The Cows Came Home

black cows grazing cornstalks in  nebraska field in winterAll winter, the cows have been out on cornstalks. For those unfamiliar with Nebraska, cornstalks are what is leftover after a combine harvests the grain from a cornfield. The leaves and husks are good feed for cows. Of course, the combine never gets 100% of the corn , so the cows spend their first few days searching earnestly for leftover grain before they settle for the husks and leaves.

This arrangement is good for everyone. The farmers get paid for the feed, and lose few soil nutrients or organic matter since the cows leave behind manure. The rancher gets reasonably cheap feed for the cows and does not need to bring feed to them every day.

Of course, cows on cornstalks leads to stress for this ranch wife. Most farmers in our area of northeast Nebraska have removed fences. This means that hubby spends a few days erecting a single-wire barrier attached to an electrical source (an electric fence) to keep the cows in their proper place. Wandering upon roadways or neighbor’s lawns is generally frowned upon, so keeping animals in their proper location is of utmost importance.

Hubby is a very laid-back person. This personality trait has its advantages, but mostly for hubby. Wife, on the other hand….. Anyway, several ‘incidents’ over the years have led to the creation of a set of rules for cows on cornstalks. These rules were adopted by wife-decree despite hubby’s objections. [I’m the one that answers the phone calls from irate neighbors and the county sheriff after all.]

The rules for cows on cornstalks–each rule has built on the previous one in progression over time:

  1. Waiting for neighbors to call and tell you cows are out is NOT an adequate strategy for checking fences.
  2. Thou shalt check the voltage in the electric fence on a daily basis. When thou tries to pretend thine fence has been tested [and it has not], wife will immediately be suspicious and will not trust your assessment for several days subsequent.
  3. When wife knows how to operate an electric fence tester, it is best to report voltage accurately. See rule #2 if you wish to exaggerate…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When March rolls around, bringing the cows home is simple. Our cows are generally on the same section or across the road from our farm. The most we have ever moved cattle is a mile, so we have it pretty good.

For others, bringing cows home means a good, old-fashioned, cattle-drive. Many a spring we get to witness cattle deliberately walking down the road. (Many a spring, summer, fall and winter, we also get to witness some ‘accidentally’ walking down the road too).

Note to self: Next time I see cattle coming down the road in an organized drive….make sure to lock wanna-be cattle dog in the garage.


About jheem

I grew up on a diversified dairy farm in southeast South Dakota where I learned how to throw a hay bale, pull a calf, deal with death, and "name" the cows. I was in 4H and FFA, and was privileged to serve as a state FFA officer. In college, I studied animal science, focusing on beef cows, mostly because I figured they were less work than dairy cows....I ended up with a Masters Degree in ruminant nutrition and went to work for the University of Nebraska, first as a research tech coordinating data collection for a swine unit and beef feedlot on a research farm and then as an extension educator. In my current job, I focus on environmental issues related to animal agriculture (which is a nice way of saying I talk about manure alot). My husband and I live and work on a seedstock cattle operation in northeast Nebraska. You can learn more about our cattle operation by visiting my husband's blog at
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4 Responses to The Cows Came Home

  1. Your post made me laugh. I’m all too familiar with your trials–wanna-be-cowdog not excluded 🙂

  2. jheem says:

    Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad to brighten your day. My real reaction is often much different than laughter, but posts about those moments wouldn’t be very family-appropriate for this blog….

  3. Pingback: $@!% Farm Moms Say | Fence Post Diaries

  4. Pingback: Blizzard February 2, 2016 | Fence Post Diaries

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