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.
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.
“You might as well call in to work today and sit in the barn. Today will be the day.”
I rolled my eyes at Mike. “It’s been “the day” for the last how many days.”
We were in the barn doing morning chores and checking on Caroline. She was huge, obviously uncomfortable and showing every sign that she was ready to go any time now.
“I will check on her before I leave for work.” I have been for the last couple weeks and there has been nothing to report.
We kept on with our chores and that was that.
I had everyone loaded in the van and ready to go, pulled up to the barn and you guessed it! There she was standing over a very fresh calf. I let my boss and daycare know that I was going to be late and started checking everyone out.
(sigh) Two weeks. Two weeks of not tying or walking the cow. That was all it took for Sweet Caroline to no longer allow me to walk up to her in the pasture and put the halter on her. In fact this morning I couldn’t even put the lead rope around her neck like I used to do when she was unsettled to keep her standing nicely so I could then halter her.
The first week was my own fault. I didn’t get out there to work with her like I should have. The flu came to our house and I just didn’t make time to walk the cow too. The second week I am going to blame on G.W. the bull. We had a little go-‘round one morning when I went out there. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been but it left me with a sore back for a few days. After that we moved to a temporary three pen system.
I love working with our cows. I say it all the time and yet, when I’m out there with them it’s 50/50 if I’m happily working or angry and cursing. Even on the days I’m jumping the gate to get out of the pen I go to bed thinking “What a good day!”
Today was one of those days. I was able to be home a few hours longer this morning and decided I was going to go out and take Caroline for a walk. It has been a few days and I don’t want her to get out of practice. With the baby down for a nap, the other two and I headed out. Both were instructed they were not allowed in the pen. They could watch through the fence or go play. I should have known better and just told them they had to go play.
I had a few alfalfa cubes in my pocket, a lead rope and the rope halter. The little boy was on my heels with a million questions that I answer the best I can. When “I don’t know” or “Just because” are the only answers left I start with “because that’s how God wanted it”. By the time we got to the gate we were on the edge of what God thought was best.
Mike has Lucy and Wheezy in their own pen, eagerly awaiting calves. The rest are in the corral. I unhooked the gate and wandered in. Immediately Caroline headed my direction… along with last year’s calves and G.W. the bull. I didn’t bother with treats because there was no way I could just give one to Caroline, instead I just started to try and put the lead rope around her neck. Once she’s got a rope on it’s pretty easy to lead her out and put the halter on. I never got that far.
G.W. was being even pushier than his usual self, which by the way, has been getting worse. Right away he started with the head rubbing. He lowers his head and rubs it on my side or leg. For a little cow he’s got plenty of push behind him. It wasn’t too long before he had me pushed down the fence line and away from the gate. At this point I was frustrated. I have learned to not push him back or it turns to a game and he just uses more muscle.
Face to face we started to circle the pen, my thought was to circle around so I could jump the gate. Both a blessing and sometimes a curse that the little boy cannot yet open the gates. Well we didn’t make it that far before there was a break in the pressure. He let up and had a short running, kicking fit.
Imagine a rodeo bull with no ropes or rider.
It was enough to give me a chance to break for the gate. I wasn’t about to tangle with the 4 strands of barbed wire, just get to the gate. I wasn’t close enough before he was back and my next step landed me flat on my back.
(Insert loud curse word)
I was past frustrated by this point. I was pissed. My life didn’t flash before my eyes, instead it was “shit! Get off the ground you’re pregnant!” From the ground to my feet I’m not totally sure how it went but I remember seeing for dancing brown hooves and then climbing the gate… where I was met with question one million and one.
I stormed back to the barn and put the ropes away, then called Mike.
“We need to stop giving G.W. any attention. He had me flat on my back just now and I can’t work with Caroline when he’s there. He can be comfortable with us being out there without acting like an overgrown dog. I tried throwing some hay to distract him but then she ate too and I couldn’t get to her without him noticing.”
I think he could tell by the tone in my voice that I was pissed. G.W. wasn’t on his way to hamburger, but he was on my list.
“Well maybe you should stay out for now. You don’t need to get hurt. We will figure something out for him.”
“I don’t want her to get wild on me because I can’t keep working with her for a while. I started over a few times with Lucy. I’d rather not do that again.”
“We’ll figure something out.”
With that I went and helped the kids fill a wagon with tiny pine cones. I don’t know what they wanted them for but it was good busy work for all of us.
Later Mike called suggesting we put up a temporary pen for G.W. so that I can work with Caroline without any trouble. After some discussing we changed that to a pen for Caroline. Keep the bull behind four strand of barbed wire and two electric ones.
We swapped work for kids at noon. By three Mike sent a text “Caroline’s pen is ready for her to move in.”