My informant was raised on a farm in northeast Nebraska and, in his youth, he was active in maintaining the farm with his parents. One day, about 50 years ago, one of the family’s cows became sick. The cow became bloated and my informant’s father had to explain that cows are too stupid to know when to stop eating. This particular cow had eaten too much alfalfa. This situation can be especially problematic if the alfalfa is really fresh because, according to other farmers, it expands as it is digested. If nothing is done, there is a significant chance the cow will die.
It seemed likely to my informant that this remedy may have originated when someone gave their cow something to chew on to help it cope with the pain of the bloating, and the cow recovered. My informant believes that chewing on the rope might ease the stomach and allow the cow to burp and let out some of the air that has it bloating. Also, this method has proven effective, because if the cow is dumb enough to binge on alfalfa to a point where it endangers its own life, it can surely chew on a rope for hours on end.
At the time my informant first heard of this remedy, he did not know of a medicinal cure for the bloating. Considering the cows had to be fed, housed, and cleaned, uncommon problems like bloating went without a definite cure and farmers had to ask each other what to do in these situations, and in this way, folk remedies spread from farm to farm.