Every year our cows get a present from my husband; it’s become a tradition on our farm. As soon as our kids are through discovering what Santa has left them under the tree on Christmas morning, it’s time to feed the cows their “Christmas Bale.”
Of course, the cattle don’t know it’s Christmas. What they do know is that they can trust the guy in the tractor who brings them a bale of hay and who also checks to make sure their tank is full of fresh water. A few of them even like a scratch on the head from my husband and will remind him with a nudge to his back if he doesn’t oblige (I sometimes call him Mr. Corn Farmer, but some days it’s Mr. Cow Whisperer).
Bringing a present to the cows isn’t so much about the cows as it is a reflection of the farmer who truly enjoys his life’s work. This is also an example of the commitment farmers have for their livestock. While most people are on holiday vacation from work or school, visiting with friends and family and enjoying the warmth of the fire, farmers never forget to also care for their livestock to ensure their comfort.
During this time of year, our mama cows winter graze on corn stalks that were harvested in the fall and are also offered prairie hay for proper nutrition as preparations are made for calving season in February. Of course, they always have access to water, and supplements of salt and mineral. If a winter storm or blizzard threatens, they’ll also have access to protection either in trees or a barn.
No matter the changing of seasons, the cows are always a constant on our farm. In the early spring, the baby calves are born. In late spring, as the hills green up and grass grows tall, the mamas and babies are moved to summer pastures for grazing. In the fall, as the growing season comes to an end, the cows are returned to newly harvested stalks of corn and grain sorghum, and the calves are weaned. We’ll feed the calves in pens close to home and they’ll either be marketed or kept as replacement heifers that will grow into mama cows. And the cycle repeats for another year.
On Christmas, I think my husband reflects on the circle of events with the farm, and he is thankful for the role we can play in raising these animals and ultimately help raise food for countless others.
Even if the cows aren’t out of hay that morning, they’ll still be given their “Christmas Bale.” It’s a peaceful way to start a busy day that is full of gift opening, meal preparations, and family gatherings as we celebrate the birth of Christ. It’s a moment of simplicity in a world that spins with events beyond our control. It’s a little bit of an offering of thanks for making it through another year on a day that points us to what life’s all about – on or off the farm.