Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We Don’t Have Fluffy Cows

I know I’m late to the #FluffyCow party. What can I say… things move a little slower here in southwestern Indiana. Winking smile

Actually, I’ve been wanting to write about these fluffy cows since they first took over Twitter. But this is the first time I’ve had the chance. So, here goes.

This is part of our herd of registered Angus. Most of these girls are cows – meaning they are females that have had at least one baby in the past. There are 4 heifers in the group (females that have not had a baby yet, they are less than 2 years old). There’s a few calves (in fact, one for each cow). Right now we are also leasing a bull to finish breeding the girls so they have calves again next year. (Not everyone is in this photo.) These girls are not fluffy. See how the sun shines off their coats?

shiny cows
Our cows live outside all the time. There is a three-sided shed for them to go into when they want, and plenty of shade trees for them to rest under. Actually, they tend to go into the shed when it’s hot and sunny out, and come out to graze when it’s overcast and rainy.

munching cow
We enjoy our cows… but mostly from a distance. They will stop what they are doing and look around to see what is going on when there is a new noise around the farm, or if I show up with my camera. I went out to take some pictures one day and they all took off running away from me.

Here’s one of the heifers running to catch up with the rest of the herd.

running heifer
This cow stopped to see what I was up to, but I didn’t have her full attention. Her ears are turned back so she can hear what is happening behind her better. See the direction the cow behind her is looking? She’s looking towards the rest of the herd. This momma in front is paying attention to the rest of her friends. If they think she needs to join them, they’ll let her know and she’ll take off.

cow watching me
So what’s my point? I have a couple.

First, I wanted to show you that not all cows are fluffy. Check.

Second, I want to talk about the jobs these fluffy “cows” have. This is Texas Tornado, the first #FluffyCow. Except Texas Tornado isn’t a cow at all. He’s a bull (boy).

Texas Tornado fluffy cow
Image from Lautner Farms.

I don’t know about this bull in particular, but in general bulls have four jobs.
  1. They need to look pretty, so cattle breeders want to purchase his sperm. It takes a lot of time and energy to get these bulls to look like this. A large part of any 4-H members time is spent learning how to groom cattle (boys and girls) to look like this, or close to it. It takes lots of shampoo, blow dryers, fans, and yes, even hair spray. Left to their own devices, most cattle would look like our slick and shiny Angus cattle.
  2. He needs to have good sperm, so cattle breeders can get their heifers and cows pregnant using artificial insemination.
  3. He needs to sire (father) decent calves – with good attitudes and good conformation (anatomy).
  4. Once he is finished with these two jobs, his third (and final) job is to be meat.
This image (also from Lautner Farms) shows how the whole animal is used for meat.

beef cuts
Third, I want to talk about safety for a second. There was a lot of talk about thinking “fluffy cows” were so cute – people wanted to snuggle and cuddle them, and a few people even talked about wanting one as a pet. These fluffy cows are cute. And they are used to getting a lot of attention and being in close contact with people. This can make people think that they are tame.

One very important thing to remember about cattle (fluffy or not) – they are very cute when they are calves and as they start to grow up. But they do grow up. Every one of our adult cows weighs over 1300 pounds. An adult bull can weigh 2000 pounds or more. Even these cute fluffy bulls grow into big, 2000-pound animals. I don’t care how “tame” an animal is, once he gets that big, there should be no trusting him. In fact, two years ago a close friend of ours was nearly killed by a bull who was a “fluffy cow” just two years before that.

This is him. He was on our farm as our leased bull for 3 weeks. I was nervous the whole time he was here. I just flat didn’t trust him. (The dogs didn’t like him, either.)

Kodi and the bull
The trouble starts when a 2000 pound bull decides he’s not cautious around people anymore. This bull had managed to break through the fence and out of his pasture. When our friend tried to herd him back towards the pasture, the bull turned on him. We’re not sure if the bull thought he was playing or was angry… but it doesn’t make a difference. (The bull was taken to the processor that afternoon and was ground beef just a short while later.)

So. Here are the lessons.
  1. Cattle are great.
  2. They taste good.
  3. Fluffy cattle are super-cute.
  4. They taste good, too.
  5. Cattle are never really “tame” – always be careful!
Questions? Comments? Let me know!

Also, it’s county fair season (around here, anyway). Head out to your county fair and take a trip through the 4-H barn. Look at the cattle (but don’t touch!). Find a 4-H member or a parent hanging around (they’ll be there, I promise!) and ask them your questions. There’s no better way than to go straight to the source!

Want to know a little more about beef cattle? Check out these posts on AgriCultured:
Here's the Beef
Beef Cattle Life Stages
Yearly Physical Exam
Beef Cow-Calf Farm
Beef Cattle Feedlots


  1. Mmmmm....beef! (and yes cute too)

  2. Great post. Bart comes from a family full of "fluffy cow" makers. (Does that make sense? They showed cattle at the Hamilton County Fair for 42 consecutive years.) Anyway, when he was a freshman in high school, he was dragged around on concrete by a "tame" fluffy cow and he still has the most grotesque scars up and down the right side of his body to prove it. It always amazes me when I look at pictures of Bart and his sisters, as young as 4th grade, leading those steers around!

  3. Awesome post! I am still figuratively pounding it in to both girls' heads that these cows, while cute as calves, are all grown up and should NEVER be underestimated. They need to have respect for their size, power, and potential to overpower them if provoked.


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