Dairy cows stage brief "Occupy Farm Lane" protest

"Heck no! We won't go!"
We moved our milking herd across the road from their normal pasture this morning so they could graze in another pasture for a few hours. After lunch we begin to bring them back across the road, and at first everything seemed normal. One of our farm hands was in the pasture herding them my way, and I was standing in the road to divert them into the lane leading to the milking barn. After about half of the 187 cows had passed,  I noticed that they weren't walking into the lot and were filling up the lane. By the time the last cow had crossed the road, the lane was packed full and the herd was at a complete standstill. They finally started cooperating with a little verbal encouragement and the help of a border collie, but not until I had snapped a photo (right) of what's now known as the "Occupy Farm Lane" protest.

After studying over the chain of events, I think I have discovered the truth behind today's incident. I will list my conclusion below, but first allow me to share my tweets (tagged as #OccupyFarmLane) from the afternoon as things progressed.


(1:51pm) BREAKING: All 187  dairy cows have been temporarily detained in the milking barn. Officials currently processing herd.


(2:20pm) BREAKING:  cow slaps farmer in face with tail while being milked; claims she was aiming for a fly. No reprisal from farmer.


(2:30pm) Officials confirm that milk from  cows is being stored in this refrigerated bulk tank. 

(2:34pm) Says farmer Will Gilmer of  cows' milk, "It will leave the dairy farm on Wednesday morning for pasteurization and bottling."


(2:38pm) Gilmer adds that  from  cows will prove to be "yummy and nutritious", posing nothing but health benefits to the public.


(2:45pm) Following their milking and release, these  cows stop for water before returning to pasture. 

(2:54pm)  cow 351 stands in the milking line as 426 stages a one-cow  protest. 

(3:10pm) In a move being described as "typical", several cows have defacated, urinated in holding pen. 

(3:20pm) When asked to comment on , cow 532 offered only a single "moo" while others continued cud-chewing 

(3:44pm) BREAKING:  has ended. All involved dairy cows have voluntarily dispersed back to their pasture after being milked.


(3:57pm) Scene from behind the loafing barn as cows return to pasture following  incident. 


Once we finished our normal afternoon farm duties, I launched my investigation. My first inclination was to check the maternity pasture and inquire if any dry cows' had gotten wind of the milking herd's plot. They were all eating hay and too busy to talk to me, though in all likelihood I doubt the dry cows would have said anything even if they weren't eating.

I began to wonder if my cows had been infiltrated by an outside influence. I regularly read about the hijinks of Tennessee dairy farmer Ryan Bright's secret agent cows on The Udder Side, and I thought perhaps one of them had come to stir up trouble ahead of the Tennessee/Alabama football game this weekend (I like neither team, btw. Hail State!). Maybe, just maybe, it could have been a California cow trying to make sure people won't believe happy cows also live in Alabama. Since we didn't milk any extra cows over the course of the afternoon, though, I decided it must have been an inside-job.

undated file photo of
GDF #0007, aka "Donkey"
The cloud of suspicion quickly settled on our oldest, most stubborn cow, GDF#0007.  This is the same cow that can send the border collies running in the other direction with nothing more than a look, and she has a long history of trying to do whatever pleases her at the time. It would be just like her to take a whim that she didn't want to be milked and lead the rest of the herd in a protest. Just as I was ready to pin all the blame on her, however, I remembered she was one of the last cows to leave the pasture this afternoon.  With her now in the clear, I was left without any other viable suspects.

And then it hit me. 

Today was very sunny and a little bit warmer than the weather we've had recently. Before we started moving the cows across the road, I had stood underneath the big pecan tree next to the gate at the end of the lane along with my father and our farm hand. We all remarked at how easy it would be to take a nap in the shade the tree was providing. In addition to this inviting spot for man and cow alike, a water trough sits just a few feet inside the gate. This particular water trough is often the first stop for many cows on their way into the milk barn.


After taking everything into consideration, I think I have finally come to an accurate conclusion as to the cause of today's "Occupy Farm Lane" incident. The first 20-30 cows who came through the lane stopped to enjoy the shade and water, and did not allow the following cows to walk around them. This caused the herd to fill up the entire lane from gate to road.  It wasn't a protest, it was a bovine traffic jam. There was no intention to avoiding being milked, and the integrity of the milk supply was never in danger.

In other words, it was just cows being cows.

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