The Dairy Farm Adventures: Stampede!

Posted Wednesday, July 24, 2013 in Features

The Dairy Farm Adventures: Stampede!

by Lee-Rae Jordan-Oliver

Northern Maine transforms into a snowy playground in the winter.  To prevent my family from getting cabin fever, I take my two young children, Walker and Anna, outside almost every day to play in the snow.  Pregnant with our third child, I had gone hiking through the woods early one morning and discovered I could walk anywhere without breaking through the thick crust covering three feet of snow.  I looked forward to taking Walker and Anna outside to explore the nearby forest later in the day. 

By mid afternoon, temperatures were warm enough to let our herd of twenty-seven cows outside to feed off several large round hay bales.  I bundled Walker and Anna from head to toe in their winter gear.  We headed outdoors with our dog, Blackie, racing ahead of us.

Walker and Anna ran on top of the crust darting in and around trees.  We were like giants marching through the forest reaching down to tap the tops of fir trees buried in the snow.  We hiked through the woods half a mile before heading up a slope leading into the back cow pasture.  We were ten minutes from the house and the barn.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.  Each step brought us closer to the cozy warmth of our home.  Nose to the ground, Blackie lead the way.  “Who's going to be the first to see the cows?”  I asked. 

“I am, I am!” Walker and Anna answered.

A few crunchy steps later, Walker exclaimed, “There's Doris!”  Doris turned her big white head towards us.  Like dominoes, the cows lifted their black and white heads to stare at us.  For a moment they stood motionless, watching us with their dark eyes as we tramped toward them.  We must have looked like aliens in space suits to them.

With no forewarning, Doris, the dominant cow of the herd, shook her head and spun her rump around kicking her hind heels at us.  Her body language told the herd to run for their lives!  The cows bolted and bumped into each other in their desperation to get away from us.  They charged through the electric fence like it didn't exist and ran down our plowed driveway before swerving left to stampede into the horse pasture.  Their heavy bodies punched through the snow, full udders swinging dangerously close to the crust.

Tinkerbell, our horse at the time, watched with horror as the cows came barreling toward her.  She started running back and forth along a path she had packed down in the snow.  All I could do was stand there and say, “Oh No, Oh No, Oh No!” with increasing intensity.

Frightened by the cows, Tinkerbell sailed over the fence and galloped away from the farm.  Her hindquarters spun up snow as she catapulted across the field.  In sixty seconds our peaceful farm had turned into complete chaos.

My husband, who is generally unfazed by emergency situations, came from the barn with arms outstretched, hollering, “What just happened?”

“It's my fault.  I'm sorry.  I had no idea the cows would spook at us,” I stammered.

As Matthew ran to get a bucket of grain from the barn, our neighbors, Clay and Tracy, drove up our driveway.  They had seen our cows running down the driveway and watched Tinkerbell race across the road into another field.  “Is there anything we can do to help?”  they asked. 

“Yes,” I answered thankfully.  “Please watch the children while I help Matthew with the cows and find Tinkerbell.”

            Lured by the scent of grain, the cows followed Matthew to the barn.  After the cows were safe and secure in their stanchions, I left to search for Tinkerbell.

I followed her tracks through the snow which led to the Morey's farm half a mile away.  Unharmed, Tinkerbell was happily munching grain our neighbors had used to capture her.  Leading Tinkerbell home, I thanked God no one was hurt and for kind neighbors who were willing to help novices in need.

Living on a farm is humbling and rewarding.  We are grateful for the ordinary days when the farm runs smoothly and learn from the extraordinary days when the cows teach us a lesson or two.    

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