Cattle drama heats up on a cattle ranch, even when it’s freezing cold | Lyon
OK, so you have to keep the water faucets dripping and shovel the car. You might need jumper cables to make the jerk work. Not that you really have to go anywhere.
At least you are not a cattle rancher. Because your country cousins don’t get much sleep this week. Stubborn beasts that they are, a million cows in the deserts decide that the conditions are perfect for giving birth. Ten below zero, 30 mph winds and snow? Perfect.
Of course, that’s not really a decision. Last spring, when they were brought up, winter seemed far away. Even so, there is nothing like a blizzard to put a cow into labor. Pretty Suzanne, the darling of my little herd, chose such a February night to give birth to her first calf on windswept heights near the hay ring. I was afraid that the little heifer, wet since calving, would die of cold before morning.
Fortunately, the gate to the pasture was nearby. So I picked it up, backed out of the door, and kicked it shut. Then I carried her to the barn about 50 yards away. Suzanne anticipated my intentions, ran around the barn and was waiting in a stall before we got there. I don’t know what surprised me the most: his intelligence or his confidence. We named the calf Violet, and she became the image of her mother, sweet and adorable.
In addition to the blizzard conditions and the coldest temperatures in 20 years, which reminded me of Suzanne and Violet, this is a Facebook post that a friend sent to me depicting an old boy on the steppes. Oklahoma jellies wallowing in a hot tub with an Angus calf he had saved.
Posted by Lacie Lowry, an Oklahoma City TV reporter, it ultimately drew 1,153 comments, mostly photos of calves rescued in unusual places: laundries, kitchens, cuddling by fireplaces with kids and dogs, and sometimes even a cat. Calves in vans, calves under a hairdryer, calves wrapped in quilts and blankets, even a calf in pajamas. Calves rescued by farmers and ranchers across the blizzard-devastated Great Plains.
Trump’s voters, most of them. It’s worth remembering if you’re an animal-loving Democrat prone to holding a grudge. Honest people, doing their best.
“The thing with cows,” my neighbor in Perry County, Micky Hill once told me, “is that they’re always planning something.” He told the saga of the Milk Bandits, half-adult twin heifers who had started to steal the milk of their younger siblings.
“Dad saw these calves it was wrong,” he said. “They just weren’t growing well. Then one evening at nightfall, he saw these adult heifers suckling mother cows. Not their own moms. Other cows.
“So we took them and put them alone in a borrowed pasture for a few weeks. Sure enough, the calves began to thrive. Then comes hay time, so we put them all back together. Everything was fine for a little while, but then the calves started to look sick again.
“So one night dad slipped into the barn after dark. It turned out that two heifers were chasing the moms cows until they got one cornered. Then they would each take sides, grab an udder, and lift the cow off the ground to a place where she couldn’t kick or run away. They would suck it flat in about half a minute, then start chasing another.
“And the point is,” he said, “that they knew how to wait until nightfall.”
The Milk Bandits had earned a one-way ticket to the auction barn. Probably someone wanted them for reproduction, but there is no guarantee.
Like all mammals, cows definitely have their own minds and complex social lives. Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia have just discovered how complex it is. PhD Candidate Alexandra Green has recorded and studied bovine vocalizations. She cataloged some 333 distinct sounds. She can identify individual voices without having to look.
“Ali’s research is truly inspiring,” says his teacher. “It’s like she’s building a Google Translate for cows.”
So what was I thinking when I sold Violet and her younger brother to a guy in the neighboring county? Well, that I couldn’t let her breed with her dad, Bernie. She left on the road screaming, like them.
However, by the spring, Bernie had exhausted her welcome. Trample fences, fight other bulls, breed neighbor’s cows – the usual bull trick.
Violet’s new owner has offered to return her as part of Bernie’s sale price. OK! If I live to be 100 years old, I will never forget Suzanne and Violet’s reunion. Mother and daughter spotted each other from afar as Violet got out of the trailer. They galloped together, squealed with joy, and remained inseparable for days, cuddling and licking each other.
I like to cry, as the peasants say; I am clearly not strong enough to be a real breeder.
Gene Lyons is a columnist for the Arkansas Times.
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