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Back to school for Jane

August 31, 2010

At 14 weeks, Jane is ready for some changes.  Couple that with hunting season starting last weekend, and the cow herd being in an advantageous spot in the pasture for some cutting –  we made some changes.  I had a heifer that I decided to breed, and I wanted to bring home a pasture mate for Jane so she could learn the ropes of cow behavior.  So last Friday we spent the better part of the morning taking advantage of cow behavior and paddock placement.  Hunting season and wildcrafting season (read trespassing season) is upon us.  From spotlighters at night to berry pickers and mushroom foragers by day.  I feel for them really, (insert wry smile here) it’s a full time job scaling those pesky barb wire fences and tearing down NO TRESPASSING signs.

First, we moved the cow herd to the next pasture, so their eyes would not be visible to the spotlighters in the coming weeks, and after they were settled in, we could cut the heifer I wanted to breed out of the dry lot and herd her towards the paddock the herd was grazing in.  That took a while, she didn’t want to leave her heifer friends, and she couldn’t quite see the herd up on top of the hill.  After a little chasing and building a fake electric fence lane, she marched right up the hill, and she was easy to integrate back into the herd.  The next order of business was to cut Susie and Ty (former bucket calves) out of the herd and back into the field that had just been grazed and then into the adjacent field that is closer to the house.  That was pretty easy – being bucket calves they are a little socially challenged when it comes to the cow herd and they are very tame and halter broke, they were happy to leave.  They are friends but never could quite make it to friend status with the other cattle.  Susie is a twin and was abandoned by her mother, and I took Ty from his mother at birth and sold her due to temperament issues.  Both were raised on Della’s milk and grew into good sized cattle.  But being hand raised put them at the bottom of the hierarchy in the herd.  Since Jane is a wee bit socially challenged herself, they will make perfect teachers for her.  A triad with social issues – oh joy…at least I know what to expect.  Susie is going on permanent vacation next week, and Ty can’t spend the winter in the feeding shed with the herd so he is elected to be Jane’s consort until he goes on permanent vacation next year.  She will have a cool, calm, collected fellow to be around and hopefully that will give her some good cow manners.

Since I wanted to put Jane out on full pasture with her friends, this was also a good time to cut her feedings down to 3 a day.  Her “new” nipple bucket I purchased on eBay arrived in Saturday’s mail so I was in business.  I could increase the amount of milk I was feeding at a time and I figured since she was out on full grass and had friends to occupy her, she wouldn’t miss the extra feeding.  I was right.

They always want more.  Nursing from a bucket or bottle just doesn’t satisfy like nursing on Mama.

After all the heifer wrangling, and getting Susie and Ty out of the grazing paddock, they lit out for home and waited by the gate by the house.  We caught up to them and they “let” us catch them and lead them across the county road to the barn by the house.  Jane wasn’t quite sure what to think of these two.  They were pretty relaxed in their old stomping grounds.

Immediately they zipped into the loafing shed to check the manger.   Jane just watched – in all her 14 weeks she had not been in the loafing shed.  Words not in her vocabulary yet were corner and pinch-point.  She learned and has a scar to prove it.  It’s amazing how small a hole a calf can squirt through when you have a fire breathing dragon heifer with an attitude pushing you.

Ty and Susie are bomb proof and like to be scratched.  Jane was puzzled that we would itch these strangers that just showed her how to get out of the barn the hard way.  Other things she has learned this week is to go with the “herd” when they come to water, and to come when called to her bucket. She was already doing that, but she was pretty captive in a small paddock or on her tether – so this is a big step for her.  She is doing well on 3 larger feedings a day, and she is getting a more normal amount of exercise than being confined to a smaller paddock by herself.  All good.

She is curious about Susie, but Susie is not too sure about Jane.  She is just the little pest cousin to be tolerated, sometimes.

So they spend most days just being cows.  Itching.


And more grazing.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2010 5:06 am

    Lovely pics and explanations. I’m curious. The two calves next door – not twins, one to a good mom and one to a neglectful mom – hang out together and are usually near the good mom. Bad mom is either in the pond or off somewhere ignoring her calf, as she always has.

    In a situation like this would a good mom tend to act as a protector to the calf that’s not hers? Or would she just ignore it if it got into trouble?

    I know everything depends on personality – or cow-ality – but in general?

