From Our Farm to Your Table

When the Cow's Don't Want to Come Home

Sun, 2017-11-19 18:54 -- Carole Soule
Alice, the Angus cow

The cows didn't want to come home. We thought with the recent snow and cold temperatures the eighteen head of cattle at one of our remote pastures in Gilmanton would be hungry and ready to move to a new pasture in Canterbury. At first, they followed two cows we led towards the temporary pen attached to the stock trailer. Sure they would be hungry we had put hay in the pen hoping they would be distracted by the hay as we closed the panels behind them. Once secure in the pen, we could load them in the trailer.  The herd followed the two cows but about twenty yards from the pen, one particularly flighty purebred Angus cow named “Alice” stopped, looked around then bolted away. Of course, the rest of the herd followed.

There were only three of us and one ATV in a twenty-acre pasture where the cows had the advantage. The cattle seemed to enjoy the chase with Bruce, my husband, as he drove the ATV trying to push them back towards the corral. I'm not sure who had more fun, Bruce on the ATV, or the cattle trying to outwit the ATV. The cows would look at the ATV then kick up their heals and circle round until they finally ran to the back of the pasture, stood in the ankle-deep green grass and looked at Bruce as if to say, “Look there's plenty of grass here, we have lots to eat, go away.” Because of our rotational grazing practices, the pasture had lots of grass, so gave in and left them. Leaving them turned out to be a good thing.

Remember I said there was snow on the ground? Just enough snow to make the incline where the truck and trailer were parked, slippery. As we tried to leave we found that the truck's four-wheel-drive wasn't working and the dualies (four tires in the rear) spun in the mud. Because the trailer was against a fence post we couldn't back up to find better traction and without four-wheel drive, going forwards on that snow slick incline was not an option, even with an empty trailer. We were stuck.  Things were bad but everything would have been worse with a trailer full of cows.

Pulling the stuck rig

The pasture owner, Tom Reed of Early Sunrise Farm, tried to pull us out with his two-wheel drive backhoe but that just slipped in the mud too. Luckily a contractor on the farm had a four-wheel drive backhoe he was using to dig a septic system. The second backhoe did extract our cow-free rig from the slippery ground and, as usual, I was frustrated by the failure of equipment to work as expected but grateful for unexpected help.

Once the truck's four-wheel-drive is fixed we'll bring extra hands to help with the round-up. A good cow pony or even a herding dog or two might help but we'll have to settle for three ATVs and four or five people to help corral the herd. Anyone interested in a round-up? Alice and her buddies will make it interesting, for sure.

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