It’s that time of year when we say goodbye to the steers and they take a ride to the butcher shop. The last few times we’ve had at least three people to help load the cows and it (knock-on-wood) goes really well. Even the loading of Wheezy went without a problem. I was excepting to not have too much trouble that night either.
Hindsight is 20/20, so it’s said. That being understood, I should have let Caroline out of the barn that morning. Instead, I let her out that evening, when the trailer was backed up to the loading door, which was open. A cattle panel (wire fence panel) was loosely leaning as a guide for the boys to get to the trailer. When the barn door opened for her to go outside she went running. There was shit flying as she was kicking up her heals like she was training for a PBR. Her excitement got the boys excited and they joined in.
When everyone is calm they load without a hitch. They were no longer calm. At all.
Mike grabbed a bucket of grain to entice them into the trailer and I stood behind the trailer gate to close it behind them after they were in. Any and every other time we’ve fed the cows we toss the feed to them and maybe stand there and talk to them for a minute and then are on our way.
Most of the time I run with a “let’s get this show on the road here, we’re burn’n daylight” kinda go. I have learned that cows don’t. Allowing them to move at their own meandering pace will get the job done without too much stress on anyone. That night was Mikes turn to want to pick up the pace.
He was in and out of the trailer and the barn trying to lead them in and shoe Caroline out. He poured some grain in the trailer so they would have to walk in to get it and they stood at the end and whistled at them and tapped the bucket and was just plain making a ruckus. And driving me crazy. For the most part, I didn’t say anything except “settle down” and “just let them be”.
When his bucket finally ran empty and he went to fill it, there was quiet. Gus wandered into the trailer and then Humphrey went up to his hind legs. My mistake was made when I tried to nudge his butt with the gate. I figured he’d go forward into the trailer. I figured wrong. He started to back up. I pushed with everything I had on that gate and lost. I’m not as strong as a steer in reverse. I had to let go and they both piled out again. Just in time for Mike to arrive with another full bucket.
He was quiet this time but squirrely. Peeking in and ducking down. After a fair amount of back and forth and the cattle panel almost falling, Caroline was lured away with a handful of grain and boys wandered in. Just as I was closing the gate to the trailer Caroline slipped by me and took herself for a walk about the yard.
Two cows in, one cow out.
I just thanked my lucky stars that she’s the easiest and sweetest one we have. Mike put the second bucket of grain to use and lead her back in.
It’s always bittersweet when the cows go. When it’s time for the chickens to hit the freezer I’m ready. I bond more with the cows. I still miss Elvis our first steer. I wasn’t as close to these boys as I was him. Having them gone leaves an empty space again and extra time during chores. The extra time is nice but I miss their big wet noses meeting me at the fence for our morning coffee. The space fills in when the gates open for the rest of the herd to wander in. So it goes.