Cow tipping

Farm Forum

The doctor pressed her stethoscope against the cow’s flank and thumped her finger against the bovine’s belly as if she were checking on the ripeness of a gigantic, hairy watermelon. She had big brown eyes and weighed perhaps 110 pounds. The lady vet, that is; the cow, a Holstein, clocked in at about three-quarters of a ton.

“She has a displaced abomasum,” murmured the lady vet.

Like any good dairy farmer, I knew that cows have a multi-chambered digestive system that is more complicated than the seating arrangement at a royal wedding. It had never occurred to me that a cow could somehow lose track of one of her stomachs.

“Not misplaced. Displaced,” explained the lady vet patiently. “Her abomasum has floated around to the wrong side. Nothing can get through, like when you twist a garden hose.”

Wanting to assuage the suffering of my unfortunate ungulate, I asked about options.

“We could operate,” said the lady vet, “Or we could roll her.”

It pained me to point out the obvious, namely, that the cow likely didn’t own anything worth stealing. Lots of cowhide, but no wallet.

“What I mean is that we would lay the cow down and roll her over. Sometimes when we do that we can get the abomasum to shift back into place.”

I replied that this plan sounded excellent except for the “lay the cow down” and “roll her over” parts. My experience was that it’s extremely difficult to tip a cow, urban legend notwithstanding. Did I mention that the lady vet weighed perhaps 110 pounds? And I’m no Hercules.

“Not a big deal,” she replied. “We’ll just use the lariat.”

The lady vet produced a lariat and looped it around the cow in several places, employing some mystical rope-tying technique that must have been handed down to her by a sage old cow shaman. In any event, when all was ready she grabbed the rope and hauled away and the cow responded by gently laying down.

Then came the exciting part. Cows do NOT enjoy being grabbed by their legs and rolled back and forth. Much cursing and sweating and grunting and dodging of flailing hooves ensued. Did I mention that the cow weighed three-quarters of a ton? And I’m no Hercules.

At length the lady vet called a halt to our labors. She again thumped upon and listened to the cow’s flank. Breaking into a grin, she said, “I think we did it!”

And so we had. We let the cow rejoin her herd mates and she moseyed over to the bunk and commenced to munching hay.

I was deeply pleased. The cow had dodged the surgery bullet and I had learned that cow tipping is a real – and useful! — activity.

I asked the good doctor what types of animals had come under her care.

“Snakes, rabbits, birds, you name it,” she replied. “If it was on Noah’s ark, I’ve probably treated it. Lizards. A camel. Water buffalo.”

Impressed by her repertoire, I decided to put the lady vet to the test. I pointed to a nearby mother cat who was zealously grooming herself. The cat did this a lot; her life seemed to be an unending stream of bathing emergencies.

“Probably has fleas,” said the lady vet. “Stop by my office and we’ll give you a special shampoo for your cat.”

Hearing the words “shampoo” and “cat” in the same sentence evoked emotions akin to hearing the words “nuclear” paired with “bomb.” Even so, it seemed like an astute diagnosis.

Our farm mutt had been hanging around this whole time, observing the goings-on like a furry, unpaid supervisor. I showed the lady vet a spot where the canine’s coat had become thin and patchy.

“Could be ringworm,” she said. “Stop by my office and we’ll give you a special ointment.”

I asked the lady vet if casual exposure to said ointment and/ or shampoo would be hazardous for humans.

“No,” she replied. “But it would likely clear up any fleas or ringworm you might have!”

Striving to hide my sudden feelings of deep gladness, I asked the lady vet about some other symptoms. They included foul moods and intestinal bloating and cramping, which were inevitably followed by explosive eruptions that, reportedly, were loud enough to be heard in the next county.

“What species are we talking about?” she asked.

I admitted that the symptoms described were actually mine.

“It would be totally unethical for me to treat a human,” she said. “But I could probably do a quick exam. Here, let’s loop this lariat around you and we’ll get started!”

If you’d like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: