Ghost has set a Guinness World Record!
Most tricks by a cow in one minute. She did stay, come, self rope, spin, bow, stand on pedestal, fist bump, kiss, ring bell, and say yes.
We made our attempt in early March. Guinness carefully takes three months to give results. Unless you’d like to pay more. So we had to wait patiently until now to find out.
The weather has been very clearly predicted. For the last few days all we’ve heard about is the coming storm. Snow predictions measured in feet, howling winds, nights with temps around zero.
It’s the middle of calving season. As much as we all want grass and some moisture for the coming year, no one wants this.
The weekend was spent getting things ready. The heavies, the springers, the cows closest to calving, are already sorted off and in a pen with good shelter, close enough to keep an easy eye on. I saddled up and made one last trip through the rest, pulling anything that looked remotely close to calving. Even one who I’m pretty sure is just so obese that everything on her jiggles. I don’t actually believe she is bred, but better safe than sorry.
Once all those were in we went through them all again. Looking carefully to try to choose between the ones who look like they could calve, eventually, and the ones who are teetering on the brink. Those were brought in even closer into the best possible protection we have. They were tucked away with plenty of feed and straw bales to bed down on. I was gratified to find two new calves in there the next morning. We had selected well.
Then a cow calved out in the usual calving pen.
Dang it. How do they do that? No matter how closely you look them over there’s always one who calves the day after you sort, in with the ones you didn’t choose.
Although it snowed all morning, the afternoon was clear. The calm before the storm. I went to brig the pair in. The cow saw me coming and started pawing when I was half way across. This was going to be fun. It was a pleasant surprise when she picked her little heifer calf up and walked quietly and agreeably across the pen. Because of course she had the calf on the far side. I got ahead of myself thinking how good this was going.
We got to the mud puddle at the gate, because of course there is a mud puddle at the gate. The calf stopped to sniff and it all went to heck. The calf hooked onto the fourwheeler and would only follow me, not her desperately calling mother. And only when I was going away from the gate. Not if I drove in the direction I wanted them to go. The mom was getting grouchy and looking me very intently in the eye. The other cows were minding their own business trying to eat. Until we disturbed them and they had to get in on the fun.
Finally getting the calf between the fourwheeler and the fence I was able to give it a shove, move her a few feet ahead. Then I’d pull the fourwheeler ahead to catch up. Then shove the calf along again. In this slow leapfrogging manner we made it through the gate. As soon as I puled away the cow came running.
We were almost there.
I closed the gate behind the pair and asked them to keep going. The cow, head high, looked me in the eye and said no. I stepped through the mud puddle to ask them to go. I felt a slight tug. Before comprehension set in I set my foot down and felt icy water through my sock as my bootless foot sank down into the muck.
My boot had stayed behind with the last step. I was nose to nose with a grouchy cow, ankle deep in muck, wearing only one boot.
Apparently the noises I made at that point were scarier than anything I had offered up until then. She showed that she really could get her calf to move if she actually wanted to and off they went. I was forced to chose between putting my ‘muddy’, we all know there’s a lot more in that muck than mud, foot back in my nice clean boot and hopping back to the fourwheeler half shod.
I shook my foot as clean as I could get it and put my boot on. Now the cow would be in the warmest safest spot I could get her to. I hope she appreciated it. On the cold drive back to the house I was starting to think I should have left her!
It started today. The first calf was born.
We were feeding. One cow wandered off away from the corrals. She was ready. It’s a bit early still, a week or so before they should be going for real. The weather was nice, cool with snow flurries. Which is better than freezing with howling winds.
I was going to bring her into the corrals so we could watcher her better, get her in easier if there were problems. By the time we finished feeding and I got back with the 4wheeler the calf was almost out. No sense in moving her now. Then she was done.
The calf was tiny, no wonder she had him so quick. I made sure he had his head up and she was licking on him, then left them alone.
A child has been home sick all week. She seemed better this morning, but she seemed better yesterday morning and they sent her back home before noon, so we kept her home today.
I went back to check on the calf, he hadn’t moved, hadn’t stood yet. He was going to have to come into the barn. I came back and got the no longer quite so sick child and made her come with me. She could help get the calf in. And be there to call in help if the cow ate me while I tried to help her calf.
We got on the 4wheeler together, drug the sled along behind, and went out to the cow.
I would rather not get my child killed. She had orders to get out of there first if anything happened. On the 4wheeler of course. Get a safe distance, then call for help if anything happens.
Then I went back for the calf. I grabbed a pair of vice-grips from the tool compartment. They were as good a defense as anything. With the sled between me and the cow we met eye to eye as I reached for the calf. She bellered, I tapped her on the nose with the pliers. I grabbed a leg and drug the calf into the sled. He limply slid in. I stepped back and got to the 4wheeler. She sniffed her calf.
