A business that uses cow therapy to help Queenslanders feel better has officially opened south of Cairns.
The idea was the brainchild of Lawrence Fox, who noticed a difference to his mental health after he spent time with the gentle giants in 2020.
Last month, Mr Fox opened the Cow Cuddling Co, which allows people to spend one-on-one time with his cows in the Goldsborough Valley south of Cairns.
Amy, Ella, Holly, Sally, Sophia, Daisy, Milkshake — and her calf Babycino — are all pampered, tame and affectionate.
“My friend owned some cows that he had hand-raised and he allowed me to get in the paddock and touch, cuddle and lay down with them,” Mr Fox says.
“I was having some struggles with my own mental health and, while I was spending a lot of time with the cows, I realised that it was extremely beneficial, so I bought the cows and opened The Cow Cuddling Co.”
Mr Fox says that the therapy sessions are left up to the cows to decide how the interaction happens.
“The cows are fed before a session and then they tend to lay down to digest their food and relax,” Mr Fox says.
Each cow has its own personality and, Mr Fox says, after people’s experiences with the bovines, they report “feeling relaxed and moved by it”.
“There is a physiological impact from being close to a large animal with a large heart and a warm body temperature,” Mr Fox says.
“When we get close to them, our heart rate slows down, which has a calming effect.
“Our brain releases oxytocin, which makes us connect with the cows.”
While the Cow Cuddling Co is a private enterprise, Mr Fox works closely with the Cairns disability and support organisation Worklink, which helps facilitate connections with NDIS.
“The cows are the therapists. All they do is eat, sleep and get hugs,” Mr Fox says. “The farm is a social enterprise and we are also looking at employing people with disabilities to work on the farm.
“We are hoping to help people in the community who could benefit from animal therapy.”
While there are those who might raise questions about animal welfare, Mr Fox says the activity is all about bonding with animals while trying to improve mental health.
“It’s good for people to realise that these are beautiful animals. They are like big giant labradors,” he said.
“They are very sweet and cuddly. And they have their own personalities.”
He says those choosing to spend time with his cows should wear old clothes because interactions would mostly be done in a paddock.
“You will get dirty,” Mr Fox says.
“We have had a few people come out with autism spectrum disorder and, at the start of the session, they don’t want to look at me or talk to me,” he says.
“Once they start dealing with the cows, there is the physiological impact, there’s a release of oxytocin and then they tend to start talking and describing what the cows are doing and [how they are] reacting.
“That is one of the main areas of participation that we are now hoping to target.”