Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A cows life.


This was a good day on the farm.  The sun was shining, the grass was green and the cows were lining up to be milked without many disturbances or altercations for position.  It had just rained so the ground was little muddy, especially where the cows were waiting for their turn to be milked, their legs covered with the brown mud and feces with a few  cows almost completely covered after falling.  They would have to be washed before the milking process but that was better than having to wash every cow, that took precious time and time was money.

Each cow plodded along, one after the other their mammary glands overfilled, engorged by the lactating hormones that were routinely used to increase milk production.  Each cow moved carefully their glands filled to capacity making walking difficult but today was a good day to be a cow.

There were days of extremes, especially when the cold came and the lines outside the milking stalls made them wait in the frigid weather, their hides soaked, their bodies covered with mud, their temperaments foul as they jockeyed for position, hoping to be near the front of the line, knowing that those in the front would get released early and able to enjoy the temporary feelings of emptiness and be able to return to their stalls where it was warm at least.

Those at the end the line had to wait, the excruciating pain never ending as their sacks of milk sagged and pulled, filled to capacity, the pressure and the discomfort ever constant except for after the milking.  They waited in the cold, in the heat of the summer, the sun burning their bodies but those at the end of the line had to wait the longest, knowing that the machines the sucked the liquids from their utters often had to be cleaned making those at the end of the line more prone to the elements and less healthy, more risk of getting sold to less reputable farms or even worse for the meat their bodies would provide.

Every two or three years the owners would evaluate the stock, choosing who would stay and who would be sold, the cows never knew until they were pulled from the line, unceremoniously milked and separated from the herd, never to be seen again.  Every cow knew what was happening but the fear of being chosen kept the rest inline, stomping on any emotional cries of separation.  When a cow was chosen to leave that was that, get back in line, fill the gap, get milked and get back to the barn to relax, feeling the milk surge, filling and pushing, the never ending cycle of producing, eating, sleeping, getting milked and if you were lucky being chosen to breed.

A cow was only good for a few years at best, and if their milk production had been consistent they were chosen as breeding stock, pulled from the line and sent to a warmer and more comfortable field with stalls that had pads, floors that were cleaned.  The Studs or bulls would visit daily and the hope and fear that filled the minds of every cow was that they would be fertile enough to produce a calf, giving temporary relief from the daily milking. 

They allowed two months, two cycles of the moon and if the cow could not conceive they were taken away and another put in its place.  The bulls were regularly tested for sperm count, their lives somewhat better than most of the cows; their duties were simple but no less tenuous.    Three cows a day, every day with only the occasional gap when the stalls were full with pregnant cows, they looked forward to those days off, but they did not occur that often.  A farm was a business and cows not producing were a liability.  A bulls life could be good and last for years but only if they could maintain the grueling schedule and demands of insemination and success, if not they were taken away as well, never to be seen again.

This was a good day to be a cow, especially for those in the front of the line.  When milking was done the cows were released into the field and allowed to mingle with the other cows, even a few bulls were wandering the fields their stalls filled with caving cows, enjoying their short lived respite with the rest of the herd.

A few groups sat or stood together, their faces close to each other, their voices low and protected.  They talked of stories of the past when cows were free, not penned in or used as food.  One of the older bulls whispered remembering a time when he was young and lived in a house, he remembered his parents and also remembered the invasion, the decimation of the human population and the herding of those that remained when it was discovered that the aliens loved the taste of human milk and flesh.  But at least it was warm; it was a good day to be a cow.