Cow cuddling questions

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There are a lot of creative ways to generate extra income on a farm. For instance, when my sister, Diann, and I were grade schoolers, we decided to open a sweetcorn stand at the end of our dairy farm’s driveway. Our budding enterprise saw little success due to the fact that our prospective customers consisted entirely of our mail carrier and our milk truck driver.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in rural America. I recently learned of an outside-the-box business idea that involved cuddling with cows.

I at first thought that cow cuddling was some sort of joke.

“Who would want to cuddle with a hairy creature that has questionable bathing habits and is known to have extremely bad breath?” I asked my wife.

“That’s a good question,” she replied, looking at me meaningfully.

A modicum of Googling proved that cow cuddling is indeed a thing. In an effort to learn more, I phoned Jess Hoffman. Jess and her husband, Jeremy, operate Sunset View Creamery, a 40-cow dairy farm located near Odessa, New York.

I always pose the most important question first, so I asked Jess about the breed composition of their herd.

“About 80% of our cows are Holsteins and the other 20% are Brown Swiss,” Jess replied. “And we have one Ayrshire cow.”

Tell me about your operation.

“We have 348 acres, and Jeremy is the fifth generation of his family to operate this farm. Our 2-year-old daughter, Lainey, represents the sixth generation.”

So, how did this whole cow cuddling thing come about?

“We have been making cheese on our farm for several years. We sell our cheeses in our farm store and at local farmers markets. I was on maternity leave prior to giving birth to Lainey when my friend, Lisa, mentioned that she had seen something online about cow cuddling. I wasn’t working in the barn or making cheese at the time, so I decided to give it a try. 

“One of our first cow cuddlers was Lisa’s daughter, AnnaMay, who is on the autism spectrum. It was almost as if AnnaMay became a different girl when she cuddled with one of our calves. She opened up and really seemed to connect with the calf.”

What sort of people are willing to pay to snuggle up to a bovine?

“When we started to offer cow cuddling, we decided to make it affordable for families. We have had a large variety of people come out to our farm to cuddle with our cattle. I think our oldest was a 98-year-old lady who was bound and determined to cuddle with one of our calves. A well-known Broadway singer came out here once. We were also visited by a very famous Major League Baseball player, but I’m not at liberty to divulge his name.       

“Some of my most memorable experiences involve watching as kids who have disabilities cuddle with our animals. It’s really neat to see how the kids smile and open up when they pet a calf. It’s very rewarding when that happens.” 

What has cow cuddling meant to you and your dairy farm?

“Being a dairy farmer can be a lonesome occupation. You have to milk the cows twice a day every day, and the constant work makes it difficult to get away. I crave social interaction, and offering cow cuddling has helped me fill that need. It also gives me opportunities to educate the public regarding where their milk comes from. Plus, it brings more traffic to our farm store. That’s always a good thing.”

How did you get the word out when you decided to offer cow cuddling?

“Mostly through social media. I’m very active on Instagram and Facebook. We have also done some advertising in paper media such as the shopping guides that folks can pick up at gas stations or grocery stores.”

I see that you have something called Learn to Milk a Cow. Tell me about that.

“We offer visitors the full dairy farm experience. We start the hour-long class by taking our visitors through the process of feeding and bedding our cows. We cap off the experience by showing our guests how to milk a cow both by hand and with a machine. They basically pay me to help me do chores and milk our cows.”

I just slapped my forehead due to a sudden realization. During all those years when I was a dairy farmer, I had to pay people to help me. I’m beginning to think that I had it backward.

“Maybe you should have offered cow cuddling,” Jess replied. “As they say, if you build it they will come.”

Jerry Nelson is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].

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