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No Bull and Turning Krakens into Good Cows

September 27, 2012

As a rider, you must slowly & methodically show your horse what is appropriate. You also have to discourage what is inappropriate, not by making the inappropriate impossible, but by making it difficult so that the  horse himself chooses appropriate behavior. You can’t choose it for him; you can only make it difficult for him to make the wrong choices.” – Buck Brannaman

No, I’m not bull riding anytime soon, but I think Buck Brannaman gives good advice that can be applied to people or animals in your life.  It doesn’t have to be a horse.

Samson Schoerwerth

As of yesterday we are bull free for another year.  Yeah!  The economics of keeping a bull all year for nine cows isn’t in our favor.  When we used to keep more cows and sell off the weanlings, it made sense to keep a bull.  For now, I prefer renting a bull for a six-week period, he does his job and then it’s time for him to be fed by someone else.  I like a short calving window and I don’t have to worry about any accidents happening, like calves all over the calender.  Late spring calves only on our farm.  Having a short calving season also makes it easy to make culling decisions… .

The logistics of getting the bull out of the pasture required some Buckness on our part.  The bull is tame and halter broke, although I don’t want to lead him.  I’ll leave that up to his owner.  To that end to make it easy on all of us, I planned my paddocks so I could just move the cows to the next fresh paddock and leave the bull behind.  He always lollygags, pawing dirt to ward off flies, and generally just doing the guy thing, coming late to supper.  So for six weeks I have had to stand there holding the gate handle waiting for Samson to amble into the next paddock – he knew I wouldn’t come get him so he took his sweet time.  EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Bulls are interesting creatures and they can be deadly, so you always keep your eye on them no matter how tame you think they are.  A word of caution – no bull who exhibits bad behavior is worth keeping… I don’t care what the purchase price.   What is bad behavior?  Things like challenging you, bashing water troughs, vehicles and the like.  Those types of bulls are an accident waiting to happen, and belong in the freezer.

As planned, catching and loading Samson went off without a hitch.  He started bellering as soon as he saw his pickup and trailer coming across the field.  I called the cows, they obediently went to their next paddock leaving Samson to paw and bellow.  His owner called him to get his attention, approached him and then slipped on his rope.  I cut the fence and made a make-shift gate handle (another reason not to use polyrope) and we loaded him in about 3 minutes.  Catching and loading the bull was actually easier than the next job – getting the heifers out of dry lot and back in with the herd.  That took a bucket of pears and bale of hay and a little more persuasion.  Then after we were successful getting the heifers back in with the herd, we had to wait while everyone fought with them to reestablish the pecking order.  Sigh.  Pecking order establishment with cows is hard on fences.  Cringe.

Blake aka “The Kraken”

Speaking of heifers, that brings me to the Kraken part of the post.  As much as I try to keep the Disney aspect away from the farm I have not been successful 😦  Ever since the mythical Kraken beast was summoned Davy Jones in Pirates of Caribbean, we have started calling the milk cow’s calves that because they can be beasts!   Mind you they aren’t fearsome all the time, usually only when they perceive you are stealing their milk.  So every day at milking time, when I get done milking, I announce to anyone within earshot, “Release the Kraken!”  I know, I know, easily amused 🙂  Blake the Kraken, is usually pawing at this time and quite perturbed that I am milking at my own pace.  It’s funny though, as much as I missed the milk waiting for Jane to grow into a full-fledged milk cow, I missed having a calf, err, I mean Kraken to play with mold and shape into a cow or maybe a four-legged tender morsel for the freezer.


I’ve got several former Krakens in my cow herd right now.  They’re not bottle calves like Jane, they’re just well-trained push button cows.  They make my job easier because they are predictable.  They are bell cows.  And I made their job easy when they were little Krakens.  I knew they wanted to play and would test me, but with handling and consistency on my end, they became good help meets.  First as relief milkers and lawn mowers and now as cows who are gentle, and tuned into me – their handler.


Cows that allow me to lean on them and take a photo while they are eating.  Their calm demeanor helps the other cows that weren’t handled since birth see that I am not a threat, but a friendly caretaker.


Of course, the transition to cowhood takes a few years.  Lola is Jane’s old partner in crime.  Jane’s ahead in the baby race since Lola is just bred now, and will calve as a 3-year-old.  Which has a lot to do with Lola still having some Kraken tendencies – once a cow has a calf, they really settle down, until then I can still get a laugh from Lola doing her best “Whassup?” Budweiser impersonation when she sees me 🙂

20 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2012 9:53 am

    Wonderful and educational post.

