Frost-Free Cows

As “Giovanni” (aka “Prince Fuzzybutt”) trotted over to mooch a cube from my hand on this frosty morning, his back’s thick layer of frost reminded me of an important lesson. When heavy frost or ice covers the ground, it’s a great time to assess your cattle’s overall health. That same principle can apply to gauging our spiritual health.

During my first winter with cattle, I learned not to worry if they have frost or ice on their backs that doesn’t seem to melt. Cattle are most comfy when the outside temperature gets down to around 40 degrees. While we’re reaching for jackets, hats, and gloves at 40⁰F, ruminant animals are just getting comfortable. There are two reasons for their comfort in cold temperatures. The first is they have a very thick hide/carcass; covered by a thick layer of winter hair. This keeps them well-insulated, which explains why the ice or frost on their back doesn’t affect them. The cold can’t penetrate their hide.

The second reason is the heat generated by their rumination maintains their internal temperature. That’s why they’ll have ice on their back, but not their sides or stomachs. I learned this is a good way to gauge a cow’s overall health in the winter. In understanding how my frost-free cows tell me their body condition and overall health, I also discovered how this principle applies to our spiritual health.

We live in a cold, dark world; and if we're in good condition on the inside, we can withstand the cold world all around us. Click To Tweet

If a cow has a good body condition score (BCS), their stomach’s four chambers are working properly, and they’re in good overall health, they can comfortably withstand colder temperatures. They handle temperatures approaching the teens with little difficulty when they’re prepared for it. When we expect the temperatures to drop below freezing, there are several things we do to protect our cattle.

  • Provide shelter from the wintry winds as much as possible.
  • Give them straw or hay to lie on, insulating them from the ground.
  • Feed late in the day or early evening, so they bed down for the night with a full tummy. This keeps their internal furnace stoked, so it’s working through the night.

While this works well for mature cattle, young calves (whose rumen is not fully working yet) have much more difficulty regulating body temperature. I can’t say this about every cattle herd, but my adult cows move their calves atop hay stubble and create a circle around them in the pasture. When they move them into the barn on freezing or wet nights, they do the same by placing them on hay against the interior walls and then creating a barrier, or windbreak, for them with their bodies.

Watching how my cows care for their young reminds me of how important it is for us more mature Christians to help protect younger/newer Christians from the ravages of this world. We must come alongside and help insulate them from the hostile environment we sometimes face.

Before we can help others, we must first make sure our spiritual health is ready to weather the coming storm. We can do this by spending time in God’s word, through confession and prayer, and enjoying the blessing of fellowship with other believers. While all are important, I think the act of fellowship; wherein we support, edify, encourage, and help one another is an often overlooked aspect of spiritual growth. Proverbs 27:17 plays an important role in Christian fellowship.

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance
of his friend.
(Proverbs 27:17, NKJV)

When we fellowship with other true believers, we should endeavor to hold each other to the standards of morality and Christian behavior that Christ exhibited here on earth. Key to this is doing so with mercy, grace, and humility as Christ taught.

I pray each day that God helps me become the Christian man and friend that I, and others, can rely upon. With His help, I can grow to become a strong, vibrant man who can withstand this cold, dark world and help others in their trials.

How well prepared are you to withstand the coming storm? Click To Tweet

God’s blessings,

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56 thoughts on “Frost-Free Cows

  1. Your analogy of how the mature cattle protect their young and helping new Christians in their faith walk is spot-on, J. D.! During this pandemic, being with other Christians at church and other activities has suffered greatly. How I miss the fellowship! But at least I, and you, have a community of Christian bloggers to lean on and learn from. I find such nourishment for my soul in your words, my friend.
    Blessings!

    1. So very true Ms. Martha. As much as I abhor “anti-social” media sometimes, I’m eternally grateful for its presence this past year to bring me opportunities for worship and fellowship. Even though they’re virtual in nature, it’s so much better than being isolated; alone and afraid. Yes, my “alone time” with God is precious each morning and throughout the day, but we humans were created for community. Without it, I don’t do well at all. Just ask Ms. Diane. 🙂 God’s blessings; and thank you for your friendship ma’am.

  2. As always, you nail spiritual truths with your delightful analogies. I never leave your site without learning something — and more importantly, feeling fed spiritually. Thank you, J.D.!

