From Pipi’s Pasture: Harmony at the Corral
May 1, 2015
It's been an even busier-than-usual week here at Pipi's Pasture. The second of my twin first-calf heifers, the smaller of the two, had her baby. I have been checking her at nights for awhile now, but this week she looked close to calving so I had to be even more watchful. Hats off to ranchers who have to calve out hundreds of first-calf heifers! Having to get up at all hours during the night really drains the energy from one's body!
Anyway, because I have been out at the corral every night and because the corral area was lit up, I got to see where everyone sleeps. This week's column is a story about the importance of routine with ranch animals.
First of all, a word about the importance of routines. Ask any parent. Kids depend on a schedule for mealtime, naptime, and bedtime. Of course, we all have to get off schedule once in awhile, but when kids are used to a routine, they learn to trust. They feel safe. They thrive. It's the same with animals. Over the years, I've noticed how much our cattle depend on us to take care of them at the same time and in the same way each day.
Our little bunch of cows gathers to wait for the feed wagon at the same time each morning. The corral cattle, that are fed twice a day, stand near the corral fence where I throw their hay. If I'm late getting home from work, I'm greeted by bawling. But this week's story involves the routine of sleeping arrangements.
The current residents of one side of the corral have been there for a couple of months. They include two cows and three calves (one set of twins), Pipi and the first-calf heifer (that didn't have her calf until a couple of days ago). Every night I have found the calves and two cows in a large "loafing" pen. One cow has a habit of moaning and groaning — I'm not sure why — so I've been able to hear her before I'm actually at the corral. Pipi prefers to sleep out in the corral, though she hunts out the pen when it is extra cold or stormy. And the heifer has always liked to sleep in a smaller pen. And this has been their sleeping-place routine — until this week.
This week, as the heifer looked closer and closer to calving and since we were a little nervous that she might need help, Lyle and I chased the cows and calves out of the large loafing pen, put the heifer in there and closed the gate. Immediately there were repercussions. The calves tried to sneak back in. One cow stood at the gate so that it was hard to get it closed. They all gave us "the look." Then one cow finally went to the smaller pen, scratched on the fence awhile and then laid down — in the doorway, of course, so another cow couldn't get in. Pretty soon she was moaning and groaning.
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After the calves decided they couldn't get back into their usual beds, they sneaked past the moaner and groaner and went to sleep in the back part of the smaller pen. The other cow found a place to sleep on one side of the chute. The heifer didn't like her new sleeping quarters, either. Only Pipi remained undisturbed; she was sleeping outside anyway. During the times I checked the corral that night, I found the animals bedded down but unhappy. One little calf came out and stood in front of the gate each time I went down there.
The heifer didn't calve that night, and she didn't look much closer the next night so we didn't bother to put her in the big pen. She went to the little pen, and the calves and cows had their big pen. Pipi was out in the corral. The moaner and groaner could be heard doing her thing. Harmony was restored at the corral once again.