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Rick Steelhammer: Where's the beef? Still on the hoof, making money for their owners as therapy animals

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Perhaps I was hasty in opting not to follow in my father’s footsteps and raise cattle for a living.

It’s the first time I’ve held that thought since leaving the farm decades ago to pursue a career that seems to have topped out at bush league journalism’s single A division.

Like others in his field — or pasture, if you want to get technical — hard work and innovation only went so far in determining Dad’s income, since he was paid whatever the market said his cattle were worth when it was time to sell them. If he managed to bring the cost of production down 10 percent from the previous year, it meant nothing if the market price dropped by that amount or more at auction time.

So, the idea of a predictable income appealed to me, even if it was in the newspaper industry, where management tosses around nickels like they are manhole covers. But today I’ve been reading about a new beef biz spinoff that adds so much value to cattle that it would be foolish and wasteful to convert them into burgers.

From the mindset of the folks who introduced the world to goat yoga comes the experience of cow cuddling, in which urbanites are unburdened of stress, not to mention cash, by spending 60-minute sessions snuggling up with cattle.

As a teenager, I leaned back on the sides of my dozing 4-H steers in county fair show barns and can attest that cattle can, in fact, provide warm and fuzzy feelings of peacefulness and affection. While the sensation was pleasant, it was never enough to stop me from auctioning off the steers at inflated county fair prices and then watching them march into slaughterhouse-bound tractor trailers. I had hundreds of dollars invested in the animals, after all, and business was business.

But I see now that I just wasn’t thinking far enough outside the box.

Mountain Horse Farm in Naples, New York, is among several farm businesses I read about that offer cow cuddling, described as “a unique way of connecting, interacting, getting close, playing, sharing space, finding wellness, and having fun” with their small herd of crossbred Scotch highlander cattle. Miniature horses, too!

No previous experience is required to take part in the hour-long “Horse and Cow Experience” at Mountain Horse Farm, according to its website. Just $75 for two people and $125 for up to four to take part in the 60-minute experience of bovine mindfulness.

It’s worth the money, since these animals are outstanding in their field most of the time.

Those signing up for the sessions are urged not to wear sandals, slippers or flip-flops during their interactions with cattle or miniature horses. That’s good advice, since my feet have been stepped on by cattle on numerous occasions while wearing boots, which only marginally eased the pain.

And, since cattle are free spirits, spreading both joy and fertilizer wherever they are found, I would recommend adding another item to your “Things to Bring” list:

Rubber boots.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

Funerals for Thursday, July 9, 2020

Ankrom, Vada - 1 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Dillard, Helen - 11 a.m., Gatens-Harding Funeral Home, Poca.

Greenlee, Margaret - 10 a.m., Bellemead United Methodist Church.

Harper, Carl - 10 a.m., Matics Funeral Home, Clendenin.

Humphrey, Connie - Noon, Restlawn Memory Gardens, Victor.  

Justice, Thelma - 1 p.m., Evans Funeral Home, Chapmanville.

Lanham, Kathy - 1 p.m., Long & Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.

McDerment, Randall - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Russell, Michael - 4 p.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.

White, Thomas - 11 a.m., St. Anthony Catholic Church, Charleston.