I read this story about 15 or 20 years ago, not 40 as many of my other questions. But the SF collection it was in might have been much older. It is either a longish short story, or a shortish novelette, difficult to remember exactly. (There is no tag for this ambiguity, I had to use "short story" but it might be too long to be one, technically) Is does not really look “politically correct” by present standards….

The main character is a human. The story might just take place on Earth, but most probably on some other planet. His employers might be human themselves, or possibly aliens, but they recognise him as fully sentient.

When he meets his charges for the first time, he is rather surprised : they look exactly like human women and they are kept for providing milk. However, when looking in their eyes, he realises that they are not human slaves, but really animals with no more intelligence than cows.

He is supposed to feed them, keep their stalls clean, milk them (probably not by hand, just connect and disconnect the milking machines), treat them when they are sick or hurt. And he finds it a rather nice job.

Once he sees a “bull”, a fierce thing in a stall just for him(it?)self, looking like a fine element of human male, but with just lust, frustration and rage in the eyes, but no intelligence. But the "bull" is too dangerous for an ordinary stablehand like our character, they have specially trained people for dealing with him(it?).

I think that at the end one of the “cows” is ready to give birth when he is alone on duty. He manages to deal with that, and brings to the world a nice human “calf”, and he is very pleased by this accomplishment. I don't remember any more "momentous" end, the emotional scene of the successful delivery was just the final climax.

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    I recall this story. I think that the protagonist was sent to infiltrate the dairy because his government was concerned about it. The planet no longer had bovine cattle because of a disease that wiped them out. He tried to communicate with the human "cattle" but without success. He also tried to have sex with one of the women. The story was evidently intended as an allegory to raise awareness of the way cattle are treated in our own society. Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 15:53
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    Soylent ice cream is people (milk)!
    – Lexible
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 17:25
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    @InvisibleTrihedron As I recall, the tale began with the premise: "We have discovered a way to access parallel Earths. On this newly-discovered one, all large livestock animals are dead, but something goes on inside the huge 'barns.' We don't know what the heck it's all about. We're sending you over to that alternate Earth to get a job in a barn and see what the heck they are using as a milk source." At the very end, the protagonist is thinking something like this: "Is anyone back home going to believe me when I report? Should I really give them the unvarnished truth?"
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 1:08

1 Answer 1


This sounds like "In the Barn" (1972) by Piers Anthony. According to its entry in ISFDb it's been anthologized a couple of times, notably in *Again Dangerous Visions*.

Quoting the summary on E2:

These aren't normal women, though. Their breasts have swollen to the size of watermelons, possibly as a result of hormone injections. They can't speak, and they behave in the most mindless way imaginable. They don't act like human beings, but rather like stupid animals. They appear to be perfectly content sitting in their stalls, eating biscuits, sleeping in straw, and being milked regularly.

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    Yes, though I had forgotten about the incident with Iota, it is my story. Thanks. It is really incredible how fast some answers are found. And the others sit for weeks, even the one I did put a bounty on some time ago.
    – Alfred
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 16:00

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