Birdie, our yellow Labrador retriever, is not a good hunting dog. She does not like loud noises, so a gunshot sends her running in the wrong direction. She also has a live and let live attitude regarding other animals, including birds. Once I let her out the back door without looking before I noticed three deer and a dozen or so turkeys were within 50 feet. They all looked up, momentarily startled and then relaxed, seemingly thinking, “It’s just Birdie; she won’t bother us.” Of course, she just looked quickly in their direction and then headed off the other way, minding her own business.
    Our old chocolate lab, Citori, whom I had to put down not long ago, would have made a beeline for the turkeys and might have managed to catch one or two. Every animal is different and everyone has a different personality.
    Cows have personalities, too. You know this. I have heard farmers tell me about certain not-so-nice animals; sometimes they will say, “Just like her mother, got tired of being kicked and had to sell her, too,” or something similar. Occasionally, one might use an expletive or two.
    One client has three of four Jerseys in a large herd of Holsteins. One of the Jerseys loves to be pet. If a human walks by her pen, she comes running down to the end to get her head rubbed. Another farm had this big Holstein that would spy someone in the pen (like the vet performing reproductive exams) and then come running full speed until screeching to a halt with all four legs sliding right in front of that person. This was, to say the least, unnerving. The first time it happened I bailed and hit the sand in a free stall. The farmer laughed and said, “Don’t worry, she won’t hurt you. She does this to everyone.” But, what was she thinking? I could never figure out if she was happy or mad or just playing a game.
    There are cows that just seem to never get upset about anything. Sometimes a person can perform a rectal examination or breed them right in the middle of the alley. Some do not even quit chewing their cud. I think they see humans as insignificant and not worth the bother: “Just get it over with and go away.”
    Other cows seem to be friendly at first but then get progressively rougher until one is pretty sure they are intentionally not being nice. Did they get angry after being nice for a while? Or, did they not get enough attention? Get scratched in the wrong place? I sure wish they could talk.
    Then there are show cows. They can be really nice sometimes. A farmer and I were trying to get an old show cow into a chute one day. We pushed, cajoled and tried our best, but no dice. Finally the farmer said, “You know she hasn’t been shown for several years, but I am going to try a halter.” She stood while he put the halter on then followed him like a lamb right into the head gate. Of course, show cows can be a problem, too. Some act like spoiled children that always get what they want, and thus are pretty upset when you really expect them to do something they do not like.
    There are breed differences. Think about how different breeds would drive if they could drive cars. The Holsteins would be found in every upside down car in a ditch, every wrecked pickup, every car at the bottom of a cliff and every vehicle that appeared to have driven right off of a straight road on a clear day. The Brown Swiss would be blocking every four way stop, refusing to move. They would also be stopped on freeway on-ramps, unconcerned about the line of honking vehicles behind. You would not even want to think about being behind them in a left turn lane. They would always take up two parking spaces. Jerseys would be speeding, failing to yield, not using blinkers, talking on phones, not wearing seat belts and running stop signs. They would also be found stopped, ogling at every accident site. They might have their heads sticking out of the car windows while rolling their tongues. What about those three-way Montbéliarde crosses? You would find them while waiting at a stoplight. You would hear a deep, rhythmic, booming noise from behind. Your car would start to vibrate and seem to rock with the beat. You would soon realize the noise was a powerful car stereo. You would look in your rearview mirror and see, at the wheel, a Monte cross, multiple gold chains around her neck, lots of rings, studs, and other hardware in her ears and nose, a swatch of purple hair on the poll, staring straight ahead, oblivious to the racket.
    Cows are cool. Every animal is different. We, people who work with them day in and day out, are blessed to know a secret: All of God’s creatures are remarkable in their own way from a flatworm to a bacterium to a dog to a cow. Not everyone knows or appreciates this. Humans are one version of creation and in many ways not the most remarkable. Have a great new year.
    Bennett is one of four dairy veterinarians at Northern Valley Dairy Production Medicine Center in Plainview, Minn. He also consults on dairy farms in other states. He and his wife, Pam, have four children. Jim can be reached at with comments or questions.