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Dust on the Dashboard

A case of Restless Cow Syndrome

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at

We have reached the time of the year when we start to see a malady I like to call Restless Cow Syndrome. Restless Cow Syndrome typically happens twice a year. In the spring right before they go to pasture when things start greening up. Then again about this time of the year when the pastures start to dry up and it is about time to bring them home. It can also manifest during other times of the year such as holidays or trips out of town.

Symptoms of Restless Cow Syndrome include things like looking across the fence and staring at the neighbor’s pasture. Odd contortions and flexing of the head and neck through barbwire fences or under electric fences are signs of Restless Cow Syndrome. Another sure sign of RCS is the ability to sense open gates and a strong desire to run at high speeds toward those open gates.

Severe signs of Restless Cow Syndrome can result in result of dislocation of affected bovines. If left untreated this will eventually lead to the rupture and failure of fenced in boundaries and result in a more severe problem known as Wondering Cow Disease.

Wondering Cow Disease is very dangerous and can lead to blight in planted crops and a severe spike in neighboring farmer’s blood pressure. Wondering Cow Disease is best treated with complete removal of affected bovines. Chronic cases of WCD often result in a trip to McDonald’s.

Restless Cow Syndrome can be contagious and often is passed on through the sight of other cows, especially if the other cows seem to be more content. It is especially contagious and passed along through nose-to-nose contact, especially through male bovines. Male bovines are very susceptible to RCS when pastured next to open fall heifers.

Restless Cow Syndrome can be treated. Often a tightening of the barbwire will prevent RCS from developing into Wondering Cow Disease. Though not always effective, this is the least invasive treatment. Electroshock therapy has also been proven as a good treatment to keep RCS from spreading across the county. Levels of shock therapy depend on conditions and the level of tolerance built up in the affected herd.

The final and most drastic treatment is Relocation Therapy. This can happen in one of two ways. Either the affected bovine is moved to a secure treatment area, often with pipe fence, or they are moved to an area of better grazing. Better grazing results in the lowering of restlessness. It should be cautioned that this will only be a temporary cure and severe symptoms of Restless Cow Syndrome might return as the grazing treatment decreases.

Side effects of Restless Cow Syndrome include elevated blood pressure, agitation and decrease in socialization. This is not a side effect of infected bovines but of their human owners. It must also be noted that in some cases Restless Cow Syndrome has actually led to increased levels of exercise among dogs and horses and an increased satisfaction with their jobs. While it can lead to an increase in exercise among humans, job satisfaction seems to plummet with the onset of RCS.

Restless Cow Syndrome has been known to infect other species. Sheep, horses, lamas and teenage humans are often susceptible to RCS and should be monitored for symptoms. Goats and guineas are known to be carriers and often display clinical symptoms year-round. It is recommended to avoid contact with these species. Cats and dogs are not immune, tomcats and birddogs are often subject to sudden and chronic onset.

The good news is that Restless Cow Syndrome is often seasonal and will dissipate over time. Long term effects manifest themselves in the form of euphoria and amnesia in human owners who often develop giddiness over the sudden “curing” of RCS and forget that it will return next spring or fall.

While supplementation can provide temporary relief of Restless Cow Syndrome, it can also result in causing dangerously low levels of cash in bank accounts and high numbers of feed salesmen in highly infected zones. Turning off the ringer on your phone also results in temporary relief but greatly increases the odds of coming down with Wondering Cow Disease and is not recommended.

Unfortunately, Restless Cow Syndrome is a chronic and it is thought that every cow, sheep, horse, chicken and teenage human is infected at some level. The only way to cure Restless Cow Syndrome is a complete livestock amputation and that leads to sounder sleep, fewer ulcers, better social relationships, an increase in financial stability, and a happier marriage. No farmer or rancher could deal with side effects like that.

I am starting a foundation to research a cure for Restless Cow Syndrome, and I would encourage you to donate now. For the cost of a cup of really fancy coffee, roughly equivalent to your monthly mortgage payment, you can be assured that the Restless Cow Syndrome Foundation is working tirelessly to find a cure. Until then, know that you are not alone in dealing with this affliction.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at

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Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at

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