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Can You Have Just One Cow? Is It Cruel?

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Mini farms have become extremely popular over the last few years and for good reason. Even if you do not own a huge amount of land, you can enjoy the thrill of raising some farm animals, including some cows. The question many small farm owners ask, however, is whether it is okay to have just one cow.

Dairy cows grazing in the meadow

Having just one cow is a great way to introduce yourself to the farm life. It may not, however, be the best option for every cow. The truth is that cows are herd animals, and they need friends to help keep them happy and safe.

Lonely cows can become depressed and lethargic, but luckily there are ways to help.

For many people, either due to space or money, owning more than one cow is not an option. If you choose to bring a single cow to your farm, it is imperative that you understand their social needs.

There are a few important things you need to know to make sure your lone cow is content and that it stays that way on your farm.

Is it Cruel to Just Have One Cow?

It is okay to have just one cow, but many argue that it is cruel to keep one cow all by itself.

Cows are social animals and enjoy having company, preferably of the farm animal variety.

In a herd, cows will groom one another, graze in an ever-moving group, and lay with one another when they rest. They instinctively crave companionship with other cows and even other farm animals.

It could be considered cruel by some if there is only one cow on your farm and no other farm animals for it to ever interact with. That would make for a lonely and depressing life for any animal.

Cows need social interaction to keep them calm and happy, so it is understandable why some call having only one cow cruel.  

Will a Single Cow Be Lonely?

A single cow will typically display signs of loneliness. Since cows are herd animals, a single cow will instinctively want to look for other animals to hang out with.

A lonely cow will bellow, or moo, loudly, looking for replies from other cows. It may act lethargic and uninterested in anything.

A single cow also may try to escape from your farm, especially if it can hear or sense that there are cows nearby.

Cow on mountain pasture

Are Cows Solitary Animals?

Cows are not solitary animals by any means. They are herd animals, which means they prefer to be around other cows.

If other cows are not there, a single cow will take up with other farm animals. They will often eat near and sleep near or next to other cows or animals.

Cows are prey animals, meaning predatory animals hunt them. Staying in groups helps to keep cows safe, especially their calves.

Predators will often look for the calves or cows that stray from the rest of the group, so cows instinctively seek out companions as a form of self-preservation.

Things You Need to Do if You Get a Single Cow

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help your lone cow and make sure it thrives on your farm.

Keep It in a Small Pen for at Least 2 Weeks

To get your lone cow acclimated to its new home, keep it in a small and very secure enclosure for two or three weeks. Cattle paneling works great.

Feed and water the cow in this area to let him or her know that this a safe place and this is where it will get fed. This will give your cow time to destress and get used to its new home. 

Make Sure Your Fence is Secure

A single cow will likely test the limits of your fencing as soon as it has free range of the pasture or pen. This is especially true if it can hear other cows nearby.

A single cow brought to a new farm will seek out other cows, even if they are not in the same pasture or paddock. Check and double check your fence for weak spots or short areas.

A determined cow can push through as well as jump over a short fence. If your cow escapes, check with nearby farms first.

Feed and Interact Daily with the Cow

Single cows are often lonely so try to always feed it each day. Let it see you often and learn that you are a friend.

This is also a great way to help your cow become more friendly and at the least, more responsive to feeding. It is also the best way to make sure your cow is still in its pen or pasture.

Get a Companion Farm Animal  

Companion farm animals are a great solution to helping your lone cow live a happy life on your farm. A single cow will gravitate toward other farm animals if cows are not available.

While they may not be friends immediately, over time, farm animals kept in the same enclosures will become friendly with one another.

You can introduce them slowly, with a fence between them at first. This will allow them to get used to them without them hurting one another.

group of cows in the meadow

7 Farm Animals That Make Great Companions for a Single Cow

  1. Goat
  2. Horse
  3. Pig
  4. Sheep
  5. Donkey
  6. Alpaca
  7. Llama

Keep in mind that all animals have different personalities and some animals, regardless of how much you try, will just never get along with one another.

Let new animals get used to one another gradually, separated by a fence for a while if needed. If you can, introduce them when they are both young so they can grow up together.

Final Thoughts

Cows are herd animals by nature, but that does not mean that a single cow will not thrive on a farm without other cattle. On the contrary, cows are extremely resilient animals and many small farms across the country only have one cow on their land.

Getting some companion farm animals and keeping your fence secure can help your lone cow succeed on your farm and live a happy, enjoyable life.