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The Sacred Cow

Cows are beautiful animals, with large kindly eyes and personalities of their own. They have a distinct sweet smell and can be very soothing to watch as they stand or lie chewing their cud. There are many different breeds and within a herd, cattle can form strong bonds with each other. It can be very helpful to have an older cow or steer (neutered male) in a herd as he or she can show the young ones the routine on the farm.

In New Zealand and worldwide, cattle are predominantly bred and raised to produce either milk or meat (beef). Cows are pregnant for nine months and if not impregnated by bulls naturally then they will probably be artificially inseminated. It is necessary for cows to become pregnant in order for them to produce milk. Cows raised for the beef industry nurse their own calves and weaning may take place when the calves are six to seven months old. Weaning can be done by totally separating and removing the cows from their calves, out of sight and possibly out of hearing too. Alternatively, they can be separated by a reliable fence, which still allows them to sniff each other and communicate through the fencing, but does not allow the calves to feed from their mothers. Over a few days, they will graze further and further away from each other. This way is less stressful for them and usually not as noisy.

The life of the dairy cow is somewhat different to her beef counterpart. Generally, her calf is removed within one to three days of being born and is likely killed (sent to the meat works), hand-reared to be raised for beef or raised to be a replacement cow in the dairy herd. Hand rearing makes cows easier to be handled by people, especially if they are to be milked later on. Some farmers will put two or three calves onto one cow to be nursed by her.

Although the large majority of milking cows are part of the dairy industry, a few are kept as house cows and the milk is shared between the calf and the people who own the cow. Increasingly, there is interest in the consumption of raw milk, but there are some concerns related to possible pathogens in raw milk causing illness. Many people prefer it and believe it is beneficial for their health rather than a problem.

Some management practices experienced by cattle include vaccination, worming and parasite control, ear tagging, dehorning/debudding, TB (tuberculosis) testing, artificial insemination, castration of bull calves and transportation. In some cases early labour is induced in the pregnant cow so that milk production is in sync with the rest of the herd, or because it is in the interests of the health of the cow. The latter is a controversial subject. As consumers become more aware and concerned for the wellbeing of animals, alternatives for some practices may be found. It can be seen that sometimes farmers have difficult decisions to make for the animals in their care.

Cows with calves can be very protective of their young. They need to be treated with respect and care. Such a cow could charge a person in the same way a bull can. This could be fatal for the human.

First Light Combination Essence Crisis Support may be used for any of the above situations where there is distress experienced by cattle. It may be sprayed on the animal’s muzzle or just around the yard where they are being handled. Essences can also be put in their drinking water in the troughs. The skill of the handler and the way they interact with cattle affects the stress levels of the animals.

Overly protective mothers or mothers and calves being weaned off each other may respond to essences No 10 Starry Hibiscus, No 11 Chatham Island Geranium and No 12 Native Harebell for emotional stability and security, while No 37 King Fern for clearing physical trauma and No 40 Silver Fern for heartfelt trauma can also be included. If no other essences were on hand, Crisis Support and Feminine Support (especially for calving) would be handy combinations to use for most of the above situations.

— Marj Marks
Marj is a First Light Flower Essences of New Zealand registered practitioner and registered Veterinary Nurse. Marj can be contacted on 09 422 0177, 027 612 5256 or by email: