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How to Catch a Contrary Cow

April 11, 2022

Paprika, the cow, tried to avoid capture but we have other bovines to visit and calves to pet at our Easter Day at the Farm event on April 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. More Information here

Paprika, the cow, dashed past farmworker Matt and charged back into the woods. She lived in the five-acre pasture without any cow-panions. The other cattle had been sold months earlier, and since then, she'd been sharing the field with 20 sheep.

Even though Paprika is an 800-pound Scottish Highlander with intimidating horns, she acted like her sheep pasture-mates. When cornered, she'd run. Perhaps if she had the calming company of an older cow, she would have been more reasonable, but scaredy-cat sheep were her role models.

Last fall, her owners, Julie and Matt (there are two Matts in this story, so I'll call this one Matt-2), wanted to sell me Paprika, but first, we had to catch this partly feral beast. I decided we'd need special equipment, namely large, strong metal panels securely attached to solid posts. Paprika may have acted like a sheep, but she weighed eight times as much as a sheep and could crash through flimsy panels or even try to jump over them. I've seen cattle sail over 4-foot fences with the grace of a thoroughbred horse.

To prepare for this roundup challenge, Matt-1 loaded our 14 heavy stock panels into the dump trailer. Then we created a caravan with me driving the F450 pickup towing the stock trailer, husband Bruce drove the F150 truck towing the dump trailer, and Matt-1 followed in his truck. When we arrived at their Mount Vernon farm, Matt-2 and Julie were there to help, as were two 30-something neighbors. With all that young muscle power, it didn't take long to unload and, with Bruce supervising, attach the panels to the barn posts to create a secure corral with a gate at one end. We positioned the stock trailer at the other end of the corral, with its back door open. The whole setup was designed to funnel Paprika into the stock trailer. 

We hoped that our seven-person team could make that happen. 

Young Blood

Julie, Matt-2, and their two neighbors encouraged Paprika out of her hiding place in the woods and walked behind her into the five-acre pasture. Paprika must have sensed something was afoot and would have nothing to do with our plan. She ran back into the woods.

On the next try, four helpers and Bruce walked behind her as Matt-1 and I positioned ourselves to block Paprika's escape path back into the trees. 

Paprika walked calmly into the pasture, but when she saw me, she ran, and the others shouted at me to block her escape. I hadn't anticipated such an early break for the woods, so I'd have to do some fancy running to cut her off. My soccer days are long gone, and even so, a running cow can reach 20 mph that even a professional athlete can't match.

So, I waved my arms and shouted to extend my zone of intimidation. One of the younger, swifter helpers circled behind me and climbed to the top of a dirt pile, also yelling and swinging his arms.

Captured!

Paprika stopped and looked at those insane humans. She must have decided she wanted nothing to do with us because she pivoted and ran into the panel trap at full speed. Matt-2 rushed in and smashed the gate shut behind her. Realizing she was trapped, Paprika charged into one of the panels. Bang! The panel held. Then she turned and darted into the trailer, and once again, Matt-2, running at the speed of light, swooped in and shut the trailer gate. Paprika was captured!

So how many people does it take to capture a wild cow? Seven -- as long as five are young and run really fast.

Would you like to meet some of our more tame bovine residents and cuddle a cow? Then join me for our Easter at the Farm event on Saturday, April 16th, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information click here,

Carole Soule

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