I love cows. I’ve milked cows. So I was somewhat interested to find out that the state of Wisconsin names a Cow of the Year.
This year’s Cow of the Year is a Brown Swiss named Cozy Nook Pronto Twylight. She is “an outstanding representative of excellence in production and genetics,” we are told.
When I milked cows in Israel, we named cows after members of the community, so we had a cow named Madelena and two named Edna, because we had two Ednas living there. We also named cows after political figures, so the wife of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Jihan Sadat, had a cow named for her. So did Jordan’s King Hussein. It was done with affection. The Israelis appreciated Arab leaders who were willing to make accommodations with their country. (Yeah, I’m digressing. Deal with it.)
Naming cows is not required, but it could be beneficial. A study in Great Britain a few years ago that purported to show that cows with names give more milk than those who don’t. Janesville, of course, has Bessie the Cow, which is a giant fiberglass statute, not a real cow. Down the road in Harvard, Ill., they have a cow statue named Harmilda.
When I milked cows near Wrightstown, Wis., we milked about 300. They all had numbers on their plastic ear tags. If they also had names, the owner never mentioned it. All I know is, I went in the pit at 4 a.m. and came out a few hours later covered with—um—let’s call it spatter. This is one of the reasons I got into journalism.
Fast forward 30 years, and we have Cozy Nook Pronto Twylight. I’m sure she is a fine cow with fine owners who deserve the distinction of having one of their animals named Cow of the Year. I’m sure she’s mild mannered and has never kicked anybody.
My first thought when I heard her name was that if we have to have a state cow, then the name should be spelled correctly. My second thought was that owners should be able to name their cows anything they like. This is America, after all. And who are we to judge without knowing what went through the owners’ minds? Maybe their choice was based in some bit of family history. One thing I know about living with cows is that they grow on you. They become like family members. You think of them as “my cows,” even if you’re just a hired hand.
One more thought: Of all the dairy breeds, the Brown Swiss are the prettiest. But that’s just a matter of opinion.
To learn more about Ms. Twylight, click here.