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Nineteen in the Hand, and One in the Bush

February 5, 2014

I dislike chasing cows.  So much so that if we need to chase a cow, we stop.  Just stop and walk away.  This morning was the scheduled cow move.  The plan was for Hubby to go in late to work so he could stop traffic for us as we moved the cows across the road.  We’ve found out the hard way that it doesn’t pay to ask friends to help.  Most are too timid to stand in the road and stop traffic.  They slow down the traffic, but they have never stopped it.  Any of the three of us will STOP traffic.  Sorry if you don’t like it, turn around and go the other way, or wait.  I’m kind of a hard ass like that.

To alleviate our stress and therefore the stress on the cattle, we picking moving time carefully.  The lowest traffic time we can find.  We have to move our cows across the road to the feeding shed barn right at a blind corner.  It actually only takes about 30 seconds for them to walk across the road (it seems like an hour to me), that is, if there are no characters that just can’t seem to follow the herd.

If you have cows you know the characters in your herd.  Usually the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree either.  I have one high headed first calf heifer, that has thoroughly trained her calf the ways of the wild cow.  This is where culling comes in.  You pay attention for every day of their lives, making a mental note in either the pro or con column.  Spot, the high-headed mama, has several marks in the con column, and only her youth in the pro column.  She added one more tally mark this morning.

To ready ourselves for a short move, we spent some time yesterday adding straw to the twelve inches of shavings already in the shed, filled the feeder with hay bales, cutting and removing the twine.  After the barn was readied, we made a makeshift lane with some electric fencing just to steer the cows to the shed once they crossed the road and came in the driveway.  On the pasture side, I put in some rebar posts and left a roll of fencing wire nearby to make a makeshift corral once I moved the cows into the corner where we open up the permanent fence and let them spill out onto the road.

This morning all we had to do was turn off the fence and call the cows to the corner, position a few rigs with flashers near the curves, open up the fence and let ‘er rip.  Until, Mrs. High Head decided something was up.  She turned to head back to the field, and her calf sensed her anxiety.  At this point they hadn’t sensed my anxiety.  Yet.  Meanwhile all the other cows and calves nonchalantly headed out the hole in the fence, across the road and up the driveway to the barn and awaiting feeder full of hay.  The cows going in the opposite direction got the errant cow’s attention and she shot through the gap like nobody’s business.  Calf?  Not on the same page at all.  The standard rule in cowdom is that you can’t see the hole in the fence that you just escaped out of, or the one your human wants you to go through.  The second rule of cowdom is that you make a new hole of your choosing that is usually going to take you far away from the mad two-legged.

Lots of yelling ensued, because of the wind, not because yelling helps the situation.  Ruthless was with the 19 good cows, Hangdog was on the road, and I was in the field where the calf just made new hole in the fence to do what?  I have no idea.  I was already making culling tallies in my head and thinking to myself, okay it’s your funeral literally.

We tried first to get her rounded up and back to the right hole in the fence, meanwhile mama was bawling her head off in between stuffing her face with hay.  The first attempt didn’t go well, she got to the corner saw the line of demarcation of the snow in the shade and with her tail up took off at a dead run.  In cow speak tail up means book the hell out there.  Sigh.  Okay, time to regroup.  Hangdog suggested all three of us bring her back to the corner and apply a little more pressure.  By this time she was getting nervous, mama had settled down to eat and wasn’t calling her, three humans were getting too close, and this was not good.  We got her to the corner and we had a repeat of the first and second time.  We let her go.

None of this would be a big deal except the road between the barn and pasture.  Cattle are herd bound animals and a nursing calf and cow can’t be separated too long without the fences going down.  Of course, it’s usually after dark too when they finally decide no fence can hold them and they get out.  So we had a real problem.  More confabbing got us to the idea of cutting the cow out of the herd and put her back with her calf.  She’s not that tame, but we could drive her if we could separate her from the cows.  I went in with a stick and starting pushing my way through the cows and got her and her mom out and away from the other cows.  Somewhere in all the confusion Ruthless got mixed up about who was who and let Gramma cow out and cut off the High Headed daughter.  So more cow wrangling and then finally we got the right one out and with lots of arm waving we got her back across the road and into the same pasture with her calf.  Albeit on the wrong side of the road, at least this way we could feed her over there, she would be with her calf, and we could take some time to figure out just how to get them both back across the road without incident.  Eighteen in the hand, and two in the bush now.

All this futzing around only took up about fifteen minutes, but it sure is exasperating when you know it can be as smooth as silk most of the time.  We decided to just cool off, and Hangdog could go to work.  The cow was out in the woods looking for the bawling calf, so the urgency was gone.  We started methodically taking down the lane and putting the permanent fence back in some order when the cow and calf showed up together and looking a little eager to go.  This is truly where the tincture of time works the best.  We forgot about chasing the cows, and they decided they needed to be with the others.  By this time though, we had lost our traffic control officer, so we would have to wing it, or worry all night about them getting out.  We took down the fence and backed off – mama and baby filed through and hesitantly crossed the road and into the barn driveway.  Phew, a collective sigh of relief.

Now we have 20 in the hand.  Or actually in the barn, let the deep bedding begin!

19 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2014 7:38 pm

    Looks like you need a couple of good cow ponies. Around here they use horses and ATVs to move cattle.

    We have sheep like your cows. There is always one that is nuts.

  2. Barb in CA permalink
    February 5, 2014 7:55 pm

    Oh this really made me laugh! Sorry. I’m sure you weren’t laughing at the time. But thanks for sharing your joys AND your trials.