    Just curious…

    • September 1, 2010 5:20 am

      Hayden, that’s pretty standard. Usually there is a babysitter of sorts, and any cow would protect another in the herd if there was danger of some sort. Some cows are more aloof, and so are the calves. Usually our calves don’t really spend much time with their moms except to nurse and get a daily bath etc. Other than that, the calves run around, eat or sleep with each other. As long as the “neglectful” mom is allowing her calf to nurse, I am sure they are fine.

  2. September 1, 2010 5:23 am

    She has sure grown into a nice looking calf, I’ll bet you’re counting the days ’til you can start milking her.

    • September 1, 2010 5:30 am

      Linda, yes she has – I am sure milking time will be here before I know it. It will be interesting to see how she matures 🙂

  3. ann ceraldi permalink
    September 1, 2010 11:19 am

    is ‘permanent vacation’ code for freezer? also wondering if you have ever tried LGDs to deter the trespassers? (anatolian shepherd, great pyrenees, etc) Your farm is lovely.

    • September 1, 2010 11:56 am

      Ann, yeah that’s the code 🙂 The way our property is laid out with county roads bisecting it would make it almost impossible for LGDs I think. My biggest worry is that people who sneak around illegally at night with crossbows and guns and kill large animals including cows, would not hesitate to shoot an annoying dog. Not to mention the liability issues surrounding biting dogs and menacing livestock even when the people are on private property. It’s the price we pay living close to a large liberal minded city.

  4. September 1, 2010 12:36 pm

    She is really growing! And having cow mentors is the best! Cute photos!


    • September 1, 2010 7:44 pm

      Linda, I like her being more cow than walking all over me. She’s learning the pecking order pretty fast 🙂

  5. September 1, 2010 12:40 pm

    Jane is looking so grown up these days. There’s that sudden point when a calf they suddenly go from looking like a baby to a more like a cow and she’s hit it in the last few weeks. She is going to be a lovely cow by the time she’s grown (and if I even raise a bottle calf however you do it is the way I’m going to have to go, she’s got the good flesh and healthy coat of a calf that’s been nursing this whole time).

    • September 1, 2010 7:47 pm

      Claire, she looked so big until I put her and the bigger calves in together, now she looks tiny. I can’t wait until she is old enough to have a calf – and actually to see how she grows out.

      Hope Isabelle is on the mend!

  6. September 1, 2010 1:51 pm

    I am just curious, as I understand the frustration with “wild crafters”. If a person asked first, would that make a difference? I understand the desire to not have a bunch of gates left open, or fencing pushed down…

    As a fly-fisher being able to ask about the tempting creek running through the hay field, it seemed like more often than not I got the OK. But perhaps it’s just the mentality of the folk who are drawn to ‘foraging’.

    • September 1, 2010 8:05 pm

      Photobby, asking probably wouldn’t make a difference – how could I let anyone in, without letting everyone? I guess what it comes down to for me is I want the mushrooms in my forest, and I view it as no different than my garden which is for me. I think part of the problem here is all the National Forest and timber company land that is nearby. All over foraged but not regulated. Most people feign ignorance about fencing or posted land and pretend they think they are on Forest Service land, if we talk to them, and if we don’t, they just take what they want. Be it sword fern, moss, mushrooms, fragile woodland plants, firewood, beef, deer and elk by the $hitload. And gee, if the bull gets after someone, we are liable. I prefer to just not allow it.

      • September 2, 2010 7:14 am

        I agree, part of you problem is probably the “public” land that you are so close to. And I understand the desire to not have to fight for the natural food sources that are in your own back yard. The farm we are on now has a small creek running through it, and while no one has asked yet for permission to fish it, I would probably say no as well. More from the perspective of wanting to have access to all the resources myself.

        As far as allowing some people on without “throwing open the gates” to everyone, I think it is possible, but, can cause problems… Far easier to just have a blanket “no trespassing” position.

        BTW- I am enjoying watching Jane grow, and the process of bringing her up. We have talked about a milk cow for years. leaning one way then the other, your posts have us leaning toward diving in…

  7. September 1, 2010 2:59 pm

    Jane is such a cutie! I enjoys reading the stories about her!
    You’ll have to put a neon orange vest on all those cows.

    • September 1, 2010 8:07 pm

      Sheryl, I put a vest on the dogs when we are mushrooming – but I would hate to sew clothes for the cows. Plus, they know what they are shooting at, around here most call beef “slow elk.” 😦

  8. September 1, 2010 11:21 pm

    So I’m reading the description of what you’re doing, but I have the feeling that I’m looking at this through a straw. maybe a post on “how to train a family milk cow”, with an outline of what you’re after for behavior and trained responses, and a timeline.

    I’ve been considering getting a milk cow and am interested in what the mechanics of training a little heifer. I’ve done the bottle fed thing with my dairy steers, and while I’ve enjoyed eating them, I wish they weren’t so chummy. They’re huge at this point, and I’m only eating one a year or so, so two more years.

    • September 2, 2010 8:30 pm

      Bruce, looking through a straw is a good analogy, and a training post is a good idea. You might be light years ahead getting an already trained milk cow, good ones are out there, you could learn the ropes on her and let her raise a heifer for you (for future) and skip the bottle thing. A dam raised calf is better health-wise and they also retain their flight zone, whereas a bottle calf won’t. No flight zone isn’t the end of the world, but they sure can be a pain. You want a cow that lets you in close, but respects your space. Hard to find with a bottle baby who grows up and isn’t so cute anymore.

  9. Elizabeth permalink
    September 2, 2010 5:54 am

    I’m so naive … I thought I COULDN’T be reading that right, that “hunters” INTENTIONALLY target people’s livestock. Good grief, that’s just shameful. So are the trespassing wildcrafters, but for some reason the CATTLE RUSTLERS (lets call it what it is) just shocked me.

    • September 2, 2010 8:44 pm

      Elizabeth, for some it is much easier to shoot a tame cow. Closer to the road, and easy meat for the freezer. It’s been awhile since we lost one, but it’s hard on the pocketbook. Plus, pretty much anymore the public perception of cattle and cattle farmers/ranchers is bad. So most people don’t really care if livestock is taken, stolen, eaten by predators. It’s not their livelihood so who cares anyway. As long as their livelihood is safe it’s all hunky-dory.

  10. September 2, 2010 7:27 pm

    Four days after we moved to our place in the country, my two horses were stolen out of our pasture while no one was home. The thieves drove some kind of trailer onto our property, cut the chain on the fence, drove into the field, loaded up my horses and took them. I got them back the next day because they dumped them out on the road four miles away after my filly apparently went crazy and injured herself so badly she had a huge chunk of flesh hanging from her foot, bleeding like crazy. We put gates across both driveways and a security camera at the barn. Six months later they came back on a moonless night (so the camera showed nothing–they KNEW about it!) and stole my filly out of the barnyard. I got her back again, probably because her mama screamed so loud she woke us up, so we called the sheriff immediately, and apparently the traffic and commotion scared them off–so they dumped her in a neighbor’s field. Then we got a big black dog from the pound, and they haven’t been back–but that could be because they discovered that she injured her hind legs so badly the first time they stole her that she’s permanently lame. We never give anyone we don’t know permission to come on our property! It’s just a chance for them to scope us out.

    • September 2, 2010 8:39 pm

      Susan, that is terrible! I know how you feel, when I was a teenager my horse was stolen, most likely for the hunting season. She went missing from a remote pasture and magically after hunting season was over she appeared back in the pasture. Thin, gall marks, gun shy, head shy, broken & chipped hooves and so glad to be home. Someone we knew apparently needed a pack animal for a while. So sorry about your filly – that is such a waste and so traumatic.

      And the scoping out is terrible – and people who think it doesn’t happen are naive 😦 A friend of mine caught someone burglarizing their rental they were working on. The sheriff caught them, and since they were miffed they got caught -they put my friend’s address on Craigslist with a list of the antiques and tools stating that the items were free!! It was awful, and all she did was catch them in the act.

  11. September 2, 2010 7:29 pm

    PS I’m sorry you have to go to all that trouble to move your cattle to protect them! The laws are crazy! Any trespasser who gets bitten or gored should be thrown in jail as soon as they recover!

    • September 2, 2010 8:40 pm

      Susan, I have to – bow season is the worst, we can’t hear them shoot. Rifle season follows but at least we can hear the gunshots.

  12. September 2, 2010 8:36 pm

    I am totally loving the ongoing adventures of Jane. I still would like to take her home as a pet for a few days though 🙂

  13. Sue Sullivan permalink
    September 5, 2010 8:42 am

    Grrrr. I would be sorely tempted to put electric fence up on that barbed wire folks are climbing over. Right under the no trespassing signs.

  14. finding pam permalink
    September 6, 2010 9:16 am

    That saddens me that people will sink to such low levels and steel from you. I appreciate the fact that you care for your animals and all the work you do to make them safe. I can’t believe that you don’t have the right to protect your animals or property. That is just not right.

    Jane is so adorable. Her mentors look huge next to her, but I am so glad she has them to teach her how to be a cow. I enjoyed this post so much. THank you for sharing.


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