  3. Always intrigued as you begin your posts as to see where you’re going! Again I learned about cows’s responses to temperature which was a sincere concern given TX snow, but your spiritual analogies are priceless. Self-care enlarges our opportunities to care for others. And your permission for a before bed snack was good too.

    1. Thank you Ms. Marilyn. Such kindness ma’am. I sometimes have to remind myself that I don’t need that evening snack like my cows. Especially when I start resembling them. 😀 Always appreciated my friend.

  4. What a great post! I love how the Lord inserts principles for life throughout nature. Thank you for the practical lesson about cows as well. I lived in the suburbs until 8 years ago when I moved to the country. We have cows for neighbors on two sides. I never knew that ice or frost on their backs wasn’t a hardship for them. We rarely get below 30 degrees here, but I would always be concerned to see cows with frost on their backs, thinking they were suffering from the cold. I am so relieved to now know better. I should have known our loving Heavenly Father would have considered their needs and provided for even the protection and comfort of beasts of the field. God bless you, J.D.. You have such a lovely gift. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    1. Yes ma’am! I’m with you Ms. Julie; I love how God is showing me so much more through His natural world. I’ve long believed that the Cross-Dubya has become God’s classroom for me.

    1. So glad you enjoyed Ms. Stephanie. It always amazes me what we can learn if we just allow Him to show and lead us each day. It’s as though His entire creation is a classroom; just for us humans.

    1. Much too kind Ms. Ann. I love how God uses the talents and gifts He gave each of us in His service. I learn much more about my health from you than you do about cattle from me my friend. Thank you for your willingness to share too. God’s blessings ma’am.

    1. Aww thanks Ms. Gail. Not sure how I would do out there along the Mogollon Rim, but it’d sure be an adventure ma’am. Pretty sure God would have lots to teach me out there too.

  5. Just thinking about the weather you all have experienced lately makes me shiver. Thank you for taking such great care of the cattle. Thank you for your inspirational messages. You always share words that touch my heart and soul.

  6. J. D., as always, I can visualize the ranch scenes you describe so well in your posts. The analogy of mature cows encircling the young ones reminds us to help guard other believers, especially new ones. This sentence spoke to my heart: “Before we can help others, we must first make sure our spiritual health is ready to weather the coming storm.” An important reminder to stay close to God so that we can serve Him and other people. Thank you!

    1. Such kind words. Thank you for all your encouragement Ms. Jeannie. And yes ma’am, these old cows are teaching me a great deal about how to live out my faith. I thank God each day for all His patient teaching. Even though I don’t speak “cow” very well, He uses them to teach me quite well. I’m so very glad you enjoy the lessons I share ma’am. God’s blessings.

  7. Again I love your cow stories! I know you must be working on a book (I hope!) Such a great insight and I’ve always felt bad when I saw snow on cattle. Now I understand! ❤️

    1. As God directs my friend. Thank you for such wonderful encouragement. Comments from you and my many other friends make this such a joyful task. I pray it honors God and brings Him glory. God’s blessings ma’am.

  8. I’ve often wondered how cows withstand cold temps. In fact, I mentioned this to my husband when we see cows down the street and across the street from our home, depending on where they are grazing at the time. Thanks for this clarity and glad the younger ones are protected with greater measures.

    Thankful in a cold and dark world, we can prepare to withstand it with the hope and light of Jesus! Great post!

    1. Yes ma’am. It’s amazing all that God can teach us through His creations isn’t it? I join you in your thanks and praise for all God does to protect and care for us. Even His correction and reproach shows us His love. Thank you ma’am.

  9. Great post, J.D.
    Isn’t it wonderful how God’s principles are reflected through our animal friends? Knowing how to place and shelter the calves from icy cold weather is fascinating—just built- in instinct. I felt much like those cows when our electric went out last week. Figuring out how to keep my mother and daughters warm, fed, and secure was a challenge, but God’s gift of common sense and ingenuity got us through. What an adventure! I know you had your share of adventures too, but the good Lord took care of us.

    1. Yes ma’am; that recent winter storm was one for the history books wasn’t it? I followed your journey; and so glad to know you survived also ma’am. We were certainly blessed during this event, but few stopped to appreciate that didn’t they. So glad you enjoyed the post ma’am. God’s blessings.

