By David Hawke — It's been a while since I wrote an article about cattle.
Once upon a time our pasture lands were used as a place to provide grazing forage to many head of cattle.
In those days we had our adventures (perhaps better called misadventures) with cattle breaking down fences and gaining entry to gardens and yards. Empty water troughs and lost calves kept the bovine din at a moderate and steady pitch.
Then we planted trees. No more cows and calves. Hurray! Silence descended on our valley and it has stayed that way for the past decade. Until a couple weeks ago, when the past came rushing back. Not happy about that.
Things started as we were working in the back yard, and a bellow from an anxious mom cow echoed through. "Hmm. Sounds close. Maybe the air waves are being tricky tonight, 'cause ain't no cows in our back field." Then a pick-up truck coasted into the front lane. I went to investigate.
Neighbour says sorry, but a few head of cattle have busted through our shared fence and made their way into our north field. Only a few, he'll get 'em out tonight, should have the fence fixed soon. I mentioned there was no real hurry to kick them out as the north field was not planted in trees and the fallow grass was getting a bit high and thick.
As he departed we agreed that he'd ensure a gate was closed at one end of the field, and I'd check a couple others. A smile on my face... "just like the old days, cattle breakin' through the fences". In the 10 years or so that the trees have been growing, I have either removed a number of fences or neglected to maintain others. No cows, so why bother?
As I walked around to the back yard, I was met by a cow. Face to face, in my back yard. It looked surprised to see me. I was surprised to see it. The combined shock on our faces caused the beast turn and high-tail it back from whence it came. Ever wonder what "high-tail it" means? It means to have a poop on the run. Backyard is now fertilized, in patches at least.
Found a buddy cow hiding in the forest but they both shot back through the open gate and into the field. I shut and chained the gate thinking that I'm lucky more didn't get through.
Next morning there is a definite cow convention in the back field. Mooing, bawling and general cow-like conversations going on. I walked up the steep slope to gain a better viewpoint over the field. Yep. Cattle. About 80! Big ones, wee ones, yearlings, heifers, calves... cows.
As I entered the field to see if I might convince them to leave, a few heads perked up, ears were trained on my advance, and a handful set off in full retreat for the gap in the fence.
Interesting thing about cattle, is that when one runs, they all run. Like a scene from a Western movie, the dust rose and cattle bawled and the field got fertilized (actually, they usually don't show that last part in Western movies).
Within a few minutes the field was empty, the cattle were wandering back up their own sloped field, and I saw my weekend plans go up in smoke. Looks like some serious fence repair will need to be undertaken.
Fencing wire, fence post pounder, t-bar fence posts, fencing gloves and fence staples were gathered from under a layer of dust in the garage, and the work began. It took 40 steel t-bars and fair bit of repair wire to close the obvious gaps. Although I worked up a sweat the fence now looked pretty good. Then I looked around behind me.
Two calves, about a week old, were in the field. Must have been hiding in the tall grass... and now their mothers were looking for them. Must admit, the little guys looked guilty, and seemed to want to very badly get back home and off my property. But how can I herd two calves from one end of the field to the other, open the real gate, and then get behind them again before the herd comes visiting through the now open gate?
By walking very fast, that's how, downhill, to open the gate at the far end before the calves got there. Once open, I had to walk, very fast, back up the steep slope to begin coaxing the calves to the distant opening. As I arrived at the summit, only one calf was there. The other calf... was through the next fence and into the tree plantation! And both mother beasts were bawling at their wayward offspring to get home, now!
And right before my eyes the calves did just that. Slipping between loose strands of wire, with a bounce and a jump they were back with Mom. I was not impressed (actually, I was impressed at their agility and homing instinct, but at the same time... not impressed).
Well, all's well that ends well, right? As I was getting into my car to leave for supper, a thought entered my mind. The far gate. It's open.
And that's how, for two nights in a row, 80 cattle got a free meal in our back field. You know the field, it's the one with the 40 new t-bars and the nicely repaired fence along one side. And an open gate. If anyone is interested in a fitness plan... talk to me... I have a doozy.
© 2018 David J. Hawke