Monday, July 25, 2016

Cattle Drive

We rotated cows to a fresh pasture today. Moving cows used to stress me out but I have learned to relax over the years. OK, my family would probably tell you that I still get pretty cranked up about moving them and the worst case scenarios go through my head each time I open the gate and let them out into the road. However, the cows at my place have generally been here for several seasons and they have a better idea of what is going on than I do. In other words, my cattle drives usually work in spite of all my worrying and planning.
Today was no exception. Isaac was on his horse, Dad was riding his atv and I was piloting the good old, loud feed truck with alfalfa on the back. Truth be told, the move could probably be made with just the old, loud feed truck, I am not even certain we need the alfalfa for anything more than to make the old cows bunch up at the gate and wait for the calves. Isaac does a good job of convincing the calves that it is a good idea to keep pace with the cows.
We hold the cows back at the gate because once they hit the road there is no turning back and the calves are often not smart enough to figure out that the gate is open if they don’t see their mama go through it. Today, the cows were relatively close to the gate and soon followed me. I waited patiently while Isaac and his horse pushed the calves down and Dad ran up to a high spot to make sure we didn’t have any stragglers.
Once I saw Isaac I let go of my grip on the bales (experience tells me the cows will drag them off and then you have grid-lock) and started moving. Sure enough once the old cows hit the road they started the mile jog toward fresh pasture. Like a Nascar driver starting at the back of the field I weaved my way up through the herd but only managed to make it half way before the finish line was in sight.
The cows were picking up momentum, I started to worry that they were going to go right on past the gate and began to formulate plan B in my head. However, as they came up even with the gate each cow made a hard right and went into the gate. I made it to the gate ahead of most of the calves and turned them into the pasture. That is when I noticed my two compadres bringing up the rear were not in sight.
Just as I started to worry they popped up over the hill each of them on either side of Lucky, the cow. Lucky was taking her own sweet time, eying the green grass on either side of the road. Lucky is the former 2007 Pottawatomie County Bucket Calf Champion and famous in her own beany little brain.
Her life started out tragically. We found her standing over her dead mother one February morning and she came to live with us. Tatum named her Lucky and she was the kid’s first cow. Lucky was the daughter of a first calf heifer who died giving birth to her so we were not sure if she would be a good mother. There must be a fair amount of instinct involved with mothering because she is an excellent mother and raises a nice calf each year.
Lucky isn’t much to look at, she is pretty narrow and way too thin. Each year we wonder if she is bred and luckily enough (for her) she is and often is one of the first to calve. She walks with a noticeable limp. Two or three different times she has come up lame on the same back foot. The first time she was caught in wire and cut the foot up pretty bad. It was right before calving and we thought for sure she would lose the calf. Nope, in true Lucky fashion she calved, raised a respectable calf and bred back on time all while looking like death warmed over. Each year we debate on culling old Lucky and each year she escapes that long trailer ride by, well, being lucky.
I have come to expect her to be the last one out into the road when we drive the cows. We overlook her bony appearance and we tolerate her slow limping gate. Why? Is it because she is a good old cow who keeps producing each year. Maybe, but I truly suspect it is because she has a name and a story and everyone knows that cows like that never die. They just limp on to greener pastures.

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