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Is a Gentle Bull an Oxymoron?

July 6, 2020

All but two of our expected calves have been born. We recently purchased two pregnant cows, which are due in August. We can live with that, but spring is the best time for calves to be born, when the grass explodes from the ground, and the weather is cool, but not freezing. To get the timing right, a bull must mate with a cow in June, July, or August, nine months earlier. 

I currently have three bulls – two Scottish Highlanders and one Hereford. They are all gentle. We are raising beef cattle here, not producing ferocious contestants for rodeos or bullfights. Blain, a white Highlander bull, lets me put a halter on him and lead him, and Ferdinand, also a white Highlander bull, is calm and easy to handle. Jasper, the Hereford, is docile, too. Right now he is with our Angus cows, unchaperoned in our leased pasture at Audubon on Silk Farm Rd in Concord. 

These bulls respect people and have never charged or attacked a human. If any of my bulls, or cows for that matter, show signs of aggression... well, into the freezer they go. I won't even try to sell them; those aggressive traits must be removed from the gene pool. Farmers don't need an aggressive cow or bull in their pastures. Happily, truculence does not affect taste.

While I've never been attacked by a bull, I have been charged and thrown to the ground by a cow. Motherhood can make cows violently protective. 

It's easy to identify hostile intent. Cattle should scatter when you wave your arms, and if they don't, you might have a problem. If the animal lowers its head, stands sideways and looks at you with one eye, get out of there. 

Most of my cows are with Blain, some are in a separate pasture with Ferdinand, and the rest are with Jasper. They may be gentle, but they are still bulls, so I have no doubt it'll be raining calves in the spring.

Carole Soule

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