  10. This is another informative post. I’m glad to learn this about cattle, because I’ve always wondered how the Lord protects His creatures in the winter. Your lessons on fellowship and discipleship are timely for us. I hope we carry lessons learned throughout this pandemic back into our body-life as we seem to be returning to semi-normal conditions. Blessings.

    1. Oh, how I love this term Ms. Dottie; “our body-life”! The life we, as the body of Christ, live and exhibit to the world as a living testimony to our God and Savior. I’ve never heard this described in this way before; and am certain I’ll never forget it. If more of us Christians would realize how we are living testimonies to God, I think it would change the behaviors of many, myself included!

    1. Awww… anytime Ms. Sylvia. You and Mr. Phil are welcome any time ma’am. My morning conversation with the smallest of my yearlings (the last born in 2020) usually goes like this. “Buongiorno Giovanni. Come stai oggi? Vieni qui e mangia il mio picollo vitello.” His response is almost always the same; “Moo.” I’m still learning “Cow-talian”, but I think it translates to “Grazie mille nonno. Posso aver ne ho un altro?” And for our non-Italian speaking friends, that conversation is (I think, as I’m pretty rusty); “Good morning Giovanni. How are you today? Come and eat my little calf.” And his response is “A thousand thanks grandfather. May I please have another?” 😀 Thank you for making my morning Ms. Sylvia. Such a blessing ma’am.

  11. I’ve seen calves lose the tips of their ears a few times. But mostly they seem to know where to go during the cold, rain and ice . They get back into the “hollers” if they don’t have a barn or shed.

    Mature Christian should always be drawing the younger ones back into the fold or church. That’s the best place to weather the storms we experience here on earth.

    1. They sure do like to go find anyplace that gets them out of the wind and cold don’t they sir. I’ve heard of that happening up north (losing parts of an ear, etc.), but have never seen that here in TX. A few more storms like we just had and we might though. And I agree, we must leverage our experience to help those growing in their faith behind us navigate the storms of life sir. Well said!

  12. God imparted wisdom to His creation. At times, it seems the cows (and other animals) are better at following through than we are. I agree, my friend, we are called by our Father to mentor to our young folks. Such a vital mission. Thank you for encouraging us, J.D.

  13. I loved your description of how the older cows protect their young and the lesson this has for us to care for younger believers! And I agree that good and frequent fellowship with other believers is vital.

  14. Another great lesson from the Cross Dubya! I did not know that cows can keep warmer for longer than us. I’ve seen them in fields and occasionally wondered if they were freezing. Do horses also have thick hides?

    1. Thank you Ms. Robin. I’m glad you enjoyed the lesson ma’am. As for horses, my understanding is that they can minimally withstand the cold, but not with the same ability of cattle. For one, their hide isn’t as thick. Also, they are not a ruminant animal, so their digestive system doesn’t work quite they same. Like humans, dogs, etc., horses have a simple stomach; often referred to as “monogastric.” That’s why when the temperatures get cold for us, they do for horses too; which is why you often see responsible owners move their horses into insulated or heated barns, or place wraps around them to help trap their body heat (much like a jacket does for us). Hope this helps answer your question ma’am.

  15. I learned something new about cows, very interesting. The analogy you made is wonderful and I think you are so true. We must help nurture and protect young Christian so they can with stand the storms of life. Thanks for the encouragement each week.

    1. Thank you for all your kind words ma’am. Am so blessed that you enjoyed the post. I agree that we must both look ahead to what God has planned in our journey, while at the same time looking to help those behind us who might be struggling. Easing their journey in faith can only enhance ours. God’s blessings sweet friend.

    1. So very kind. Thank you Ms. Pauline. And welcome to you and Mr. Tom’s new Georgia home. I pray it be filled with much laughter, joy, and love. And I sure hope you start writing again soon. This world needs your voice my friend.

  16. Mentoring one another is mandated and necessary. It is also highly honoring and rewarding. While I may not be a mama, I can still care for the vulnerable and weak. It is a noble Christian duty. A wonderful and, as usual, educational analogy. Thanks, my friend.

    1. Amen Ms. Karen. Being a birth parent doesn’t make us a mom or dad. Trust me on this, my adoptive parents chose to love me, which makes me the luckiest guy in the world. Mentoring, discipling, or merely being a true friend can make all the difference in the world in someone’s life. It’s also a wonderful way for us to share God’s love and His gospel message.

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