Ruby still hasn’t calved. I am, of course, so paranoid about this upcoming event – I sure hope I have drawn my one “really bad cow experience” card from the cowgirl deck for at least a couple years. To have a highland cow die in labor is pretty rare. I still miss seeing Clementine’s sweet face watching me as I approached the herd. She had an adorable enormous star shaped cowlick right in the center of her forehead, with wise and gentle eyes. RIP dear heart. I feel cautiously very good about Ruby, for one thing she is almost 6 and more experienced, her condition is majorly improving as the grazing and alfalfa bales have fattened her up more lately, and her bone structure is much larger and wider so it feels like there is less of a chance of her calf getting tangled inside. But you just never know what will happen.
Highs and lows are extremely abundant right now. My major high is finding out just how many of my friends are there with giant embracing open arms. After feeling low for so long, having my friends raise me up is my light and joy. I am so lucky to have you all in my life, thank you friends, from the bottom of my heart.
The 5 remaining cattle had been doing a great job grazing the section I had them on and staying in it. I had ten 1200 lb alfalfa bales delivered out there to supplement the sort-of poor forage. They are improving the land and pastures for next year, so it is not primo-grazing this season. They plowed through almost two of the massive bales already, but the grass is literally greener on the other side of the electric fence wire. I know I am kind of pushing it by keeping by my cattle within single strand electric fence. There have been a few (or more than a few, actually) close calls where the wire was off the insulators and shorting out on the grass, but the cows stayed inside the paddock.
This morning though, Ochre and Nillo were coming up to the Oak tree as I began my cow check, coming up to drink water, but the three others were not with them. Oh shit. They tend to always stay as a herd for the most part. So through the dew soaked grass I strode, up to the far north part of the pasture to see what was going on. I found 2 parts of the fence off it’s insulators, and did not see the three missing cows. Oh shit. Had Ruby led the way, looking for a private, secluded place to calve? Had naughty/sweet Lola decided to leap the electric line? Had Boon (I call him Boonall McDougall) said “I am going to get that lush regrowth over there, screw this stupid wimpy electric barrier”? I had 39 acres to decide which way to go looking for them, and I decided that maybe they’d headed to the nearby birch grove. It was then I spotted Boon, grazing in the hay road. He was not in any fence. I was not ready for this. Well i sort of was. (Lesson: do not procrastinate with cows) I had the polywire set up and ready to switch them over to the new paddock, but had been putting it off as long as possible to increase their impact on the section they were on. But he was not inside that, he was completely free. Oh shit. (I have to interject here that when I try to tell stories that happened this very morning, it raises my anxiety back to this morning’s levels as I relive the moments and try to write them down accurately!!)
I said out loud several times, “what should I do, what should I do?” I couldn’t decide. He was very far away from the cows’ watering area, and also where were Lola and Ruby? I’ve herded this bull short distances before, but this was a long, long way to try to herd him, and if he was standing guard over his two ladies I knew I would not be able to herd him at all. I decided I had to go turn off the electric fence and open it up and try to herd him (and hopefully the two lady cows too) back in. As I approached the Oak tree watering area, I was extremely relieved to see that Lola and Ruby had joined the steers. I threw them some bales of clover hay that they love and I knew would preoccupy them for a while, and then went to unplug the fence and see what I could do about Boon. Meanwhile I could hear the ducks all quacking in their restless impatience to come out for the day.
Boon came striding up the path towards the other cows (still outside the fence) as I was going to open up the fence, but past the area where I would have most easily been able to open it up. Dang it. I opened the fence anyways and then grabbed two fence posts and tried to herd him backwards. He was not having it. I haven’t ever seen him run since I got him, but he moved away from me very quickly with the power of a semi-truck cab, lurching forward in a lope, in the wrong direction. I can only say I am most grateful this bull is so not a typical bullish bull. He is just so mellow and not aggressive. I left him there, hoping my assumption of him staying near his herd would be true while I performed my fencing dance of getting the paddock switch all connected, and then I could hopefully herd him back in with the others after that, at the joining point for the fence, which is “sort of” simple to open up. Then re-connect the power and voila. I had a good hour and a half of running around in my slippery crocs, desperately yanking fence out of it’s old position to the connecting point. Steel wire is THE WORST if it gets tangled. Grrrrrrrrr.
What I would give for a nice handling corral, with a paddock chute and gates and permanent paddocks kind of situation, like professional cow people have! But how would I know what it is I need, without doing this hard time with my cows? I am still roughing it out, how I’d ideally set it up. It will take money, and it will take the off season to make it happen. I have learned you cannot set things up ideally once you are in the midst of the action. You deal, that’s about it. I am very impressed overall with Highland cattle, they have such a very nice demeanor for a total newbie to deal with. They are not (generally) trouble makers or high strung after they settle in, like I hear other beef cattle can be. Considering that my 2 steers were about as wild as can be when I got them, we have come such a long way in a very short time. Highlands also have their aesthetic attributes. Looking at a highland bull who is out of the fence, but drop dead gorgeous and just magnificent to behold, makes it seem not as bad!
At the end of this crazy morning experience, Boon went along with my plan and moved, with a few prods with my rebar fence posts, over to where I opened the fence by the Oak so he could rejoin his herd. A couple hours ( I was watching them as I cleaned eggs) later they started discovering the new paddock, and I trekked out to see them going ape-shit over the new grass growing on the 8 acres of hayfield re-growth. They looked like they just couldn’t believe their luck in finding this wonderful grazing. Well, cows, you and I made it happen today, didn’t we?! I hope they enjoy and fatten well on it. The two steers have their date with destiny set in mid-September. Boon will go most likely end of October. Summer’s going fast, isn’t it?
They didn’t stay out there long at first, as the heat of the day kicked up and the hay field is 100% full sun. When I took all these pictures, I had watched the cows move from the shade under the Oak, back out to the new paddock. it was absolutely the coolest thing to witness. I was scratching Lola and loving on her, and then Nillo led the way towards this heavenly paradise they all remembered finding a few hours earlier. Usually the bull leads the herd, so it was amazing that Nillo, my bashful boy, remembering the new pasture and all the goodness, took the lead to return there to graze in the early evening coolness. Look how happy they are, and such full bellies!!!! Yay cows!