From Pipi’s Pasture: Pipi is real, and she’s one smart cow
It’s been suggested that I write about Pipi. She’s the real, live cow for whom Pipi’s Pasture is named. At the present time, Pipi is on summer pasture, where there’s plenty of shade during these hot summer days, and I will see her again Saturday when we move the cows from one pasture to another.
Pipi’s mother was a Hereford, and her father was an Angus-cross. Pipi is a heavyset, black/brown cow with white markings. The top of Pipi’s head is white. The white narrows into a strip that runs between her eyes, leaving both sides of her face a black/brown color. The strip widens out again around her mouth and nose. Pipi’s nose is specked with black spots.
It appears that Pipi has been earmarked because both of them are cropped. In truth, the tips of her ears were frozen one cold spring night when she was a calf.
When Pipi was a baby, her mother developed mastitis and couldn’t feed Pipi, so I fed her on the bottle. I’ve lost track of the years, but Pipi must be about 18 years old now. She’s raised a bunch of calves, and even as a first-calf heifer. She never had trouble calving.
In the cattle business, cows are culled as they age. They develop bag problems and lose their teeth. It takes longer to breed back. Mostly, they stop having calves altogether. So, it’s good business to cull cows. However, sometimes we keep older cows and let them live their lives out with us just because. That’s the case with Pipi. She’s been a good cow.
Maybe it’s the cropped ears, or maybe it’s because Pipi’s dark eyes are surrounded by her brown/black color — whatever the reason, Pipi’s face sometimes takes on a cranky look. However, that’s not the case with her disposition. Pipi is a gentle, nurturing cow. In fact, if Pipi were a human, she’d probably be a nurse. She senses when another cow or calf doesn’t feel well, even before we notice the signs. If we see Pipi standing over a calf, nosing it, we check it out.
Some years ago, after branding, a calf went into shock. We hadn’t noticed, but there it was, lying next to the corral gate, and Pipi was standing with her nose on it. The calf wasn’t even hers. We called the veterinarian and saved the calf.
In years past, Pipi sometimes would come up next to the house and bawl and bawl until she caught our attention. When we went into the pasture, she’d lead us down to her calf, and she’d nose the calf and look straight at us as if to say, “See? There’s something wrong. He won’t nurse. Do something.”
One year, I had to help Pipi feed her calf. (She started developing her mother’s bag problems.) She had charge of the calf in the pasture but brought it to me to get extra milk from a bottle. Sometimes, I’d go out and call, “baby, baby,” and even if the calf didn’t notice, Pipi did. On more than one occasion, Pipi went and hunted up the calf and brought him to me. That summer, when I checked the cows on summer pasture, I’d take a bottle of milk with me and call to the calf. Pipi would answer and bring, by then, a good-sized calf to me.
When moving cows, as on Saturday, Pipi usually is in the lead, guiding them through the gate. When she spots us, she starts bawling and moves towards the gate. She knows what we’re up to. When we move cattle to summer pasture, we make sure that Pipi is with yearlings. (Without adult supervision, yearlings act like teenagers, and we can’t predict where they might go.) She usually loads herself in the stock trailer, too.
One year, Pipi calved late, so she spent the summer in Pipi’s Pasture. If she saw a biker ride by on the highway, or if the telephone repairman stopped along the highway to check the telephone box or if it started to thunder (or if anything else out of the ordinary happened), Pipi gathered up her calf and headed for the corral — to safety.
Pipi isn’t young anymore. She no longer has calves, but she will spend out her years on Pipi’s Pasture.
This year, a handful of Moffat County High School graduates are setting out to carry on the family tradition. From business to education, these students plan to follow in the footsteps their parents and in some cases, grandparents and great-grandparents.