Agriculture in the Holy Land: Cattle


No, this picture was not taken in the Holy Land. I still need to enlarge my library somewhat. I took this picture in Liriuni, Bolivia, and shows a farmer coming home from the field with two cows at the end of the day. In many countries around the world agriculture has not yet been mechanized. In those countries, cattle are not so much kept to provide meat or milk, but mainly to provide traction in the field. So it also was in Palestine, and probably in Ancient Israel.

Both cows and bulls are used for agriculture. In Palestine, cattle were used for plowing during winter. In spring they were often sent to the Jordan Valley for a month to get fresh green feed. After that, they returned to their home to plow the field for the summer crop and the orchards. During the harvest, cattle ate the stalks in the harvested fields. They then threshed the grain. Sometimes they were sent to the Jordan Valley again in autumn for grazing.
During winter cattle were fed chaff and darnel. They were also kept inside the home until March. The winter stable for cattle was usually inside the Palestinian farmhouse, where donkeys were also kept. In summer the cattle of the entire village were often kept in an enclosure, where a cow herder would look after them.

The fattened calf is mentioned several times in the Bible (Genesis 18:7; 1 Samuel 15:9; 1 Samuel 28:24; 2 Samuel 6:13; 1 Kings 1:9; Proverbs 15:17; Amos 6:4; Matthew 22:4; Luke 15:23). It was seen as a sumptuous meal. But in Palestine beef was not regarded highly. Lamb was considered the best meat. A cow would give 400–700 liters of milk per year. Other breeds, however, that were fed on fresh green grass could give up to 5,000 liters of milk per year. The hides of cattle were also considered valuable.

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