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C is for Cows

Work with cows is always defined by relationships of trust.

Cows are bigger than you might imagine. One could easily kill you – knock you down and trample you under her feet. But she chooses not to.

I watched a farmer in Derbyshire flow through the cowshed like liquid, squeezing himself between two heifers where, if one moved, she would crush him; passing beneath the head of another, who if she chose could toss him high in the air; sliding around the back of a third, who could easily kick him down in the muck with her back legs.

But as he laid his hands on their backs and spoke gently to each one, they stood still and let him pass by. He sorted the cows with a stick, bringing to the front those he wanted to move, pushing others back, muttering to them under his breath as he did so. And they followed his leadership, trotting peacefully past into their respective positions.

Milking a cow is a particular act of trust.

Seated on a tiny stool, my head leaning against her flank, I feel around the teats and speak quietly to the beast as she stands still, distracted by food. Pulling and squeezing, at first a little milk comes out, tiny jets squirting rhythmically for a few minutes, the cow still unsure of my presence, unwilling to release her precious nutrition into my pan.

And then, suddenly it starts to flow, each pull and squeeze getting longer, until the milk is jetting out in abundance. She moves her leg back to allow me to reach the teats more easily, and continues to munch. She is allowing me her milk. It is a privilege. I am very small right now, but for as long as she chooses, as long as I am kind, I am safe.

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