From Pipi’s Pasture: Moving cows across the road
This coming weekend the cattle on summer pasture will be moved to another pasture, just across the county road from where they are now. No big deal, but the move can be, and usually is, very interesting — especially in the heat.
When I last wrote about summer pasture we had just put the cattle on their present pasture. We always leave them there during June and then move them across the road in about a month and a half. Just when we move them depends on how much pond water and grass is left.
In the 15 (!) or so years that we have been using this pasture, we have experienced everything — years that the water and grass are plentiful like this year, years of drought and grasshoppers and conditions in between.
Last week when Lyle and I were checking pond water, we found some of the cattle taking it easy by one of the ponds. They were lying there chewing their cuds, perfectly content with the world. Most of them didn’t even get up. It was quite evident that they weren’t in any hurry to be moved. Otherwise they would have started bawling and have headed for the gate. So their contentment could be a problem come Saturday.
When moving morning rolls around, after all the gates in the new pasture are checked, some of the family members have gotten on their four-wheeler horses and others have stationed themselves up and down the county road (to “encourage” cattle through the gate of the new pasture), the first job will be to find the cattle.
This particular pasture has some open spaces, like a big “flat” on top, but a lot of it is covered with patches of chokecherry, serviceberry, and oak trees. These patches are so thick that a person can pass right by cattle that are standing perfectly still inside. So, if cows wanted to remain hidden, they could.
The “cattle finders” take off and pretty soon the sounds of the four-wheelers dims, and the people waiting on the county road listen for the cattle bawls. Sometimes it takes awhile to locate the animals, especially if it’s hot and they’re shaded up. But eventually the animals funnel down into the little valley where they will exit the open gate.
We miss Pipi because she was a smart cow, and we could count on her to lead the others across the road. Now we have to wait for a cow to see the open gate, and then the cattle take off on a run to leave the pasture.
One person is always designated as a “counter” of the cattle, though this almost never works. The cattle move too fast, and it’s hard to see the calves all mixed in with the big animals, but an attempt is made to count anyway.
It’s when the cattle are going through the gate that we usually have problems. Calves that bring up the rear miss the gate (calves have a hard time seeing an open gate) and run right past it, heading up a little hill for the other side of the pasture. Meanwhile, their mothers are in the next pasture, almost hidden by tall grass. They don’t notice that the calves are missing.
So, the chase is on to get the calves back, and as all ranchers know, there is nothing worse than chasing calves.
Given some time, the mother cows realize that their calves haven’t come out of the pasture and will come back for them, usually after the chasers are exhausted.
Sometimes a cow that has calved on summer pasture will leave a bedded down calf in the pasture, and in this case we let her back to find her calf. She always does.
Moving cows across the road might sound easy, but it’s usually an adventure.
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