The animal experience ended well, we made homemade biscuits and milk gravy! I even fried the sausage in leftover bacon grease, do not knock it until you have tried it! The sausage was really lean and you need some fat to get the flour to brown. The biscuits are always made from Bisquick, which isn’t really from scratch but they are still made at home and they are amazing. It was a great ending to a long morning. We started moving animals at 0530 this morning. It has been very hot and the animals don’t do well in the heat, they get stressed easily. Annmarie doesn’t like the heat either, one could say she gets stressed also, if one dared. So we were out the door by 0534 to begin our adventure. It’s hard to explain to people why we have worked so hard to subdivide the property and why we have so many different gates and enclosures throughout the farm. It all comes down to moving and sorting animals, this task is much easier if you can place animals in pens or re-sort them when needed. This was especially true today as we had two separate groups of cows and two separate groups of sheep.
The sheep and horses were in with the first group of six cows. We used the border collies to push the sheep into our front yard. This was Annmarie’s idea as it gets them out of the way and I agreed but as an added bonus the lawn needs mowed. Dual purpose is the name of the game. The dogs did very well and it took less than a minute to get them out of the barn lot and into the yard with no swearing. This is a near miraculous event and not very common. Our dogs are trained to respond to swearing and yelling. This is totally our fault, but we realize that the dogs need to practice on the animals to learn but it can be trying at times. We got the first six cows into the corral and dusted them down for flies. We had them in 2 of the 3 pens then went to get the other cows. The other cows were way down by the schoolhouse. Actually, half were up by the irrigation pump but they ran down to see the bull and ended up at the end of the property by the school house. Annmarie took both dogs and Mouse was being a spicy pickle with tons of extra hot and a dash of horseradish. Sarah asked me why she kept using him if he kept running and doing the wrong thing. I told her that she was teaching him, he won’t learn without mistakes and since she could call him back every time with the animals visible he just needed fine tuning. Getting him to return to us with the animals in his sight is the hardest trick of all to teach and that one we have done. The rest is just repetition. He wants to go in a straight line and pretends that the command “right” or “left” means run directly at whatever animal it is we are currently working. She got them out of the trees and headed back toward the house. We pushed them through the first fence and I closed the gate and worked the dogs as Annmarie’s voice was wearing thin as well as her patience. The cows don’t want to work easily as there is a calf in their midst. The reason we want them is so we can tag and band the calf and let the bull at the sequestered cows and yearling heifer.
The above picture is where the cows were the first time, the below picture is where the cows are after they got around the dogs and Annmarie because the dogs failed to turn them when they broke. They ran for the dry creek bed and went under the fence. I had not locked down the panels in the creek area yet. I usually do this later in the summer when we are trying to control access to certain areas of the pasture. I did shut the gate, even though it didn’t help. Sarah had to go to work so Annmarie and I and the dogs pushed them up the hill this time so we could run them across the top of the hill away from obstacles. This worked well and we got them into the barn lot fairly easily. We locked them in behind the barn and attempted to push them into the corral. Now it should be noted that before we went out to get these cows Annmarie asked me if we should not use the horse corral panels to build a funnel for the cows to go directly to the corral. I was opposed to this option as it meant more work. Well, this came back to haunt me as the cows would not go into the corral. The mean cow with the green ear tag would not go, she kept coming back at us and eventually ran past us. Annmarie is a huge proponent of gentle steady pressure when moving the animals. I am more of a holler and dog kind of guy. She got me to agree to make hamburger out of the green tag cow and to add her to the butchers list but even more importantly she agreed to go into the barn while I worked the cows with the dogs. The dogs did great and we pushed everyone right into the corral. She wanted to know why I didn’t do that every time. I stated that my method is only quicker part of the time and the animals tend to break away more as I use the dogs and shaker sticks aggressively. I just got lucky.
We powdered and sorted cows, the green tag cow went into the to be eaten in six weeks pen. We have a no scrotum bull that was wreaking havoc in the pens. He is in the to be eaten pen. He is is about 100# heavier than everyone else. We had a one nutter last time we killed and he was great eating. This one never had any testicles descend stupid problem number 15.
We managed to get the calf isolated to one pen and I went and got a tag and bander pliers. I like the calves to be under 30 days old but this one is more like 2+ months old. I am here to tell you that there is a world of difference when you are grabbing and catching one by yourself. I couldn’t get it by the neck but managed to snag a back leg. Have you ever seen those vibrating dumbbells advertised on infomercials that go back and forth and you are supposed to hold onto them? It was exactly like that trying to hold onto a back leg and getting drug around the pen. I knew that I needed to grab the opposite front and back leg and then flop him onto his side. But the execution of this was not happening. I could not get to the head of the animal. So I grabbed the other back leg! Now I have two of these pumping pulling weights attempting to jerk me off my feet. I got kicked in the chest and belly several times before it finally started bawling at the top of its lungs. I couldn’t take the physical, auditory and mental abuse any more. I let it go and we concocted a plan to get this stuff done. We decided to keep the calf and mother in the corral until I can get some help. We will feed them, let them into the old milking portion of the barn and fill the 35 gallon water trough. I realize that the cure for this is to learn to rope. I had rope to tie up legs on the calf but I could not get it to ground. Annmarie tweaked her back 3 days ago so she was forbidden to help wrestle the calf. On a good day I end up with bruises and sore for a couple of days.
After all of that Annmarie decided to give the green tag cow a butcher reprieve and she was put back in with our bull.
The bull and his 8 ladies needed to be pushed back out to get a double fence between them and the market cows. So the dogs and I stopped at the spring to get our fill of water before moving on. Zeke went upstream and made the water muddy for me to drink. This is part of the annual water quality check I perform. I have never gotten sick yet. As far as we know no one has over the course of the farm’s life. The spring head is only about 60 feet away.
The sheep just did not want to leave the shade or the front yard. We tried twice with the dogs but everyone was tired after 4 hours working animals and the lawn still needs to be mowed so we are going to leave them in for at least a day.
We called the state trapper on Friday and he returned our call today. He is coming out to evaluate our predator problem on Monday. We will get this sheep depredation problem under control. Someone suggested guard dogs and they do work, but they cost about $75/month per dog to maintain. We are not about to go into this yet as it costs us about $120/month for the two border collies by the time you add in food and all the vet bills. This is cheap help and saves us from having to pay a human being to help so it is totally needed but it is an ongoing cost and we like to keep those as low as possible.
Annmarie and the dogs were all tuckered out after the running around and a hearty breakfast.