Wooly Bully


You never know what you’re going to get when you step out the door in the morning. I suppose that’s true of most professions, farming being no exception. Today it was Bully, who’s been sequestered in his own space since about 4 weeks after the first calf arrived. I guess he just couldn’t take the isolation any longer. When Matt went out to feed him this morning, Bully was looking at him – quite smugly – from the cow side of the fence. From the looks of that fence – 4 feet of woven wire and 2 strands of barbed wire now crumpled – he went over the top of it.

So I got the call…”Kel, can you come out and help me for a minute?”. I have to tell you, I’ve lately come to dread that call. You see, I was raised on a hog farm. Dad did have a small cow/calf herd, but that wasn’t something I was ever involved in. (Except for the time a cow got struck by lightning and my brother and I got to bottle-feed her calf.) I know about working pigs. But cattle don’t work the same as pigs. It’s a whole ‘nuther psychology.

For example, after our big flood this spring Matt was trying to fence the cattle off the damaged part of the pasture. I was weeding in the garden that day and watched him for awhile, trying to herd those cows across the creek and away from the giant mudhole. After running them in circles a couple of times I finally (begrudgingly) asked, “Do you need some help?”.

So I grabbed a stick, put on my mud shoes, and headed out. His objective was to drive them across the creek and up into the corral. He could shut them in there, giving him time to fence off the worst parts of the main pasture.

So we pushed them towards the creek. Turns out we could get them up next to the creek, but getting them to actually dip a hoof in the water was not happening. Cows get scared of strange things (but aren’t nearly as bad as horses!). But finally the wild cow, who has somehow taken over Queen-of-the-Herd position from Mrs. Hamilton, trotted across and the others followed. Now to get them into the corral.

Cows may be easily frightened, but they’re not stupid. They went across the creek all right…and then circled around us and crossed back again downstream. Repeat that scene a couple of times. I wonder what the neighbors were saying? Here’s the two of us waving arms and sticks, being encircled by our own bovine.

The whole operation broke down when I suggested to Matt that he get a couple pails of corn and put them in the feedbunk inside the corral. I won’t repeat verbatim his reply to me, but what it boiled down to is that I know nothing about cattle and I’m quite useless to him and this part of his operation. I simply kept my mouth shut and walked off the job. A couple of hours later what do you know? The cows were in…with the help of a couple pails of corn, Matt admitted.

So today there’s Bully, ensconced in his harem. Unfortunately he can’t stay, and fortunately there are no cows in heat right now. Matt managed to get Bully back to his side of the fence by allowing a couple of cows to go with him, and we’re going to “gate-cut” the two cows back over to their own side. A-ha! Here’s where my pig farm experience finally comes in handy. Gate-cutting pigs is something I helped Dad with when sorting them for market, though I’m thinking now how pigs are much smaller than cows.

So I’m stationed at the gate that divides Bully’s space from the cows’ and my instructions go something like this – open the gate so that the cows see the opening and run out, then shut the gate real fast right behind them. Don’t let Bully follow them through. Uh-huh. Suddenly this metal gate seems like it’s made of Lincoln Logs. So cow #1 runs out…no problem, Bully is hanging with the other honey. Matt chases cow #2 towards the gate, I open it so she can get out. But Bully follows and gets ahead of her just before they get to the gate. I quickly shut it and we start over. This time she stays about two feet ahead of him. She gets about 3/4 of the way through and I shove the gate closed – hitting her in the rump and causing Bully to stop short right on the other side of the gate from me.

Mission accomplished. But it’s only 8:30…still plenty of time left in the day for adventure!

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