From the farm: Cow flipping for fun and profit
|Published: 02-04-2024 1:00 PM
Yes, I’m a cow flipper, not to be confused with a cow tipper. If you’ve watched Chip and Joanna Gaines on TV or read “The Magnolia Story,” you know what a house flipper is. Well, that’s what I do, except with cows. Chip and Joanna work to improve houses; I do the same with bovines. Think of me as a cow coach. I buy some of my subjects, teach them to be obedient, and then sell them. Those born on the farm get trained and then sold.
The inspiration for this sideline was a 2012 YouTube video of a girl riding her cow. The girl’s parents wouldn’t let her have a horse, so she rode her cow instead. What a novel idea; who won’t want to ride a cow? Riding horses is so been-there-done-that. And it so happens that my beef cattle have nice, plump, comfortable backs, unlike dairy cattle whose spines are like picket fences.
I started with a heifer (young female) named Clementine, also known as Clemy. When she was six months old, I used my horse-training knowledge to “saddle train” her. I flapped a cloth on her back, under her stomach, and over her eyes to get her used to a variety of adverse circumstances. She sniffed a child-size saddle before I put it on her back. Then, I tied bags of sand to the saddle to imitate the weight of a rider. Sometimes riders fall off, so I released the sacks of sand, which would flop to the ground, trying to replicate another adverse circumstance.
Then came the day when it was time to sit in the saddle. At 140 pounds, I was too big for 300-pound Clemy, so a brave 5-year-old girl climbed on her back, sat for a minute, then got off. We repeated that four times, and on the fifth try, while the girl’s mother held her child’s leg, I asked Clemy to take a step.
The girl in the saddle was calm, but I was a wreck. Cows are prey animals, and humans are predators; we even smell like predators. In the wild, a mountain lion will jump on a calf’s back to kill it. What if Clemy, afraid of this little predator on her back, bucked and threw the child to the ground?
Not to worry; Clemy walked off like she’d done this her whole life. Since then, she has given children rides and, when she got bigger, adults. Never once did Clemy take a wrong step or try to unseat a rider.
Many people want their own riding cow, so I buy, train, and sell them. One trainee, Puff the cow, proved herself too unreliable by bucking me off; sometimes, a cow flipper gets flipped, and not every cow is a potential steed. Puff was reassigned to calf production.
My new project is teaching my calves to lie down on command. Many folks want to hug a cow, and it’s so much easier to snuggle with a calf when it’s lying down. Owen, an 8-month-old Scottish Highland steer, is getting the hang of it.
I sell most of the cows I train but keep some. So stop by the farm and visit the “keepers,” including Owen and riding steer Curious Bleu, who would love to show you what they know.
Words of wisdom from Cow-Flipper Carole: Be curious. Welcome each new thing.
Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com), where she raises and sells beef, pork, eggs, and other local products. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Carole also coaches humans, helping them achieve the impossible a little at a time.