Working Cows: An Ag Couple's Crash Course in Communication

Working Cows An Ag Couple's Crash Course in Communication

This article was originally written for the November edition of the HiLine farm and ranch paper.

Who needs marriage counseling when you can just work cows and figure out what the issues are right then and there?

Recently my husband and I have had frequent opportunities to practice communication skills while chasing and working cows. It seems like after the first snow flies the cows are ready to get out of the pastures and back into the yard.

I'm sure you all have heard this quote:


Here are 3 reasons why working cows with your spouse can be so stressful.

  1. Working cows highlights the differences in your communication strategies or lack thereof.

  2. It also accentuates assumptions that are made about each other and about what you're doing together.

  3. It is also compounded by the third-party being a mostly unpredictable animal.

Communication strategies:

We all have different communication strategies and most marriage partners have different or opposite communication strategies. In general, men tend to be more straightforward and minimalistic in their communication and women when communicating not only consider the exact details but all the other extraneous information surrounding the subject of the conversation. Neither is the “right” way to communicate. Both have strengths that they bring with it. There are also strategies of communication that are specific to your personality for example you might have a strong leading personality and so the way you communicate will reflect that. Another example is someone whose personality is one where they value everyone's opinion and seek to bring understanding to all. This communication strategy is going to look vastly different. For successful communication you have to consider your own style and that of your partner or communication will definitely break down! If you'd like to read more about communication styles you can read this blog post specifically on communication styles.


Have you ever heard the quote that says, “Assumptions are the termites of relationships”, by Harry Winkler? There is no way around it, when you are working animals, assumptions are going to be present. You may assume that your partner is going to make the same choices as you, but they will be making choices from a different personal point of view, a different point of view from where they physically are standing, or a different perspective on their interaction with the same animal at a different time. There's also the assumption that your partner knows what you want them to do; the assumption that they understood the directions that you gave them; and the assumption that they agree with the directions and are willing to follow through with them.

The Unpredictable Third-party:

Assumptions aside, you're still working with an unpredictable animal that may react differently depending upon what you are doing with them, what the rest of the herd is doing, etc. Obviously, herd management strategies are going to play a part in this. But simply culling all the “wild” cows isn't the only factor in making working cows with your spouse easier.

Between different communication strategies, different assumptions that are made, and working an unpredictable animal this can be a stressful situation to be in. Yet, many of us, have to figure it out and work through it with our spouse frequently through the year!

It all comes down to making a choice!

Like everything in life, each participant has a choice. We have a choice in how we respond whether working cows together is going well or not. We can choose to believe our assumptions are the truth. We can believe the cow is against us. We can choose to believe all sorts of things about our partner.

The biggest choice you have to make is what each of you will bring to the interaction.

Working cattle and marriage does not work if both parties bring only 50%. Each party has to be 100% invested in having a successful marriage, a happy relationship and less stressful times working cows.

You have to choose to bring your best or somebody gets hurt, the cow doesn't load, lots of yelling ensues, or heaven forbid the animal jumps the fence and heads to Timbuktu!

Want to test out the strength of your marriage?

I’d be happy to offer you and your spouse an opportunity to work some cows! ?

How does working cows strengthen your marriage or highlight the challenges?