Chasing Cows

We had almost 2 inches of rain on Thursday.

The cows arrived on Friday. They were less than thrilled about the whole moving experience and within 10 minutes, three of the five cows had found the highest bit of electric wire and managed to get under it. Mr. B. and I took off after them. Mr. B. put our 2.5 year old in the “baby backpack” and high-tailed it across the very muddy adjoining fields. The cows were off our property, heading for who knows where. I was running across the field also.

Now I’m sure it was obvious to anyone who was watching that neither of us knew anything about cattle, and any time we tried to run or walk faster those cows would start running too. I have no idea where they were going, but the corn and beans around us are all still miniscule and so there wasn’t really anything for the cows to stop and eat. Since this is a family website, I won’t mention all the epithets for the cows that were going through my head at this point. The thought of the rather large amount of cash we had just shelled out for these creatures, the knowledge that two of them were still back there unsupervised and maybe getting out as well (we lowered the fence right away, but I had no idea how seriously they would try to join the herd) and the sight of large cow feet stomping through the mud and tearing up my neighbors’ crops were combining to make me totally miserable. Also there was the adrenalin rushing through my body as I tried as hard as I could not to lose my shoes in the mud. I remember praying, “PLEASE GOD HELP US CATCH THESE COWS!!”

In a feat of superhuman strength, running (or walking as fast as he could) through the mud,  with an extra 30 lbs or so on his back, Mr. B. was able to get in front of the cows and get them to turn back.

We kept on our journey. The cows retraced their steps, went back into the pasture (but still outside the wire), into our yard, back across the street into the other neighbors’ soybeans, all over the place. A few times they tried to get back in and rejoin the two steers who had not escaped. A steer got back under the fence and rejoined his brothers, but the 2 heifers were too big and just got shocked by the fence and got even madder than they already were.

After about 2 hours of this delightful adventure, our 2.5 year old was ready for lunch and a nap. I brought him in the house and started calling everyone I could think of on the phone. My first call was to my farm mentor, who tipped us from the point of “thinking about cows” to “getting cows” this year. He gave me some suggestions of what not to do, and said if they were still out the next day we’d have to find someone with a rodeo hobby to come out and rope them. I called our neighbor with horses to see if he knew any rodeo types, but he wasn’t home. After that I figured I’d better call Farmer Y, who rents our land, since the cows were out there stomping on his crop.

Farmer Y and his family kindly agreed to help. I called Mr. B., who was still out in the field with the cows, and let him know they were on the way. The cows were more tired now and were back in our pasture eating the nice long grass, but were still *outside* of their electric fence. Farmer Y, his dad, and his grandfather came over with two trucks and a rope. I was in the house getting the child to take a nap at this point. Once he was asleep I went out to see what was going on and if I could be of help. The cows were still out with Mr B, Farmer Y, and Farmer Y Senior herding them around. Grandpa was keeping his distance and just watching everything unfold. They’d made one unsuccessful attempt to corner the recalcitrant heifers back into the fence, but had failed.

I went back inside and got on the phone to see if I could find more help. I won’t mention all the people I talked to, but I was on hold for the Animal Control officer when the men came back in and said they had gotten the cows back in. The cows had been out for a little more than 4 hours.

We had nice farmer chat and a drink out in the driveway afterwards, mostly about what a wet year this was. Grandpa said it wasn’t as bad as 1974, when he didn’t get his corn in until the end of June and then didn’t get anything for his effort. When talking to the three generations of family farmers, I noticed even more than usual what newcomers Mr. B. and I are to this area and to farming, and how different we are from the “normal” farmers in this area.

The cows are doing fine, and are staying in their fence, and are getting the hang of rotational grazing.  We are doing our best to befriend them so that if they ever escape again it will be easier.  Now that we’re not chasing them all over the county, the cattle are actually less work than chickens- they feed themselves!

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3 thoughts on “Chasing Cows

  1. Mike B says:

    OMG! Sounds like raising cows is a real learning experience. Sounds like much more than this suburban man is up for at this stage of life. But, it sounds like you did the right things and got some help form your neighboring farmers. I think that’s the important thing – to help each other when things go awry. Looking forward to seeing you all next weekend.

  2. Mike B says:

    I could not resist looking for lessons on herding cows. Here are two: one starts out kind of amusing and then takes the strategies used on cows for people – that part is not so good. The second one is geeky.Here are the two links:

    Amusing

    Geeky

  3. Morganx says:

    Gabe overheard our farmer when one or two of the cows near our place escaped. Would have made a sailor blush. I believe situations like you just described are why working dogs are so common in NZ.

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