  2. September 27, 2012 10:47 am

    Ha! Kraken – you can tell I don’t have children, my Disney aversion has been a real hole in my education. I was trying to figure out how you were going to compare Blake to Lindsey Lohan, lol.

    Great Kraken photo too. That’s pretty awesome about catching that bull like that – I’m probably going to have to have an Amish-style field slaughter to get the oaf out of my pasture…

    Last mature bull for me…

    • September 27, 2012 10:55 am

      AMF, well I could say they act like Krakens from eating Icelandic kelp, but I don’t think that would fly, and we had Kraken calves long before I ever started feeding kelp! I bet Disney rues the day they ever had Lindsay Lohan on the payroll.

      Don’t feel bad about your oaf, we’ve had a few here that went that way, although Jetta mean young Guernsey that she was, allowed me to lead her into the trailer…good thing for escape doors on stock trailers!

      ETA – mature bulls should behave too, this fellow only keeps bulls that have an even temperament, otherwise off with their heads… .

  3. September 27, 2012 1:18 pm

    I have ‘released the krakens’ for years, though I got the quote originally from the first Clash of the Titans…the one with the really bad stop action animation (Clash of the Titans is also what I call the dogs when they are playing bitey mouth). Dogs, college students, cranky husbands, all interchangeable, depending on the situation. Endlessly amusing to me as well. Hope to see you this weekend, and lets try to find a date that works.

    • September 27, 2012 3:10 pm

      Yeah, I don’t think Liam Neeson did the phrase justice in the new one 😉 I’m sure Jane thinks Blake is a Kraken when she latches on!

      We may make it! We’ll look for you! Looks to be a great weekend for the HP! Unlike some other when I’ve frozen my butt off 😦 Well figuratively speaking that is, it’s still there! Seriously did I just put 4 exclamation points in one paragraph?

  4. September 27, 2012 1:23 pm

    The more I learn about cattle, the more fascinated I am! Our crazy wild beef cattle have calmed down and will now mob the ute to get their hay when we drive into the property. Its hard to get out the gate now, if they notice us leaving, they will come running “hey wait, we want more hay!”. Our only bull experience so far is Donald the Dexter, I’m glad he’s small because he’s quite angry, and has already upset the neighbour’s bull, who broke the fence to come onto our property and see what was going on, was a challenge to get him home again too!

    • September 27, 2012 7:35 pm

      Liz, bulls can sure be entertaining when they have to challenge the neighbor fellow! I’m glad you got them separated OK and came out unscathed. Phew!

  5. September 27, 2012 8:30 pm

    Ha – I think your Buck quote applies quite well as a parenting technique :).

  6. Mich permalink
    September 28, 2012 8:33 am

    I used to use AI as I only had a small herd of Dexters, it wasnt practical to own a bull. Life is so much easier when you know calving dates 🙂
    The cows & calves were all halter trained & friendly so useful when I had to handle them and move them onto new pasture.

  7. quinn permalink
    September 28, 2012 9:46 am

    The line about the pears and hay made me smile. When I need to do something with the goats, I’m always thinking “just a pocket of oats, or do I need to get a pail?”

    I don’t know about the kraken thing, but I sure make lots of out-loud jokes in the barnyard, even when there’s no one (human) around to hear them. My comic skills are not totally wasted, though…sometimes I hear the hens go “heh heh heh” 😉

    • September 28, 2012 9:56 am

      Quinn, just this morning as I watched “everyone,” Mel, Trace, Willy, Blake, Jane, Maks, Edyta, Gale, and Peeta all gather for milking, and as I talked to all of them, I realized what people who don’t raise their own food or keep animals are missing. We all talk and joke and pretend to understand what each means. The perfect “water cooler” moment. It’s nice having animals to share the day with 🙂

      I bet your hens get all your jokes 😉

  8. July 23, 2013 7:41 pm

    Nita, how do you separate a heifer from her mom? or do you…?

    • July 23, 2013 9:33 pm

      If it is the milk cow’s calf, I separate usually by the second day, if it is a beef calf, they stay with their moms 24/7 until weaning. I’m not exactly sure if that’s what you were asking?

