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HERd management: Conversations with the cows

Kelli Woodring Published on 23 May 2014


If cows could understand me, we would have countless conversations.



It would make my job simpler and less stressful.

These would be some of the discussions bound to happen.

First, I would introduce myself.

“Hi, my name is Kelli, and I am your herdswoman. If you experience any problems, please refer to me. My job is to take care of you, to be your nurse and to keep you comfortable.”

Next, I would be certain we come to an agreement.


“No kicking, hitting or charging at me. Even if you merely want to play with me, you are huge and it can be quite frightening when a 1,500-pound animal is running toward me. We won’t all be buddies – some of you will not like me – but please be cordial to me.”

Then I would explain to them that just because a gate is open does not mean they have to run through it.

“I know you love to exercise, but it is not safe near the manure pit or the roads. If you have to escape, please refrain from traffic and fully grown cornfields (for your sake and mine). I promise when the weather is fit, I will open the pastures and you can run your little hearts out.”

After that, I would warn them.

“Sometimes you get sick, and I have to treat you. I hope you can stay healthy forever, but let’s be realistic. I might have to give you pills or a shot or even an I.V. I know that you will not like it and it will momentarily hurt. I promise, though, I am only doing it for your benefit.

I want you to live for a very long time, and for that to happen, I cannot ignore you when you don’t feel well. I will not be able to save all of you. There are some unfortunate things beyond my control, but I will never let anyone mishandle or abuse you. You are a precious creature that deserves only compassion; anyone with different intentions will not be tolerated on my watch.”


Kelli woodring with a cow

Most importantly, I would tell them this is not just a job to me.

“I care about every single one of you. You are all important. I swear to protect you from as much as I can. I will freeze my fingers off during a blizzard to deliver your calf. I will sweat through my clothes to make sure every fan and sprinkler keeps you cool in the summer.

I will ruin any outfit or brand-new sneakers if you need me without warning. I will cancel plans and change any schedule for you because you are my priority. I will be there through every change and every bad day. I would do anything to keep you happy.”

Last, I would thank them.

“Thank you for giving me a purpose. One cow changed my life and shaped me in to the person I am today. I owe everything I have to her. I appreciate all the hard work you do (even if it is just eating and sleeping). Thanks for making milk and feeding people all over the world. Thank you for bringing joy to my life.”

People constantly ask me why I do what I do. I hope this conversation can shed some light to anyone who is confused by my job or thinks I pump cows full of medicine and abuse them all day. That is not my job, nor do I know of any farmer who thinks that is acceptable.

Cows really are a huge part of my life, and I dedicate my time to ensuring their well-being. I seriously wish they could understand me, so I could tell them just how important they are to me. PD

Kelli Woodring
Dairy Producer
Shippensburg, Pennsylvania