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We Need A Cow
Third Times The Charm
Billy Bob
Guardian Donkey
Like Father Like Son

Peacock in Flight Peacock in Flight

We Need A Cow - The Story of NormanNorman (C) Rivers Critters Ranch LLC

Five years ago I really wanted to add a milk cow to our petting zoo. We had lots of school groups and daycare centers out to the property and everyone wanted to know where the cow was. I had never really intended to add a cow to the property. After all, cows get big and all our livestock are miniatures. But, the more I thought about it the more I thought that a cow could be a good idea. Hey, they would be small for a while and then we could have another baby and use mama for milking. Somewhat convinced I began looking for a miniature cow. It took only seconds to realize that there was no chance of being able to afford one of the very coveted miniatures. A few days past and I remembered that my best friend had a dairy farm. She and her husband had been in the business for years and there was a good chance they would sell one to me. The critter would not be a miniature, but perhaps it would work out.

One day over coffee, I popped the question. She hesitated before explaining that her husband, who was also a vet, did not sell his female cattle. Perhaps if I wanted a bull calf we could work something out. She explained that he would be small for a while and then we could have him butchered for meat. I thought about it and decided to talk to my husband. Later that evening my daughter heard the conversation and had very strong feelings about butchering a loved one. After much debate, I decided we were not ready to move into larger stock.

It was on a very cold day in early December when my girlfriend and I were out to coffee that she popped the question. She had this bull calf that she had been caring for. He was the sweetest thing she said but he was very small. Despite all his attempts at nutrition her husband had not been able to get any growth out of the little thing. She had been hand feeding him and now the worst had happened, her husband detected a heart murmur and felt he should put the little thing out of his misery. Until this time I had never felt that my friend would let herself get attach to a farm animal. Throughout the years she had rolled her eyes at my antics with the critters. But she clearly did not want this little life to be terminated.  She explained that if he lived he would most likely stay small and would be of use to me. She wouldn’t charge me for him and, well, if he didn’t live long we would still have a cow for a while. How could we not take the little thing?

We picked Norman up on a snowy mid-December day. As promised, for a six-month old he was tiny, in fact, he fit in a Great Dane kennel. As we unloaded him we were acutely aware that he smelled of death. We had lost a few animals in the past and several days before dying they took on a certain nauseating odor. In all honesty, we did not think he would make it.

My husband set him down on the barn floor. Those huge brown eyes stared up at us and followed our every move as we created a make shift stall for him. He looked lost as he stood and watched us. Coming from a sleek milking facility, an old fashioned country barn was foreign to him. My husband felt he needed a heat lamp. As he hung it I spread straw into the stall. We got him water and hay. We feed everyone some grain and then retired for the evening. Norman did not even have a door on his stall.

The next morning, I half expected to find him dead. However, when I entered the barn he was under the heat lamp with several sheep curled around him and a chicken on his back. I had to smile; there is never a camera on hand when you needed one. Throughout the coming weeks, Norman grew stronger and very personable. He followed me into the feed room and to each and every stall as I fed. He slept with the sheep, goats, peacocks and chickens. He came to his name; he was just like a dog. When he started teaming up with our mini-horse to retrieve hay bales, I knew he would make it. By the time spring rolled around he was healthy and a big hit with the kids. And he was great with them; I got thank-you notes with hand drawn pictures of them petting Norman. Of course, they did not understand that he was a bull not a cow, and we did not care, Norman had found his home. In the late spring he was neutered and his horns removed.

As time has progressed Norman grew with no indication that the heart murmur was threatening. Everyone on the farm grew attached to him. I began to notice that many of the animals or birds would go anywhere with Norman no matter how far away from their comfort zone he strayed. Chickens would surround him in the far front field - which is a good eight or nine hundred feet from their roosts. This is amazing since chickens usually do not stray more than two hundred feet from their home. The sheep and the goats would also follow him anywhere. He seems to be their rock and many of them still sleep with him, although they prefer not to eat with him because he is a hay hog. Also, he is a great heater in the winter, keeping other animals nice and warm. 


My friend still cannot believe that we have not had him slaughtered. And she certainly can not understand why anyone would want a two-thousand pound lap dog. But, how could we get rid of him, everyone loves him. Of course, she never got to see the parents come to the farm with their kids. She never saw how many children were afraid of the animal or how none of them were afraid of Norman. Everyone just had to pet Norman. Two and three-year olds who you would expect to be afraid of such a large creature do not flinch as his huge head stretches over the fence and into their face so they can pet him.


Late last fall after the fields were tilled and the leaves had left the trees, a gentleman drove up to the house and hurriedly knocked on theNorman going for a walk door. He was extremely upset as he told me my bull had just strolled down the drive and onto the dirt road. As I walked to the drive I assured the man that Norman would not go far as the crops were gone and there was nothing for him to eat out there.  I cupped my hands and screamed his name as loud as my lungs would allow. I could see his head jerk up so I called again. Norman turned and strolled toward the drive. I called again and he picked up the pace. By the time he had turned down the drive my call had picked up a very irritated tone and he began to run up the drive. The man’s eyes grew wide as Norman came barreling toward us. I was clearly angry with him for leaving his pasture, “where do you think your going” I admonished angrily. Norman has no desire to ever be in trouble and his eyes tear up if you are mad at him. He made a sharp left and ran into the closest open pasture. I walked after him and closed the gate.

The man’s mouth gaped open and his wide eyes looked at me in disbelief. Clearly, he was not amazed that Norman had come when he was called. Instead he was terrified that he had been just a few feet from a two thousand pound creature. I could see that the man thought I was nuts. I started to thank him but he jumped in the car, shut the door, whipped the car around and sped down the drive. To this day, I believe he thought he found the “Funny Farm.”


What can I say, family members come in all different sizes.


By:  Cindy Rivers


Rivers Critters Ranch, LLC

We own and operate Rivers Critters Ranch, LLC, which was founded in 1997.  As the name suggests the farm belongs to the animals we seem to be just the caretakers.

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This site is dedicated to those of us who have dream to farm.   Inside you will find information, stories, pictures and advice outlining the experiences of a city born family who acted upon the dream to move to the country and  live on a farm.  Join us as we share our adventures! 

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