Cow watching
Here is a picture of a cow, beautiful, healthy, and perfect in every way. To the trained eye of a cow watcher, this is a cow with a secret.  Her posture is saying, “There’s nothing here to see, just me in Narnia, minding my own business,” but I’ve seen that look too many times to be taken in by that sneakiness.  I know there is indeed something to see, and I intend to find out what.


So, with Tea Cup’s eyes never leaving me for a moment, I start to snoop around.  I’m playing her game.  “What? I’m just wandering around Narnia, not looking for anything in particular, just walking, minding my own business”.  As I get closer to finding that “nothing,” I know that she won’t be able to contain herself.  It’s a bit of dance; I take a few steps, and she takes a few steps, and when she stops dancing, I know I’m close.



Hiding something


She stands perfectly still, hoping to outwit me, but I’ve been here before, and the treasure is just too cute to allow me to give up when I’m oh so close.  Finally, I spot something in the tall grass.  Black and white, fuzzy and still wet.




I knew it! A baby girl! It doesn’t matter how many babies are born at River Cottage Farm; this never gets old.  I get to pet it for a couple of minutes, imprinting my scent on it so that it will remember me.  It’s not long until Mama gives the universal sign to get a move on, a quick nudge or two, and she’s up, obeying.


Can't take it any longer


And then they’re off to bond, something that very few cows and calves get to do in our country.  Over 95% of all calves born on dairy farms are taken from their mothers and fed a powdered milk replacer within the first hour of life.  At River Cottage Farm, we believe that both cow and calf benefit from the bonding experience and that the health of the cow’s udder and the calf are greatly affected by the ability to nurse and be nursed.


With the welfare of our cows at the very center of our farm management, we weigh every decision against the need for our cows to be cows.  Our girls live very different lives from the life of an average dairy cow. Over 90% of all dairy cows rarely live beyond the age of 5.  Tea Cup will produce about the same amount of milk as the average cow in 1940, about 2 gallons a day.  Today, the AVERAGE milk production from a single cow is five times that amount.  Today’s cows give the same amount of milk in 3 years as our girls will in their entire lifespan. This is achieved through hormones, grain feeding, removal of calves at birth, and up to five milking per day.


Tea Cup, Dara, Maribelle, Annette, Sweet Pea, Dolly, Luna, Georgia, and Little Girl have everything they need to follow in the path of several of our other cows who delivered a calf every year and lived to the very ripe old age of 15 or older.

Standing here, surrounded by beauty in our calf maternity ward that I call Narnia, I wonder if being born in such a place as this will affect the milk this little calf will produce two years from now.  Can beauty create a dimension in this future cow that is life-giving to our customers?  We’re betting on it!