It had worked so nicely. We had the calf. I was alive and uninjured. Both good things. We started for the barn.
Pulling the calf behind on a sled is nice because you don’t get covered in filth like you do with a calf draped across your lap. But mostly because the cow can see and smell the calf as it moves along in front of her. That way the cow can follow the calf and they both get to the barn at the same time and you have the mom there to keep with the calf.
She missed the memo somewhere.
She followed sure enough. In full coyote mode. Screaming and stomping she attacked the sled as soon as it moved. One rope broke loose and the sled trailed crookedly with only one attachment remaining. I went faster, maybe it would hold and we could get ahead of her before she killed the calf. She pounced again and the sled broke free. She stood over calf and sled, head high, snorting. My daughter was in tears. The ordeal had scared her terribly. She begged to get out of there, away from the crazy cow.
It wasn’t like we had too many other options. The cow stood over our sled like a lioness over her kill. I wasn’t going to try to get the calf out from under her. We drove back towards the house as I tried to think what we could do. The calf had been cold and was going to die if we didn’t get him warmed up.
We’ll come back with the pickup I told her. You can stay in the cab. For some reason that made her cry harder. Fine, she could stay at the house.
At the house I got my rope, the one Ghost and Rusty usually play with. Today it would be pressed into real work. Pansy jumped in the pickup too. She might as well come along. A dog would either get me killed or distract the cow if I got in trouble. I prefer to be optimistic.
Wincing as I drove over cornstalks in my pickup I got back to the cow. Backed up to the calf. Climbed out the passenger side door, more distance from the cow looking on warily. Climbed into the bed of the pickup with my rope. The calf wasn’t as close as I thought, but I wasn’t going to go through the whole ordeal again. I dropped the rope. Fought with some cornstalks. Gave up on getting two legs. Pulled the slack tight and gave the calf a pull. The one leg gave me enough heft to pull him up to where I could reach down and grab the other leg. The mama wasn’t too upset. She wasn’t hitting the pickup. Just calling nervously. I pulled the calf over the tailgate and eased him into the pickup bed.
Then looked out at the mom.
I could probably hop out and get in one of the doors without her getting me. Or I could climb in through the window. It looked pretty tiny. Shedding my winter coat I decided it was worth the squeeze.
The mom stayed with the sled.
Back at the barn I forced my reluctant child back outside. We wrangled the calf over snow drifts and through buried doors and managed to get him inside. Then we rubbed him down good, got the heater going on him, and went for colostrum. She did a great job of helping out even through her fear and reluctance. She’s never going to want to stay home sick again. School was far preferable to this. But I appreciated the effort, even if it was unwilling.
With the calf out of immediate danger, I went back for the mom. Hooking up to the sled I found a way to convince her to move away from where she last saw her calf. This time she didn’t try to kill it. It would have been nice if she could have refrained earlier. For now they are together in the barn. When, if, the calf is able to stand by himself we will make sure he can nurse. Now it’s time to wait and see what we can do.
And hope the next birth goes more smoothly!
First there was a bad back keeping the job from being done. Then there was the forecast for bad weather. No need to add more stress by doing it with a storm coming on. Then it was the storm, even worse than predicted. Two weeks worth of blizzard and frigid temps. No way to get anything done but survive in that weather. Then pens and lanes full of drifts left us wondering how to even get the job done?
It needed done and that was that. Where there’s a will there’s a way. We had to get the calves weaned.
With the usual places full of snow we had to find new places. A different lane, a different approach. It worked. Mostly because it was not as full of snow. The cows wanted out desperately. Large numbers of them sorted themselves just by running out the gate once it was open. I felt bad disappointing them. They didn’t get to go on through to the pasture on the other side. In time we will get them back out of cornstalks. Cows like the corrals, when they also get to chose to leave.
We brought a few at a time up with the 4wheelers. When I sat a moment on mine and no wind blew, I was able to catch the scent of something. What was that? I sniffed my gloves just to be sure I hadn’t touched something untoward. Not my gloves. It was only occasional that we were still and together. Most of the time I was on foot quietly moving cows about. It’s such a fun conversation to have. Hello old girl, yes you. You can go by me now. Some go confidently, past and out the gate. Others need to be reassured they are the ones you really mean. Yes pretty girl, you can go, no, not the one behind you. Go ahead now.
Then I’d be back on my trust green mount to move the cows to the new pen or get a new batch, and there was that smell again.
Finally I was able to place it. Warm cat pee. How, pleasant. Did someone mistake the engine for a litter box? Nothing for it but to ignore the fragrant aroma and get the job done.
