From the farm: More cow psychology

Jerome, a yearling Belted Galloway steer at Miles Smith Farm, enjoys some love from his fan club. Cattle rely on nonverbal communication and are good at reading emotions.

Jerome, a yearling Belted Galloway steer at Miles Smith Farm, enjoys some love from his fan club. Cattle rely on nonverbal communication and are good at reading emotions. Courtesy photograph

By CAROLE SOULE

For the Monitor

Published: 05-19-2024 6:00 AM

Cattle, unlike dogs, horses, and donkeys, have their own unique language. They are not people, and as much as we might wish otherwise, they communicate in their distinct ways. To truly connect with them, you need to learn their intriguing lingo.

Have you noticed that animals don’t talk much? Dogs bark, and cows moo, but that’s only a tiny part of their communication.

Did you know that a staggering 98 percent of animal communication is through body language? Surprisingly, the figure for human nonverbal communication is 90 percent. (That figure comes from a study done by Jeff Thompson, Ph.D. in Psychology Today in 2011).

While we may not bark or moo, our body language speaks volumes. Understanding this can empower you with a deeper knowledge of animal behavior.

For example, if you think, “I hate you,” but say, “I love you,” while clenching your fists and avoiding eye contact, which conveys your real feelings? Your words or behavior? We can’t hide our feelings, and our animals are good at reading emotions. But with practice, we can improve at reading theirs.

If cattle could talk, this is how they’d explain what makes them tick:

I like my friends so much that I’ll follow them anywhere. I like you, so I’m going to lick you. (A cow will “groom” you with her tongue if she considers you part of the herd.) Please brush me. Brushing is like licking and means you like me. Please call me by my name. Yes, I know my name. Adventure is fun. If a gate is left open, my friends and I will walk through it.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I’m curious. We’ll stare at the new truck that just drove up. It may have cow food in it. Don’t yell. I won’t listen. Yes, I know exactly where my baby is. Stop asking. Be patient. Let me figure out what you want, and I’ll do it — maybe.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

State: Don’t worry about the pine trees shedding needles
‘Dog Man’ has his day at Beaver Meadow
Many Hopkinton residents say it’s time to get rid of the pay-by-bag program
Granite Geek: For the first time, Mirror Lake’s winter was ice-in, ice-out, ice-in, ice-out, ice-in, ice-out, ice-in, ice-out
Opinion: A look at the Elderly Property Tax Exemption
Following middle school price estimates, Concord’s city leaders encourage school district to improve community access to schools

By the way, tail wagging does not necessarily mean your cow is happy. A wagging tail can mean one, irritation; two, warning she’ll kick; or three, acknowledging your presence.

If you want to test your new understanding of cow communication, stop by Miles Smith Farm in Loudon between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday or Saturday. Our cattle would love to show you how it’s done.

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, where she raises and sells beef, pork, eggs, and other local products. She can be reached at carole@soulecoaching.com. Carole also coaches humans, helping them achieve the impossible a little at a time.