Growing up in London I had very little experience with farm animals. So starting my vet school journey I had an open mind with a willingness to work with them, to try and understand them. To follow advice and instructions of those more experienced with working with them.
Sure accidents can and will happen, big animals may step on your feet or crush you against a wall. These are things we are taught to recognise and avoid. However together I met my first cow that actually meant to injure humans.
Talking about intentions when it comes to behaviour is generally a very massively frowned upon thing to do.
As background it is common to try and form a channel to move cows from one place to another. Sometimes humans are used to block paths as most cows will do anything to avoid a human… So we were using a channel into the crush with no problems.
In this cows case however I am not under any illusion that the cow was attacking us humans. It used its head firstly on one of my colleagues, knocking her to the ground, and then when she tried to escape crushing her to a wall. Then the cow turned around and head butted a farm worker who tried to close the gate after the cow had the left the area we were in to protect. Not just the once, but once the worker was falling the cow head butted him against the gate.
This is the first time that I’ve seen an incident like this occur with cows. It’s not nice to be the target of a 500kg animal, and it is rather scary. Whilst I have always thought cows would never cause intentional harm I realised that this a wrong thought to have. Normally I have no problem helping with the movement of a cow or calves, or blocking a path to help form a channel for the cow to move along to where she needs to be.
After this incident I chose not to act as a human barrier to close a path off. I think this is the first time where I have actively refused to do something for fear of injury or harm during my entire time at vet school. My judgement here was proven correct when the farm worker that took my place had to climb the fence to escape from the next cow through.
I know now that I will never been working with cows ever again once I finish my ruminants state exam.