From Pipi’s Pasture: Going on without Pipi
Pipi died peacefully on July 23, 2015, at the ripe old age of 23.
She was born north of Craig, not far from the Fortification Rocks, on a ranch where we lived at the time. Pipi’s mother was a red, white-faced cow that lived to be 24, and her father was black, so Pipi was a brownish-black color with a white strip down her face and a white mouth. She was a cute calf.
One cold winter night, the tips of her ears frosted and eventually fell off, making it appear that Pipi had an ear mark. When she grew up, the ear markings and facial expression gave her a rather grouchy expression. Not so.
By the time Pipi came along, her mother, a heavy milk-producing cow, had developed mastitis, and she couldn’t provide Pipi with enough milk, so I fed the baby two bottles a day. Pipi grew up to be a very gentle cow.
We’re always concerned that first-calf heifers might need some assistance when they calve, but Pipi had her first baby all by herself. From the beginning, she was a nurturing mother with lots of milk. Through the years, she developed a skill for spotting calves that weren’t feeling so well — her calves and others, too.
More than once, she came to the house and bawled and bawled until I came out and then led me to her calf, who had eaten some hay leaves on top of an already full stomach and was full. He just didn’t want to nurse. If she found another calf that was feeling a little peaked, Pipi stood over him, licked him and gave him so much attention that we took notice and checked the calf out.
Years later, Pipi hadn’t calved yet, so she stayed at Pipi’s Pasture during the summer. After her calf was born, she was vigilant about the goings-on around her. If the repairman came to check the telephone box along the highway, or if people walked by, or if there was an unusual noise — anything out of the ordinary — Pipi gathered up her calf and headed for the corral where it was safe.
Eventually, Pipi developed mastitis, too. One year, I supplemented Pipi’s calf, just as I had done with her. I went to the pasture gate twice a day and called, “Baby-e-e-e, Baby-e-e-e!” Pipi immediately found her calf and brought him for his bottle. When it was time to go to summer pasture, I decided the calf was big enough Pipi could take care of him herself. Just for fun, however, I packed a bottle with me to summer pasture on cow checks, called “Baby-e-e-e” and out of the brush came Pipi with a great big calf.
In the spring, at turn-out time, Pipi was always the first cow in the stock trailer. During the summer, when we moved cattle from a pasture on one side of the road to the other, I could always count on Pipi to lead them across and through the gate that was partially hidden with tall grass.
As Pipi grew older, I kept her at Pipi’s Pasture so she didn’t have to walk far for water and didn’t have to walk up and down rocky hills, though if she could have talked, she might have chosen the mountains. She got grain twice a day and plenty of hay and water. In the winter, she stayed in a pen at night so that she was out of the elements. I made every effort to keep her comfortable.
I will always remember her peering out through the pen gate, letting me know she had finished her grain and was ready to go out with the other cows. I was fascinated with her big feet and big white mouth.
I’ve been around cattle all my life, and I’m perfectly aware that keeping older cows that no longer produce calves is not financially wise, but sometimes, the cow has paid her way and deserves to retire. I’ll miss Pipi.
The “From Pipi’s Pasture” column will remain the same, with Pipi’s “picture” and all. From time to time, I might even write memories of Pipi and, of course, I’ll write about other cows, too.
“From Pipi’s Pasture” goes on.