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We've got cows!

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The Big Day(s) finally arrived. The cows are here!

The Angus cow/calf pair (whom we christened Filet and Mignon) arrived first. Here the sellers are just pulling into the lower driveway, which leads to the barn.

Thanks to the “chute” arrangement we made on the side of the barn, the animals unloaded without any trouble at all.

They established themselves in the feed lot, looking suspicious.

But they soon relaxed a bit and started exploring their new home.

I’m using sweet COB (corn-oats-barley) as a bribe (a small scoop is inside that black bucket in the foreground) to soften them up.

They’ve been – ahem – very receptive to the COB. Since Filet used to be a range cow, I expected the worst: ricocheting around the corral, furious stampeding, whatever. But no, she’s been quite calm.

Two days later, little Maggie, the Jersey heifer, arrived.

Here she is. Her horns have been banded by the sellers, which means they’ll fall off shortly.

As with Filet and Mignon, the seller was able to back the trailer up to the chute, and Maggie offloaded without any trouble. God bless those horse panels, they’re worth their weight in gold.

We actually kept Maggie in the chute for about an hour or so. One of my concerns was that Filet would prove to be aggressive, and we didn’t want poor Maggie to get beat up. Better to let them meet through the gate first.

Mignon wasted no time in making overtures of friendship.

I think on some level, the calf recognizes this is a younger animal and possible playmate.

We left everyone alone for about an hour, then Don and I went out, armed with push poles in case of trouble, and released Maggie in with Filet and Mignon.

We shouldn’t have worried. Everyone got along fine. Comically, one of the first things Maggie did was run around the feed lot and literally kick up her heels. Freedom! Sort of!

She soon settled in and began exploring the enclosure.

She also explored the barn.

In the afternoon I took a crate, my camera, and a scoop of COB in a bucket, and went in to just sit with the animals.

Mignon was the first to approach.

Hmm, what’s in the bucket?

She ate a couple mouthfuls, then retreated.

Maggie was next. “Whatcha got?”

It took Filet a bit longer to resist, but eventually she, too, succumbed to the lure of COB.

It looks like Maggie and Mignon are going to be good friends.

Meanwhile, however, there’s this harridan.

Honestly, look at this expression. Doesn’t it look like she’s plotting murder?

But I’m coming to realize she’s not. She just looks angry, but her behavior is quite sweet. She just has is a “resting mean face.”

Her interactions with Maggie have been cordial. There’s no question who’s the boss, but Filet isn’t being mean about it, she’s just being … the boss. All bovines must establish a pecking order.

She’s also a good mama, protective about her calf.

Pleased with how everything was developing so far, I went to do some weeding in the garden. A couple hours later, in the evening, I went to check on the cows and was horrified to find blood all over the barn floor.

Poor Maggie had blood all over her face.

I ran and got Don. Our first thought is Maggie had been attacked by Filet. However there was still no indication of aggression from the larger cow. Had Maggie caught herself on something sharp? Before putting the cows in the feed lot, we had removed any stray nails and made sure any metal didn’t have sharp edges. Did we miss something? What caused the injury?

A closer look revealed the culprit: The bands around one of her horns was apparently finishing its job. We’ve never banded horns before; we’ve always used dehorning paste when the animals are very young. Banding, it seems, has a bloody stage.

There was nothing we could do, so we left the animals alone for the night.

Early this morning, I went out to check on everyone. Sure enough, one of Maggie’s horns had fallen off.

We knew what we needed to do next: spray the spot with a fly-spray antiseptic.

Maggie is still skittish, so we decided to trap her in a portion of the side-of-the-barn chute. Don and I carried over another horse panel and installed it in place.

Before trapping her, however, I decided to make a drag lead rope. This is literally a lead rope that clips to the cow’s halter and drags on the ground. The cow steps on it frequently, and it’s a learning aid not to fight a lead rope when they’re being led places. It’s important that a drag rope has nothing that can catch, such as knots or grips or loops.

So I gathered a nylon rope, a bit of wire, and a clip.

I melted the ends of the rope so it wouldn’t fray.

When the rope had cooled, I threaded the tip through the clip and wired the rope together.

Then I used a bit of Gorilla tape to wrap around the wire.

With these accouterments in place, we scooted Maggie into the pen, clipped the drag rope on her halter, sprayed her with the anti-fly spray, and released her. No photos for obvious reasons; my hands were busy.

She walked around the feed lot gingerly, getting used to stepping on the drag rope.

Meanwhile, Don built the rest of the feed box.

It didn’t take long for the animals to figure it out.

Filet’s sweet disposition was cemented this morning. Maggie’s other horn fell off overnight, so the first thing we did was wrangle her to a post and spray her with the fly repellent.

Right after we released her – get this – she dove for Filet’s udder and began nursing! And Filet let her! I managed to grab this photo seconds after Maggie let go, and Mignon moved back in.

We’re going to keep everyone in the feed lot while we treat Maggie’s horn stumps against flies. We also want to tame her down a bit, since we’ve been doing little but traumatizing her since she arrived. Meanwhile, Don and I are frantically fencing property boundaries so we can release the animals to better pasture when the time comes.

We’ve got cows!


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