6 October 2016 – Cold morning, snow, followed by sun and upper 40’s
The last few days have been pretty eventful. Wednesday, Cowboy Dave called to see if we might want to participate in catching, ear-tagging, and banding their 3-day old bull that was born to Moo-lah earlier in the week. Of course we wanted to be part of this because it is good education and training for us when we get cows of our own. Also because we like hanging out with Cowboy Dave and Linda and we like the cows. The last time they had a bull, way back in the spring, he was so docile. The mom was easily distracted and he just laid down and Cowboy ear tagged him and banded him just like that. This time was a completely different story. (Cue the circus music!)
Moo-lah and calfie were out with all the other cows in the pasture. We showed up and she knew something was up, so she took calfie with her and ran up over the hill. We followed in the mule and Cowboy Dave threw his lariat to rope the calf but instead roped Moo-lah. Then pilot Dave took the lariat to try to help and dropped the whip as he was being pulled by Moo-lah across the pasture, calfie running right behind. Pilot Dave had to let go of the rope and Moo-lah and calfie were gone….so was the whip, and the lariat was on Moo-lah’s neck. We needed the whip to keep Moo-lah away from the calf while we tagged his ear and banded him, but now we spent about ten minutes driving all over the pasture to find the whip.
Whip located, we were off again to catch momma and baby. They took another lap around the pasture, Nascar style as they wanted no part of us. This time, Pilot Dave snuck up on Moo-lah and released the lariat. He then was able to lariat the calf, although he got the rope right around his head. This was not ideal and the calf began to pull and try to asphyxiate himself while Moo-lah became very irritated and angry. She ran at Cowboy Dave, and she ran at Pilot Dave. Her aggression sent Arrow (Cowboy’s dog) into attack mode. Arrow ran at Moo-lah and Moo-lah threw her head down and charged Arrow who was in full defense mode, teeth bared and growling and barking. Meanwhile, calfie was trying to hang himself while Pilot Dave was trying not to let him go. This all happened over a period of about 30 seconds, but it was very exciting. Like we always say, “Never a dull moment!”
Let me take a minute to explain why it was important we got this calf tagged and banded on this day. Calves grow rapidly and become strong and tough to handle in a matter of days after their birth. If the little bull calf is not banded by day four of its life, it becomes very difficult to catch him and dangerous to try to castrate him.
As Rush would say, “For those of you in Rio Linda”, banding is the act of putting a rubber band around the little bull’s testacies so they die and fall off. The alternative is cutting/castrating which is obviously bloody and may lead to infection. Cow-folks argue the positives and negatives of both methods, and I won’t pretend I know enough to pick one way that would be better for the calf or the cowboy. I do know Cowboy Dave has been doing this a long time and he bands his calves and has had great success with this procedure.
So, back to the pasture. Cowboy Dave got Arrow calmed down and used the whip to get Moo-lah far enough away from her baby that Pilot Dave could loosen the lariat/noose around the poor guy’s neck and force him to put one front leg through the loop. Now that the calf was properly roped, Pilot Dave was able to tag his ear. Moo-lah worked her way around to get back to the calf and Pilot Dave was forced to retreat. He swapped jobs with Cowboy Dave and kept Moo-lah at bay while Cowboy banded the calf. However, the calf was squirming and kicking and the band didn’t get properly placed so we had to start over. Moo-lah escaped Pilot Dave and came back after Cowboy Dave and he stepped away from the calf. Cowboy said, “We gotta have a better plan, and let’s let them both calm down.” So we walked away and Moo-lah licked her baby (who was still roped) and they seemed to gather their composure. Cowboy sent me back to the barn to get some cake….again for those of you in Rio Linda, cake is a treat for cows. I drove back and picked up Linda and a big bag of cake and more bands, just in case.
Linda and I drove back to the pasture and Moo-lah was on guard next to her calfie. She mooed at us as if to say, “Get away! Do not touch my baby!” But then Linda shook the cow-cake container and Moo-lah said, “Oh nevermind, Cake!” and she hustled over to us where we distracted her with goodies. The two Daves were able to successfully lay down the calf and turn him from a bull into a steer. He was fine, and they released the lariat from him. He was exhausted and lay there as we drove away; his Mom gave up on the cake and went back to take care of him.
We then went to get cow-Shirley back to the corral because she had come up lame again. She was much more cooperative than Moo-lah and followed Pilot Dave right down the fence, with Cowboy Dave directing her from behind.
After all of this excitement, we were having an afternoon refreshment discussing the day’s shenanigans and Linda said, that little calf was a pain, he makes us need another beer…we should call him Keystone! And Cowboy Dave loved the name, and strangely enough the calf is exactly the copper color of the autumn line Keystone Lite beer can. So Keystone it is, and he is a cute little guy!
It is a good thing they got the calf taken care of when they did, as Wednesday was sun-shiny and the temperature was mild in the high 60’s. But, as is typical here, things changed rapidly. Thursday morning we woke up with near freezing temperatures and ominous dark grey and purple clouds creeping over the horizon. By 10AM it was snowing….full on snowing with big fluffy flakes and cold westerly winds. We hunkered down in the happy camper and felt like we were having a snow day from school. Then by 2PM it had stopped and it was just cold and windy. By 3PM it was sunny and warm enough to work outside wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.
Pilot Dave fired up the Bobcat and Cowboy Dave brought over his tractor and we went to work putting down the gravel for a level spot for the outbuilding. I supervised, or more accurately was a gopher for these guys trying to direct to low spots and pick up large rocks that didn’t belong. The men did a great job and we should be all set for the outbuilding planned to go up 24 October.