do so.

Support Your Farmer:
RAINBOW FARM: The Schoeniger's operate a 29-acre farm that raises beef, pork, chickens and turkeys on rotational grazed pastures. Come see their farm on the 2013 Lehigh County Open Gate Farm Tour!

GRAVER FARMSTEAD: Graver Farmstead is a preserved family farm raising grass-fed beef and pork. You can see their farm on the 2013 Northampton County Open Gate Farm Tour!

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