From Pipi’s Pasture: Itching their way into spring
February 27, 2015
Cattle like to "itch" themselves just about anytime, but they really get carried away in the spring time of year. First of all, they have all of that winter hair. Then, the weather is getting warmer, their skin is dry, and they just feel uncomfortable. They probably feel as we do when we have dry, itchy scalp or skin.
So when the cows at Pipi's Pasture, including Pipi, aren't eating or resting, they're scratching themselves on whatever is available. For example, this afternoon as I did chores, one of the bulls was rubbing on a metal panel that's used as part of a partition in the corral.
"Twang, twang, twang!" The panel rocked back and forth as the bull rubbed his neck on it.
"Twang, twang, twang, twang!" He rubbed harder and harder, faster and faster. I checked the panel. There is a big water tank in front of it so he couldn't rub the panel over.
At the same time, the other big bull in the corral was rubbing his neck on one of two poles that holds up the front part of a loafing shed.
"Creak, creak, creak!" The creaking sounds were punctuated by sounds of wood cracking. That the shed has not fallen in is to the credit of whoever built the shed (before we moved here) as both of the front poles are leaning over, and there are pieces of wood lying around in the corral. (Cattle are heavy, and there's bound to be damage wherever they scratch themselves.)
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The stock trailer is parked out in the little pasture where we feed the cows, and the gooseneck part of the trailer is a favorite scratching place. There's the banging sound of an empty trailer as cows scratch themselves, often damaging "attachment" wires that have to be repaired before the trailer can be used to move cattle to summer pasture. Sometimes the cows shake the trailer enough to get the side door open, and cows peek out from inside the trailer.
Fences are among the favorite itching spots year-round. The cows especially like the tops of posts because they can reach up and scratch their chins. Wires are covered with red and black hair, wires are often loose, and last spring, when the ground was so very wet, the cows rubbed so hard on the fences that they pushed the posts over.
Other scratching spots include cow chutes, the alleyway to the calf chute, various metal panels, and the corral fence. And, if you want to make a friend for life, just start scratching a cow. Her favorite spots are the shoulders and around the tailbone.
All of the itching has the cattle looking a little like they have the mange, with hair rubbed off in spots. The bulls have bare spots on their necks, and tonight I noticed that Pipi has rubbed a patch of hair off one leg, most of it from scratching on a panel.
During calving season, when I'm checking the corral at night, I can hear the familiar twanging, creaking, and banging sounds of the cows as they itch their way into spring.