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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cattle Fever Hits the Homestead

Last weekend we were invaded by eight Angus cattle from the neighboring piece of property.  They came over the fence sometime during the night, and so we all woke up to a small herd of cows on the back six acres.  We were all excited; since the cows weren't bothering anyone, and they were confined to the back property, I did not do anything about them.

Here is a picture of the cows when we first noticed them:

I zoomed in on the cows with my iPhone.  Just like a box camera, the sky is whited out and the cows show up as little black silhouettes.  The grass looks brown from here, but as you will see later, the grass truly was greener on our side of the fence.

They roamed all over the back property; at times we could barely see them as they disappeared into the tall grass along the eastern fence line.  That is where there are a lot of bushes and trees which provided shade for the herd which occupied our land before we bought it.

In the afternoon, I started to think that these poor little cows were wandering around with no water to drink.  I called the neighbor and told him that his cows were visiting.  While I had him on the phone, I asked him a lot of questions about raising the cattle.  I was already beginning to imagine my own little herd on my back property....... 

He came over a few minutes after we got off the phone and led them back onto his property.  At first he whistled to them, and they all ran to where he was.  He tried to lead them, but our children kept on moving about, which seemed to confuse them and make them stop.  Our neighbor then got a feed bag (maybe Purina Cow Chow?) which really got the interest of the cows again.  They responded quickly to the sound of the bag being shaken.

I ordered my children to stop moving around, and the cows left without incident.  Well, actually one of my children was heartbroken when he saw them leave:

Sure enough, the cows returned after a brief time.  They really were interested in the fresh green grass on our land, and this time they had just pushed over another part of the fence.  Our neighbor told me that we needed to put a string of barbed wire along the top of the fence line so that they would feel that when they started to push over the fence.

I walked along the property line, inspecting the barbed wire and the T-posts.  I noticed right away that the majority of the posts were loose, and when I wiggled them it sounded as if they were sloshing around in mud.  I surmised that the summer's drought had made the clay-filled soil pull away from the posts, and that the recent rain had softened up whatever was hold the posts in position.  The cows took advantage of this, pushing over the fence without bending the posts.  Unfortunately, the fence was not low enough to allow them to return to their land.

Another interesting thing about this incident was that, true to the herd instinct, once one cow went over the fence, they all followed.

Here the cows strike the usual pose of a cow.  They always look as if they were caught off guard, and to me they always look as if they were a bit embarrassed, with almost a 'sheepish' look on their faces.

These cows ate grass, made fairly good sized cuts into the topsoil, and left some fertilizer in lieu of compensation for our troubles.

Our neighbor plans on breeding the cows.  His little herd consisted of two bulls, five heifers, and one little steer.  I told him I would love to help deliver any calves; it has been more than 20 years since I delivered a baby...........

Here is the video of the children and I moving among the cows.  They were very well behaved, probably because the bulls weren't trying to pursue the heifers, and there were no calves around needing to be protected.  I shall have to warn the children about how things may change shortly.

Back to the video:

Bernard has no fear.  Scary.

I left the cows alone that night. The next day, Sunday, after morning Mass, I went out and led them back to our neighbor's land. It really got me excited about getting some cattle of our own. But first, I would have to reinforce my fence and set up a watering system for them.

All of this after I set up the chicken coop and range.

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