When do the cows come home?

The title says it all.

In the evening.

Never.

Or, at the end of the summer, if we’re talking about beef cattle that are currently grazing on upland pastures.

But whether it’s in the evening (for dairy cattle) or at the end of the season (for beef cattle), the point is that cows come home at a fairly languid pace. They wander gradually towards the place they’d like to get to, pausing frequently to ruminate, and often having the air of someone who has forgotten where he is going, or why.

Milking time.

Then they are usually brought home, no, rather than come home on their own accord like cows at milking time?

All jokes aside, I’m fairly confident the saying is just an elaborate way of saying “We could argue about this all day.”

Feel free to now post the fable about the farmer with the runaway cows arguing with his farm hand about the best way to search for them.

And here in California, when they chow down on a marijuana patch, they are so languid that they just … float away. Ranchers have been known to employ blimps to retrieve them, or milk 'em if they’re below 10,000 feet.

Not till they’re good and ready.

Cows and to some extent horses and sheep, tend to be creatures of habit. They walk around grazing. After awhile they learn where the best grass in the pasture is along with sources of water, shade, salt licks, and dirt so they can roll in dust. At the end of the day they go back to the corral, barn, or wherever else they know they will be safe, get milked, or get extra feed.

That’s when you do a count to find if any are missing which could be anything from being injured to giving birth to sometimes they just get curious and wander off.

Cows roll around on the ground to cover themselves like a pig would? I didn’t think a cow was physically capable of that. I thought their large bodies and skinny legs precluded such things.

Well I don’t know about the cows, but according to Admiral Kirk the horse comes home just before the barn door is fixed.

I thought they didn’t. Cowboys drove cows to slaughter, or to a train station to slaughter, and they never came home. The cowboys eventually came home without them. The trip driving the cows to slaughter was arduous. Even if they did come home, it would take months, but they don’t

You’re not from around here, are you?

Well after the chickens do.

Not in a month of Sundays.

Ironically enough, for jumpers, it depends on the porkchop plot. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porkchop_plot

Anyone care to do the return math? http://courses.ncssm.edu/math/NCSSM%20Student%20Materials/InvestigationsTrimester%203/Moon.pdf

ETA: Is farmer Stranger around?

We could argue till the cows come home and still not reach an agreement. Or something along those lines.

Some speculation from Wiktionary:

In my experience staying with several relatives that were dairy farmers, the cows had at best a mild interest in returning to the barn for milking. (Which was twice a day then. Modern factory dairies do it thrice a day.)

Maybe a couple cows would wander nearer to the barn, but the overwhelming majority didn’t.

They did seem to like the extra feed they got: a scoop of ground wheat in the trough while milking and some alfalfa in the corral on the exit side of the barn. But apparently not enough to make them go “Wow, milking time! I better get close to the barn to get some yummy stuff.”

So the kids had to bring the cows in. Fairly easy if boring. The cows rarely tried to avoid being herded in. They were quite used to it.

A generation back, before the area was fenced in, the cows would wander over a large area of rangeland. Rounding them up was done on horseback. Again, a sign they had little interest in returning to the milking barn.

The expression basically means “not quite never”. Not an absolute “never” but way past “don’t hold your breath”.