Spooky Barns and Grand Inspiration

Cows are not always the most cooperative of critters. At times they will fight you tooth and nail even if you ask them politely to let you just help them. For example, if a cow is calving and needs a hand getting the calf out, the best place we have to help her at our ranch is in the barn. It’s warm, dry, and clean. Unfortunately, if a cow has decided the mud hole on the Back 40 is the best spot to calve, she’ll try everything to get back there. Or if she decides that going in the barn is akin to walking into a spooky old mansion in a thunderstorm, she will fight like crazy to keep from going in that barn.

Cow with head through fence

“And in that barn, the gremlins will sell your body to the aliens for their experiments! Don’t go in that place!” –Thoughts from the cow that won’t go into the barn.


To help prevent this barn hatred from festering among our replacement heifers, (the female calves that we will breed this summer to calve next spring) Dad decided to feed them in the barn. This would make them associate the barn with grain, which cattle consider to be a wonderful culinary delight, and thereby foster a love for going in the barn. So after a little polite coaxing, the replacement heifers starting feeding in the barn. After a couple weeks they would run towards the barn door with glee.

Now Dad about broke his arm patting himself on the back over this. After all, it was really a good idea that will save us a mountain of headaches next spring when these heifers calve. Then yesterday, Dad came up to me with a new realization. Why are we so focused on feeding these heifers in the barn when our first-calf heifers are going to start calving in about two weeks? Shouldn’t they be acquainted with the barn?

Needless to say, we both felt rather sheepish after that realization. So now both sets of heifers are being fed in the barn, one set at a time, and hopefully we’ll avoid the “big spooky mansion” complex when they start calving.