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The Little - Big Cattle Move

Posted 3/20/2014 6:12pm by Brian Lau.

      A few weeks ago we moved the cow/calf herd from my neighbor’s farm back to the main farm. The snow had FINALLY started to melt and the pastures we let grow out last fall were starting to be exposed. Stock piling pastures in the fall allows the cows to graze for themselves and not be dependent on us feeding them winter hay. This is easier on us and they seem to enjoy the different menu. The first step in the process actually happened the day before. We didn’t feed them as much hay as normal, so they would be a little hungrier when we moved them. Next, Dad and Cory constructed temporary electric fence lanes to move the cows. This was somewhat of a challenge since the ground was still frozen, but by using metal electric fence posts they were able to drive them in with a small sledge hammer. Then they checked the permanent pasture fences for downed trees or limbs and made sure the electric fence was properly working.

     Now the infrastructure was in place and working properly, so we had to get the cows from point A to point B. Since the cows are used to following the tractor when I feed them hay, the plan was to get a bale and drive up the lane and the cows would follow. All of the older animals had made this jaunt the prior summer, so there should have been some familiarity. I knew there could be a potential problem, since we had several young calves and calves do not always follow their mom when she goes off to feed. As I started up the lane, the lead group of cows was right on my tail, and as I looked back, the rest were spread out, but were starting to head in the right direction to follow me up the lane. As I was about to lose sight of the pasture where they had been, I saw a couple cows and 4 calves that were hanging back and not following. I had to keep moving on, since the cows behind me were getting impatient. When I got to the location where I was going to feed the bale, I could see a long string of cattle still following me. By the time I got done unrolling the bale I could see off in the distance the two cows and calves starting down the lane. I had Cory take the 4 wheeler and get behind them so they wouldn’t double back. As I was watching from a distance, I saw one of the cows that had just been feeding on the hay heading quickly back towards the calves. My first thought was one of the four calves was hers and she was going to reunite with her calf. When she got with this group she turned around and headed back to the hay. We were feeling good that the move was successful, so we headed back home.

     When we got back to the original pasture, we saw what I was afraid would happen, but thought hadn’t. There were three calves left behind. Although the move was not that far since my neighbor’s farm and ours border each other, it is far enough that you can’t see one pasture from the other. We tried working the calves in the right direction but gave up after a short pursuit, since they were starting to panic and they were much quicker than we are. Plus, it was deemed useless since they were unaware of their new surroundings and they couldn’t see the others. It was now lunch time, so I came up with a plan to shut the gate between the farms, and while we were at lunch momma would come to the gate, bawl for her calf, the calf would come to her, and after lunch we would just open the gate and momma would lead the calves to the new location. In my perfect world this was going to work fine, so we headed for lunch. Hindsight is always better; we should have left the gate open, but we didn’t want the whole herd to come back while we were at lunch. No sooner had we gotten back to the house and looked up, we saw a cow standing at the closed gate. She bawled and her calf answered. As we were about to go open the gate, the cow went out of sight. We assumed she went back to the new pasture, so we decided to go to lunch. You might be wandering why lunch time is so important. My wife and kids are all at school, so during the winter I have the privilege to eat lunch with my parents, grandmother, and my little nephew, so I try to be on time. They only live about a half a mile from me, and as I was driving to lunch I noticed the mother cow was with her calf. The problem was momma was on the wrong side of the fence. When she had gone out of sight she must have jumped over our temporary fence to get to her calf. She has great maternal instincts and those are attributes we like see in our cows (the escape instinct not so much.) I called mom and told her I was going to be late for lunch. My first thought was this was not going to take too long since luckily the cow and calf were not too far from a gate my neighbor uses to get into his woods. All I have to do is open the gate and have mom walk into the pasture to be with her calf. Unfortunately what I think and reality don’t always meet. When I opened the gate, the cow paused and didn’t quickly go through the gate, but the calf did, so now they were both on the wrong side of the fence. Bummer. My next thought was that they might go into the woods instead of following the fence back from where she had come, but luckily as I was pursuing them on foot, the calf ran back through the fence, so now mom was content to follow the fence line, momma on one side and two calves following on the other. I was able to get in front of them and take down the temporary fence to let momma back into the lane and then open the gate so they could get together. This time it worked right. The cow and the two calves headed up the lane to rejoin the herd.

     One problem down but one to go. Remember I said there were three calves left behind. Regrettably the three calves didn’t stay together. This time I decided to leave the gate open and went to lunch, hoping its mother would come get it while I was at lunch. During lunch I decided if momma hadn’t come to get her calf we would just catch it and haul it to the new field on the 4 wheeler. This calf had only been born a few days earlier, and when we were pushing the calves earlier, we had worn him down enough we could have caught him.

     After lunch and after we had processed that day’s eggs, we went to check on the calf. The calf was still by itself. Cory and I hopped on the 4 wheeler and thought we would drive up catch it and take it to momma. Once again in a perfect world this would have worked. The calf must have slept the entire time we were gone. Needless to say, he had more energy and was quicker than we were, and guess what happened next? Surprise, surprise-- he ran through the fence and into the woods. The pursuit was on. We eventually got him out of the woods and he ran through the fence again back into the pasture. We wondered how many times this was going to happen before we wore him down enough to catch him. We were starting to wish we were real cowboys and had a lasso to rope him. We finally caught him and placed him on the 4 wheeler and took him to rejoin the herd. When we got there we found his mom grazing contently. We released the calf; she called for him and he started nursing immediately. It appeared there was no harm done, and finally all of the cattle were where they were supposed to be. Needless to say all didn’t go as planned, but it was a successful day.

1 Comments »
Sherry Ray said,
5/30/2014 @ 7:04 am
I enjoy reading your stories! Gives me a glimpse of farm life! Thanks for all the hard work to you and everyone at LA family Farms!!! 😊
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