Martha Jackman, a Native American farmer from Greene County, Indiana and a member of the Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation wrote this article.
I have wondered what is the life span of a cow could be. If given the chance to live past the productive years, how long would a cow live? As we do these days, I checked the Internet for the answer. I found several references to cows living into the teen years if allowed.
I would like for you to meet Sammy. She is a Herford cow born April 1988 on the Robert Gastineau farm. I purchased her and her half sister on October 25, 1988 to start again a herd on the Howell farm. The previous herd was sold after the death of the farm owner at that time.
Her first calf was born March 8, 1990 and the last of 17 calves was born August 30, 2008. Sammy serves as the lead cow for the herd making it easy to move cattle from one field to another. If Sammy comes, the herd will follow.
The winter of 2013-2014 was so harsh for the livestock and me. I separated Sammy from the herd to feed her, as she seemed less able to fight at the feed bunk for her share. Also I fenced off an area for Sammy to walk to the horse barn to eat alfalfa hay that was feed to the horses. She had eaten grass during the warm months but seem to have difficulty eating the coarser round baled hay. The only other thing I have done to take special care of Sammy was to trim her front hooves as they were beginning to grow long. Sammy will be 27 years old in April of this year.
The question remains. How long could a cow live? How long will Sammy live? Only a higher power that has allowed me to know Sammy and to care for her knows the answer. Sadly, someday, I will know the answer too.
Susie and Sammy, Oct. 27, 1988 at the Howell Farm
Susie and Sammy with Sammy’s first-born calf, March 10, 1990
Sammy on Christmas Day 2014
As I stand by Sammy’s resting place, I think about her extraordinary life she shared with me.
She was a faithful business partner. The 17 calves she raised help pay taxes, insurance and built a herd of cows that possessed her longevity and productive genes. When her calving years ended, she contributed to the stability of the farm as the herd leader.
I think about the years that Sammy endured. She was born during the drought of 1988 and survived when many did not. She stood the 100 year flood when the water rose to her shoulders.
She had seen winters so cold and snow so high that I could not even walk to the feeders buried in the snow and went without grain for three days. There was Indiana summers so hot with days in the 100’s that she panted like a dog for her every breath.
She had eaten corn at $1.80 a bushel and corn that sold at $8.00 a bushel. She saw her calves sell for 58 cents a pound in 1996 and her last calf in 2008 for 1.68 per pound.
The herd has stop calling for her now as she has not answered for several days, but I have not made peace with my lost.
It is believed that Sammy was the oldest cow living in the United States. So how long does a cow live? For Sammy the answer is 27 years. The end came without suffering. Sammy died January 27, 2016, sixty-three days short of her 28th birthday.
Sammy on New Years Day 2016