    • February 5, 2014 8:50 pm

      I know, we were laughing afterwards, and the other calves had to push around the troublemaker after she got back.

  3. Helen Williams permalink
    February 6, 2014 12:26 am

    Hahaha. I can totally relate – I spent the morning (well, about half an hour of it) chasing down my milking cows calf. She has an amazing ability to be able to get through the fences away from her mum, but is completely clueless about how to get back in. I have never gotten that. We had to send 2 kickers (mum and calf) and a fence jumping trouble-maker off to market this week.

  4. February 6, 2014 2:18 am

    And the day those troublemakers drive off to freezer camp is extra special. Good story.

    • February 6, 2014 6:13 am

      Yes, I was already mentally making plans…sometimes the outlier just isn’t worth it, and when you handle them everyday and they mind, the troublemakers really stand out.

    • mom24boys permalink
      February 6, 2014 1:42 pm

      “Freezer Camp” — love it.

  5. February 6, 2014 3:05 am

    Been there, done that. We often must cross roads, sometimes in 2 places for 1 move. We also string temporary fencing, but we do it from gate to gate. Our longest distance from one pasture to another is 3/4 mile with 2 road crossings. Fortunately this one only happens twice a year.

    We’ve had the calf get out and race down the road. We had the tame yearling heifer I had to drag by the halter 1/2 mile because she wouldn’t follow the others. We had the steer who jumped the wood fence into the neighbor’s yard and tore around for a while.

    And we’ve had our share of idiots who will not stop, even tho there’s a fence across the road and a body in the lane of traffic. He nearly hit the body, and complained because the wire might have scratched his car. Worst bit? He has cows.

    So now, as one of our neighbors is a constable, we enlist his help for the move, and make sure we have a body in each lane at each crossing, in addition to tall orange cones. So far, so good (knock wood).

  6. Beth in Ky permalink
    February 6, 2014 4:11 am

    Years ago folks here had huge big culverts under the road. When you wanted to change pastures you opened the gate and in they went. Easy Peasy. At some point the highway dept did away with most of those.

  7. February 6, 2014 9:22 am

    My least favorite (and we only ever have a few beef to start with) is when I get a call around eight or nine at night from my neighbor, letting me know the cows are in her field. Fortunately, she’s pretty mellow about it – the issue is generally that they don’t maintain their fencing. It’s three strand electric that she seldom thinks to turn on…if the cows are over there it’s because they simply walked through downed fencing. So…..over with a bucket of grain, a hammer, some fencing nails, a stretcher…….and a request to turn the damn fence on. I’ve offered to pay her to keep it on, but she won’t hear of it. She’ll turn it on for a week or so, then shut it off again. I think she likes the fact that the cows are tame and she can pet them 🙂

  8. February 6, 2014 9:50 am

    “If you have cows you know the characters in your herd.”

    Yup. Mrs. White. She came up open. Thank God.

    • February 6, 2014 10:01 am

      This cow of mine is one of the ones that didn’t take with the first bull…being a late calver might just be the death knell.

      • February 6, 2014 10:05 am

        Late season springing cows are worth more than open cows…to somebody else.

        • February 6, 2014 10:16 am

          She’s got other “problems.” Every time I have a problem cow, I think back to all the little things along the way that made me go, hmmmm. All those little things add up over time. Even the last calf that was cougar bait, his mom had a couple of episodes that taken by themselves didn’t stand out other than hmmm. I am the recorder of stuff, a mental picture gets filed away, that is why everyone asks me have you seen….usually I have but why I remember it when it something like a tool I never use, or a piece of clothing that gets misplaced I have no idea. But it sure comes in handy with the cows and goes a long way towards building a picture of an animal. Like building blocks being continually added. Or puzzle pieces. I hate puzzles by the way.

  9. Chris permalink
    February 6, 2014 11:09 am

    LOL…you must have nerves of steel…along with a hard ass! :)) I hate puzzles too! 🙂

  10. Bee permalink
    February 6, 2014 1:45 pm

    i hear you. We had one in my youth. Father bought some fancy pedigreed Charolais from Texas. They were pretty cows, all right, but they were the high-headedest $#&*(@#$&!( you ever saw. One was earmarked so that both ears had about a quarter of the bottom ear flopping. I nicknamed her Biplane. That cow could jump so high she should have been entered in the Olympics. I saw her clear a five-foot wooden gate one time when she wanted out of the corral. And that was with only a fifteen-foot run at it. My father, being the stubborn sort, kept them around because of their good bloodlines, and they did throw nice calves, but I would have turned them into hamburger in a New York minute!

  11. Winston permalink
    February 6, 2014 2:32 pm

    I have noticed that the sheep, goats, and cattle I have very quickly remember that hole in the fence when I tell my English Shepherd to go deal with Mr. Problem, I Ain’t Going To. Back in where they belong so fast their shadow never did figure them gone.


  12. Bev permalink
    February 6, 2014 3:31 pm

    A lot of the cattle in our valley are Angus. Even with good fences sometimes there is a big fat black calf on the road. It pays to watch the road. If we see stock on the road we place a quick call to the owner. It makes us cringe when we hear someone tearing down the road at a high rate of speed in the freezing fog. Idiots! It is so dangerous. Most everyne doesn’t mind when stock is being moved. We are patient when we have to wait. It is always very enjoyable to watch everything going on. The dogs, four-wheelers and horsemen. Also the contrary cow, etc. Sometimes the very air is blue!

  13. Mich permalink
    February 7, 2014 10:16 am

    Oh I so know what you mean….there is always one that is the ‘trouble maker’ and they always teach their young their quirks. Lol

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