Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: The behavior of a cow
I wonder at times if cattle behavior is a reflection of their owner’s personality or just what accidentally happens in the dense space between a cow’s ears. We have found that cattle should be handled in a calm and predictable manner. I believe you should always use one particular gate at a set of corrals to put cows in and another to let them out. When it works right, the cows go in the entrance and head for the exit. If a gate is a little tricky, and we have time, we use a few portable panels to make a wing. We don’t want the cows to figure out that they can get away with very much. As we are usually short-handed, this sort of cow training is very helpful. What I have never been able to do is train a cow to claim her calf or even admit that she has ever had a calf.
The other day we were moving the last of the cows off the winter range and discovered a cow in a pasture by herself. Because we had moved cows the day before there was a chance that we might have moved her calf with the previous bunch. There was also the possibility that she had a calf cached-out somewhere. I couldn’t swear if she had actually had a calf yet. So we unloaded our horses and moved her around. We took her to a windmill and she drank. I thought that might stimulate her maternal instincts. When that failed we pointed her down the draw to see if that would get her to look for a calf. Then we tried steering her in several random directions around the 18 section pasture. Being an Angus cow, she had sworn an oath not to reveal her calf to any human so she finally walked over and stood by the gate to the next pasture like she was trying to tell us something.
This was a true cow dilemma. The calf could have been in either pasture. Since there were only a few cows in that pasture we thought we could bunch them up and see if she could hunt up a calf. She was a happy cow wherever we took her. The next morning we went up there in the pickup to see if she wanted back. On the way we discovered a cow and calf that was our last straggler. This nice old cow knew where to go and we followed along with the truck and put her through the gate. Then we saw the cow with a tight bag heading towards us. It looked like a simple deal but when the cow with the tight bag met the cow we had just put in the pasture going in the opposite direction, she turned around and followed the old cow despite our efforts. So now we had to gather the cows, take them to a corral three miles away, cut out the tight bagged cow and haul her back to the pasture where we started out. Maybe someday the cows will get me trained.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the July 24, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News