If you are new to cattle, one temptation that you must resist is expecting them to act like dogs, cats, or even horses. Of course, cows can be funny, cute, and affectionate, but they are still cows. If you don't teach them to respect humans, they can develop dangerous ways of interacting with people. Cattle see the world differently from other animals. Once you understand how they think, you can treat them according to the cow-rule book, and they will respect you as the Boss.
Of course, this advice doesn't count for bulls or angry, aggressive mama cows. When a cow or bull is upset, you do nothing but run! However, this advice is designed to set the tone for your interactions with your cows on a day to day basis. This advice goes for when you are feeding, fixing fences, or doing daily, normal stuff around your cows.
How to Get a Cow to Back OFF!
First, you have to know how to teach the cow to respect you. Cows are big animals with hard heads and thick hides. However, they have two sensitive areas. The ends of their noses and their ears are touchy spots for cows. To get a cow's attention and get her to back off, you can smack her on the nose with a switch or a riding crop, or you can twist her ear. Either one will make her sit up and pay attention.
Create the Bubble
To get a cow to respect you, you need to visualize yourself in the center of a four-foot bubble. The cow should never invade this area without your permission. Now, realistically, every herd has a couple of curious, friendly cows that might come to visit. However, the tone you want to set is to have the cow invade the bubble tentatively. She should always back off if you were to make a quick movement.
To help cattle learn to respect your space, you simply discipline them with a nose swat or ear twist whenever they invade your bubble. Cows that rub up against humans for treats or scratches can not only be pesky, but they can also be dangerous. Cattle are very physical animals, and their pushing can get out of hand very quickly.
They may not intend it, but they can knock you down to get to that bucket of feed or that bale of hay. That's why teaching them to respect the bubble is so important. Yet, you must be consistent. You'll confuse the cow if you allow her to bump you for scratches when you're standing around but discipline her if you're working.
Of course you can groom and pet a cow, but make sure that YOU are initiating the contact and you do it on YOUR terms, not the cow's terms. She must know that you are in charge. When you decide that grooming is over, then it's over.
Now you may be thinking, "Well, that's cruel. I want my cow to love me and not be afraid of me." However, when you understand the way that cows think, you learn that cows don't necessarily have to fear you to respect you.
In cow world, the strongest, most aggressive cow is the Boss Cow. Your goal in herd handling is to have your cow think that YOU are the Boss Cow. When the cow respects you as boss, handling them is much easier. They appreciate that you feed them and care for their needs, and they don't fear that you're going to beat them every time you turn around. However, they also know their place and they stay in line.
Cows that haven't learned to respect people as the Boss, can be unpredictable and dangerous. You never know what these cows will do. However, a cow who understands her place on the farm is a real pleasure to handle and have around.