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.
I don’t usually have the kids to daycare early enough in the morning to have breakfast but this particular morning we were planning to be there early. According to the schedule we received in the beginning breakfast is as 8:00 which means I try to have everyone there be at least ten to-.
We were doing great. We were right on track to get there on time. I told the older three to get their shoes on and get buckled while I got the baby in the carrier. It’s nothing new, they do it every morning. Then back came the little boy, “mama, there’s a cow in the yard!”
A quick silent prayer “Oh dear Lord, please let it be the neighbor’s cow.” We’ve never had any visiting cows wander through but it would have been fine with me this morning. I would have waved at it and left on time.
There was a short week where we didn’t have any morning chores. The cows were in the pasture and the goats had been sold. I’m back to morning chores now. We’ve got the steers that are scheduled for burger and Sweet Caroline in the corral and the rest of the herd in the pasture. That means filling a second stock tank and feeding hay and grain to the boys and Caroline. They all could use a little fattening.
Poor Caroline, she’s been so skinny. I’ve dewormed her a few times thinking maybe that was the problem. According to the calendar she was due to calve in a month but she was just too thin. I spoke with the vet and he came out and gave her a look-over. Diagnosis was slight pneumonia, very nutrient deficient and not pregnant. All around disappointing but fixable. His recommendation was give her some finishing grain along with her hay and some extra minerals. And ween that darn calf!!
The other girls kick their calves off when they’ve had enough. We haven’t had much of a problem getting them to ween when needed. Elwood is a few weeks short of a year. There’s no good reason he still needs milk. Sweet Caroline is living up to her name once again. She will nurse any calf that tries and will not kick Elwood off. That is draining her as well.
Long story short, I’ve been trying to keep the two separated for a good month now. It hasn’t been going well. Elwood’s head is still small enough to fit through the fences and gates. He calls from the gate and she stands there and lets him eat. We had finally been making progress when she was in with the steers.
During the winter months the cow are kept in the corral to keep them from damaging the pasture. They do quite a number on the barb wire fence during that time; scratching and rubbing on it all winter long. When spring arrives the fence is always in need of tightening. As soon as we can get some savings set aside I want to put boards up for the corral fence instead.
We have yet to have a calf that has not slipped out at least once. At least when they a new they are easy to catch and carry back. The yearlings are a bit more challenging. They are too big to carry and don’t come to the shaking of a grain bucket yet. These spunky little guys can make life on the farm rather exciting.
Last Friday night I raced home from work to pick up Mike so we could go pick up our bees. It’s only about a 45 minute drive but the way things go we wouldn’t have much time before the beekeepers close up for the night. I came flying down the driveway watching for kids, ducks, dogs and a cat, so the cow in the yard was a surprise.
“Caroline’s out.” I called towards the house as I headed towards the barn. I tossed some duck feed into my milk pail, grabbed the rope halter and headed back out. The second surprise of the night, I should have known better. Sweet Caroline doesn’t get out unless I leave the gate open and invite her. Elwood, our yearling steer was out.
I tried a couple times with the pail of duck feed and then went back to the barn for a rope. The idea was to rope him and then lead him back. By that time I had help and that plan was pretty well out the window too. We chased him into the pig gate and up the hill to the corral gate. Just as we (Mike and I) opened the gate the rest of the herd thundered over. On to Plan C… or F?
We didn’t have time to mess around, our bees were waiting. We closed the pig gate and opened the corral gate and let everyone spend a night on the pasture.
A few nights later, one of those nights when everyone was exhausted, supper was late, because bathes were needed first. We had spent the day working outside, Mike was working on the tractor and cleaning coops and pens, while I was cleaning out the garden. The kids were busy playing in the sun and the baby napping in the shade. The night was winding down everyone was settling into the living room and I was doing a weekends-worth of dishes. That’s when I noticed a new sandbox toy…Thelma…the heifer.
“Mike, Thelma’s out!”
He headed for the door and I kept washing dishes and watched the rodeo unfold out the window. He wasn’t messing around that night. He started with the rope right away. Walking up and down the fence line trying to the perfect time to throw. It wasn’t long and he had her and wasn’t happy about it. I watched as he leaned back, the rope was tight and Thelma was kicking and running. Down through the pig gate and up the hill. (Obviously, the cows know the drill) Then they turned from the corral and headed out to the pasture; Mike still in tow. Then they disappeared.
I don’t know where he left her but pretty soon he was back to the house.
“I’m gonna need some help.” Mike said.
I dried my hands, situated the kids and headed out. I rounded the corner of the barn and there they were again, one on each end of the rope.
A little back and forth and a slight distraction on the other side of the corral and I was able to open the gate. Mike pulled Thelma in and then hopped out just before the rest were over to visit. She was wearing the rope like a Girl Scout sash and we let her. It wouldn’t be too long and she would step out of it.
At this point we should have tightened the fence lines. We didn’t.
On to a couple days later. Coming home after another long day and guess who’s trimming the grass by the chicken coop? Yep, Thelma. We sent the kids to the sandbox and the chase was on again.
It had rained almost constantly for the last couple days so everything was delightfully sloppy. Thelma kicked and bucked her way around the barn, through the yard, into the pig gate, up the hill and around the barn again. Mike fed the cows to distract them…again. Then he started to send her back down the hill to the pig gate while I ran (actually ran this time) around the barn to get to the corral gate and get it open in time.
That spunky little heifer snuck right by and went for lap three! She was half way around and saw Mike at the bottom of the hill and me at the gate and that little $#!* squeezed through the fence and was back in with the rest just in time for more rain.
“Hey! Check your phone!” It was Mike calling me at work.
“Wait…What?! Is that Wheez..Lu..Mar.. no Lucy’s?!” I couldn’t get my words out but through my stammering Mike was able to translate.
“Yes! Lucy had a calf not too long ago. She’s still cleaning it off.”
“Well shoot. I didn’t think she was due for a couple months yet.”
Once again surprised by a calf. Lucy is great for calving, knock-on-wood, she hasn’t needed help with any so far. Each one she gets up and eating right away. She’s a good cow.
When I got home I headed right for the barn rather than the house. The cows were spread about the corral. Lucy was standing next to the feeder outside. I didn’t see a calf anywhere. It’s not unusual for our calves to get out at least twice within their first week. But not usually within the first few hours and when Lucy’s calves are out she’s call’n. I walk up to the fence next to her and looked around. It was then that the hay in the feeder moved. The little guy was balled up in there and she had him covered to keep him warm.