Soon all were sorted. Calves on one side of the fence, cows on the other. It has been well shown in studies that calves are most stressed by separation from their mothers. More than from the medical necessities performed on them. Weaning over a fence allows them to be together, just without the milk. Calves dove right into the feed we filled their bunk with. The cows were looking for their breakfast.
My daughter got a special gift for Christmas this year. Her heifer from last year lost her calf. She loves the heifer and didn’t want to let her go. Not even with the option of choosing from among all the other heifers, after they calved to guarantee a calf. That set her back quite a bit in building her herd. My daughter loved our little yellow bottle calf from this summer. I had told her no, she couldn’t just have a calf. They are expensive and she needs to learn what it takes to build a herd on her own. But, having lost her first calf this summer, I felt bad. Marsh Mellow could be hers.
But, that means she has to help with her. We weaned the last of the bottle calves off of Popcorn too. The kids came out and helped push them through the round about rout we had to take to get them to the others. They did a great job. That left two calves behind that hadn’t been nursing. Pitiful and runty, I wanted to leave them up front so they didn’t have to fight bigger calves for feed.
We got the bottle calves calves out with the others. The children ran ahead to play in snow drifts. I walked home while the guys cleared more snow.
I saw it from a distance. The dog wasn’t up that far yet, it couldn’t be her. Besides, even from the distance it had a very calf like appearance. So what was it doing on top of a snow drift!
One of the calves left behind had been left by himself for a brief time while we got others sorted. Apparently he didn’t approve! He had climbed the snowbank. Pausing only long enough for the required pictures I rushed to get him down where he belonged before he got hurt or stuck.
In the house later my son asked if I had seen the calf on the snow drift! I told him I had, and had put him back where he belonged. Nodding sagely, my son said “so did I”.
Oh dear. Hope we will be able to keep the calf off the bank now that he has found this great new play ground.
We got the best present this morning. It was thirty five degrees when we went out to feed! Snow was melting on windshields and everything started right up without even being plugged in.
We did open our presents first. The cattle and horses have plenty of feed, they aren’t waiting anxiously. No reason to rush.
Bones, black kitty, is back outside where she belongs. Our daughter was holding her the other day and said a bug crawled off the cat onto her. She killed the bug, but there wont be very much cuddling until we can get to town for flea control!
Grey and white kitty quieted down amazingly through the snow. Once he discovered other kitties were getting fed, and the food wasn’t so bad he warmed right up. He is a strange kitty. I was trying to show him where I had left food. He attacked my hand, full on with claws and teeth. Then started violently rubbing against my arm. He may be crazy, but that’s my kind of crazy. Especially when I am fully dressed for winter and safe from his aggressive displays of affection.
The horses got carrots, my pet cows got cake. The rest of the cows got a cows favorite present, lots of food. We are cutting them back to normal rations, but it’s still exciting to get food.
We bought ourselves a flour mill for Christmas. I walked through the garden yesterday, looking for the sweetcorn we had left behind. We’ve always thought it would be fun to grind our sweet corn into corn meal. Two stalks still held ears of ornamental corn. The rest was picked bare. Deer had been sheltering behind the lilacs. Rabbit tracks covered the ground. Far better to feed the hungry animals with the remains of the garden. Who needed corn meal anyway. The sunflowers are picked clean too. Their heads barely above snow level. Now, barely into the bleak midwinter, what will they eat for the rest of the cold? I hate to have the easy pickings gone already.
Squirrels have been everywhere. We see them constantly on the snow drifts. They’re venturing far from the safety of the trees to gather kernels of corn left from the feeding of the cows. Pheasants are everywhere as always. A grouse wasn’t quick enough to evade the hawks. They feasted on her alongside our driveway. Hawks need to eat too. Bald eagles sit in the trees of the windbreak. The cats better be careful.
One calf died the first night of the blizzard.So far that seems to be the only loss. There were a couple of days we just could not get to the bulls to break the ice in their tank. They had feed and shelter. Just not water except for the snow. After the wind stopped and we could see enough to dig to them my husband took a chainsaw to the ice in their tank. He cut out thick blocks. Ten inches of solid ice in those two days. One bull is not going to be ok. He got frost bite in the most unfortunate of places. Poor guy. That would make two losses from the blizzard. Death isn’t the only way to lose cattle.
Christmas is good. Work still needs done. It is the work I want to be doing. The posts about thanking the farmer for not taking any days off, working on holidays and bad weather, always seem odd to me. What else would I want to do? This is the life we chose. This is what is good. Coming back in and sitting a bit is good to, but what would one do with a full day off anyway?