This morning, I may have come to the realization that I just might have outlived my usefulness.

We still have a little pasture left and I’m trying to delay feeding hay as long as I can, due to the limited supply I was able to purchase this past summer. In order to supplement the protein needs of the cattle, I started feeding a few range cubes about three weeks ago. I have a cube feeder on the back of my UTV and each morning, I distribute about 2 pounds per head, along a straight line, through each pasture. Once the cubes are unloaded, I like to drive by the line of cows, to check their health, condition, and make sure they’re all where they’re supposed to be.

Starting out at the home place, the cows made a beeline toward the vehicle, and they hungrily started devouring the sweet feed that was falling from the UTV. After the cubes had been scattered, the cows were lined up in a straight line, that would make them both easy to check and count. There were supposed to be 30 cows in that field. As I drove slowly past the big group, my tally was…29.

When the cows are all the same color, and constantly moving toward bigger piles of feed, it’s not unusual to miscount, so I usually count them a second time, to make sure my figures match. The second trip resulted in the same number of 29. I scanned the open area of 80 acres, and could see no cow standing off by herself. For the third and fourth times, I passed by the row of cows and, each time, counted only 29. I couldn’t miscount four times in a row, so I drove the tree-covered perimeter of the pasture, to see if I could find the missing cow. Nothing.

The adjoining pasture was home to 25 cows, so I figured that maybe one of the old girls had decided to see if their pasture was better. I spread cubes there and followed my routine of checking them. There were 25, just like there was supposed to be. I went back to the first field. After spending an hour driving the entire perimeter, plus walking through three little wooded areas, I still had not found the missing bovine.

Having finished their feed, the cows were now strung out in a very unorganized line, heading toward the pond for their morning drink. On a lark, I started counting and, lo and behold, I counted 30. One more time resulted in the same, correct number of 30.

I fed the cows at one more place (they were all there), before coming back to the house. I guess my wife could tell I hadn’t had a good morning, by the way I was throwing off my boots, coat and hat.

“Something wrong?”

Angrily, I replied, “I don’t think I’m smart enough to farm anymore. I’ve wasted half a morning looking for a cow that wasn’t even missing. Evidently, I can’t even count to 30 anymore, without getting confused.”

“No problem,” my compassionate wife replied. “You can always get a job as an election official.”

Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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