Saturday, December 21, 2019

More on marketing cattle

One of the least appreciated factors in taking cattle to market is the act of getting them onto the trailer. I suspect it is similar to mothers forgetting about the pain of labor when giving birth.

I made a corral at my end of the short two-track that connects my pasture with the late Captain's pasture. A little bit of grain and some magic and I got the cows and the bull separated from the calves and over to Sprite's loading paddock.

Matt, the trucker showed up early Tuesday morning. The bull walked into the trailer and the cows followed.

That should have been the end of the story.


Matt decided that he did not want to take the bull with the cows. I don't know why he made that decision. I was not there. Often, when handling cows or sheep, more human bodies means more problems. I figured my involvement ended when I got the animals over to Sprite's loading paddock.

Matt unloaded the bull.

Two cows followed the bull off the trailer.

Much chasing, whooping and hollering.

I am glad I was not there.

Matt showed up the next morning to load the 1800lb bull. He was nowhere to be seen. He skedaddled. No girlfriends and, baby, he was GONE.

It is not a good feeling to have your 1800 pound bull wandering the neighborhood where he could step in front of a speeding Kia or Plymouth Horizon or even a 1/2 ton pickups. It is not a good feeling to have your 1800 pound bull wandering the neighborhood where he could jump through plate glass windows or be the star of a porno movie.

Finally, Matt and Sprite found the bull but he had NO intention of getting back on the trailer or going back into Sprite's loading paddock. Ferdinand was roaming the hinterland.

Matt left. He had a schedule.

I suggested to Sprite that the cattle are herd animals. They are stressed when they don't have a herd to hang out with. I suggested we run the calves over to her loading paddock and I thought the bull would join them.

The calves spooked at the entrance to Sprite's shipping paddock. I assumed it was the feed wire running 8' overhead. I removed the wire.

They spooked at the water hose running across the line.

We tried grain. In fact, we spread so much grain that the calves had the johnny-trots the next day. No joy.

Then the plan was to run the calves back into my pasture. Again, no joy.

Sprite is a wonderful human being. Sprite is generous and has many fine attributes.

She is not cut out to handle cattle.

Sprite fidgets. Sprite simply cannot go into the house and let them settle down. She has to watch them. They know. Predators lurk and watch.

Another thing was the ATV. The cows were attracted by the sound of the running ATV. The calves turned tail and ran away from it. In retrospect, it was not hard to figure out why. Sprite fed them grain. She transported it in the ATV. The cows ate the grain and batted the calves out of the way...sometimes into the electric fence.

Sprite loves her ATV. She drives it everywhere. Walking more than fifty yards is inconceivable to her. She was the Pied Piper with the cows when driving the ATV. She was unable to see the effect it had on the calves.

A good cow handler can move as slowly as a lamed cow. He can turn around and look away from the cattle for five minutes*, tracking their progress with his ears. He can become a tree stump or just another cow (their I.Q. being roughly equivalent).

Fifteen minutes before sunset I walked to the extreme end of my pasture. I "mooed" at Sprite's calves and then I S-L-O-W-L-Y walked down the two-track to my pasture.

They followed.

Fifteen minutes later, the bull hopped the fence and joined them.

Trying too hard when handling cows and sheep is the equivalent of picking at a zit.

*Predators have eyes in the front of their heads. Prey have eyes on the sides. Cows are spooked when they can see both of your eyes. Turning around so you are not looking at them calms them.


  1. I spent a summer in the late sixties as a farm laborer and the work included some time spent with cows.

    I went back to high school at the end of the summer with a firm resolve that no part of my future would include farming or cows.

    I remember a comic strip called Rick O'Shay and a sort of remember one time when Hipshot Percussion explains that prey have eyes on the side of their heads to see and avoid attack, and predators have eyes in the front of their heads.
    I had that comic strip posted on my wall for many years, and I hadn't thought about it until I read your post today.

    You brought a lot of memories back to life, and thank you.

  2. You ought to send her that video you posted back in October on low-stress cow handling. A few minutes watching that guy should give them some good ideas.

  3. I've got sheep and angora goats to come into a paddock by dropping a brightly colored object on the ground [a bag of potato chips worked] and back up a few feet and stand there staring at it. the animals get curious and come to see what you are looking at. I don't know if it would work on cows. I never tried. If you do let us know. ---ken


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.