The grass all around me was dark green, thick and tall. It should have been. It was spring and the weather had provided an almost perfect pallet for ardent growth. Some of that weather was now raining down on me in a torrent, driven by high winds.
The wind blew the leg of my trousers up just enough to cause a shiver from the striking of cold hail on my bare skin. My pants were beginning to soak through. My coat was beginning to soak through. I was cold! I knew my cows were cold, too.
The best way to keep cows warm and healthy in adverse weather is to keep them well fed. That’s why I was out in this wild, grass-promoting weather. I wanted my cows to be as comfortable as possible. The weather report had warned me that the worst was about to arrive. At this moment, drenched and icy, I found it hard to believe it could get much worse.
In such weather conditions, cows can become skittish. I’ve seen them race across a field in seconds or buck and jump as if to demonstrate a fervent defiance. I’ve always found them to be passionate, curious creatures. That’s why I was approaching them with exceptional caution at this stormy moment.
You might say I wasn’t throwing caution to the wind. I had no desire to have 1,800 pounds of beef launch me skyward to be ravaged by the wind like a rag doll. After all, my largest steer is capable of bending metal pipe, based in concrete, at his whim. And, last I looked, I was still mostly skin and bone. All of which, I wanted to remain intact.
At the moment, I was still intact, and the welcome I received by the steers was one of calm confidence.
As I walked into the hay barn, calm enveloped me. I was protected from the rain, wind, sleet and hail. I lifted some hay and bravely went back into the torrent. I wanted my furry friends to receive the same protection, so I intended to feed them in a different than customary location.
I walked out. They followed. They ate comfortably. They stayed within the protection offered. Their behavior caused me to really consider the message or “Moosage” they were giving me.
Here is the communication my cows gave me about building and maintaining trust.
Be consistent. I’ve tried to feed them at or near the same time and place twice, each day. That’s why they were waiting for me at their feeding rack, even when the weather was dreadful. They knew I’d come at that time, at that location. They were so certain of it that they had left the protection of their warm, dry stable in advance of my arrival. Consistency makes a difference, especially during times of adversity.
Bank your time. Trust isn’t earned over a short period of time. I’ve spent months and years with these cows. They’ve been able to observe me over a long time. So, they know I have their best interest at heart, because I’ve proven it to them over time. They could have been upset because of the intemperate weather. They could have run away or hurt me badly because of an imperfect circumstance, but they didn’t. They knew I would lead them to safety, so they followed. They had spent enough time with me to be certain of my motives.
Create a comfortable relationship. I’ve worked to develop my relationship with these cows on many different levels. The sound of my voice, my touch, my smell, my movements, the taste of their food have all become part of how we interact together. When I approach them, I call out as a welcome. When I’m close, I reach out and let them sniff my hand. To reassure them, I rub their heads, sides and backs. I stand and do these things as they eat, so they associate all of my movements with the pleasure of being fed. I’ve made it comfortable for them to be with me.
You and I can use these same Moosages of Trust in all of our relationships. If we will, those around us will enjoy a high level of confidence. Remember to be consistent, bank your time and create a comfortable relationship. It will be worth it, because all of us will need to endure many storms in life.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.