  9. September 5, 2013 5:05 am

    I’ve been going through all of your old posts pertaining to all things ‘milk cow’. Our Jersey’s calf is about 3 months old right now. I’ve been getting 3 gallons of milk/day up until a couple of weeks ago (that’s leaving the calf with mom 24/7). Things have changed so we now take the calf from mom in the evening and I get morning milking, but a few issues have surfaced.

    First, mom is holding out on me! How is it that she suddenly has no cream? I used to milk on one half and let the calf go on the other, so let down was great and I still got plenty. Now, when it’s just her and I, she’s holding out on letdown and cream.

    The other issue is the calf herself. She’s a little bundle of firecrackers, willing to let us scratch her anytime we want. She sometimes runs to us when she sees us. Unfortunately, she’s now at the age where anything alive or not is getting heat butts. I know how quickly ‘cute’ can turn into ‘ouch’ (she’s not dehorned). Any ideas on how to stop that without making her fearful of us?

    Off to read more of your gems!


    • September 5, 2013 8:51 am

      Tara, oh yes they can be devils and hold up the cream for the baby, the cream comes last (hind milk) she can wait you out and not let down. She’s allotting you only so much and saving the rest for her baby. That is why folks separate after the first couple of days and bottle feed. It’s an exceptional cow that will letdown completely for you and the calf when the calf is nursing during the day. I’m somewhere between your camp and take the calf away camp. I keep them separated totally after about the second day, and let the calf nurse after I milk. I’m still not getting all the cream but I do get enough to keep us in butter and whole milk to drink. I do sacrifice some cream, but I don’t have to bottle feed, and I get a calf that is handled and halter broke from the get go, mostly because it has to be to keep us safe. Even at that, our little Dickie is monster, due to his age, kicking, butting, balking are the traits he is trying to perfect this month 😦 I have a giant bruise now from his kicking practice, and of course, this is just a phase, he’ll move on to something else soon.

      As for your girl, if you are going to keep her, I would start by halter breaking her immediately. Halter breaking a calf or young cow is about like planting an orchard, it shoulda been done a long time ago. But first get a collar on her, so you can catch her. Put it on while she is nursing so you don’t have a fight. And when you feel brave enough, tie her short to a stout post down low and let her fight it out and learn to be tied and restrained. Stay there though and watch that she doesn’t hang herself or get into too much trouble. This has to be in a safe place too, no wire to get tangled in or boards that can come loose and scare her. Most of the time they pull back, you can gently nudge her butt so she learns the pressure and release technique. Once you have that mastered you can move onto haltering and trying to teach her to lead :p

      • September 5, 2013 8:59 am

        Thank you so much for your reply. She has a halter on now, but that was as far as we got. Is this technique of tying low to a pole the same you would suggest for a full grown cow? We recently purchased a two year old bred Guernsey. We got the halter on her, but any attempts at even getting near the halter send our seemingly calm girl into hysterics. She will be calving in January. We have some work to do.

        Is it wrong that I take comfort in hearing that Dickie acts like our Annie? I’m sorry, but it’s good to hear I’m not the only one with a little bucking bronco flinging herself around the pastures. When Dickie butted your leg, did you correct it anyway? How long do I keep her tied to the post? When you say “once I have that mastered” do you mean once she will just stand there calmly? Thank you!

        • September 5, 2013 9:26 am

          Tara, as long as the halter isn’t the type with a chain under the chin you can use that instead of a collar. For the cow I would try to befriend her in the stanchion while she is eating and work up to restraining her there rather than fighting her and teaching her to tie etc. Depending on your milking setup, she may not need to be halter broke, if she can come freely to the milking area or be driven. Driving cows is much easier actually than leading them. Food is a huge motivator, if your new cow feels safe where you are going to milk her, you are way ahead of the game when it comes time for her to freshen. The less new stuff at that time the better. Places to scratch for befriending, brisket, and tail head. Brushing too is good, cows like to groom each other, and it gives you a good chance to inspect her all over, and it gives her one more reason to tolerate you the eventual milk stealer 😉

          No it’s not wrong to take comfort in the Dickmeister’s bad behavior. I correct butting always, but kicking, not usually on a calf, unless it is for spite. They usually quit that off the handle kicking by age two anyway. We have some nice sticks on hand, and you’ll need one for your girl with her horns. Rap the horns or tender nose and speak sharply to her when she is bad and let her know that’s not acceptable. It’s cow behavior to play like that and if you’ve ever seen them discipline each other you know you can hardly hurt her with sapling. Dickie kicked me the other day and it was my fault for trying to squeeze through a tight spot behind him without letting him know I was there.

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