There is one in every crowd – or rather, herd. As for the cows on Paradise, that One is Annabelle.
It was time for Black Bart to go home. Or, at least, to his other home. Bart is a ‘shared’ bull. He actually belongs to Danny, or neighbor, but when he was born, it was agreed between Danny and Randy that Bart would act as a herd bull for both of them.
Keeping a bull means to have to keep a separate pen in order to isolate him from the cows in order to keep a certain breeding schedule. Ideally, we like to breed our cows somewhere between May and July, in order to have January calves. By doing this, the calves will be old enough to start grazing about the same time the grass starts growing. In order to keep a bull and stay on schedule, you need a separate pen to isolate him to keep him from breeding ‘off schedule’.
Cows are herd animals, and do much better when there are two or more together. By sharing a bull, we eliminate the need to keep and maintain a separate pasture for one animal, and prevent the loneliness he would endure by being isolated. When Bart gets here, he does his job of breeding all our cows, and then is able to enjoy their company until it is time for him to go back home.
Due to the weather, we were a little late getting him back to Danny’s. The day came when we could finally load him up. Randy had already positioned the trailer in the weaning pen, and all we had to do was shake a bucket of Range Cubes to get him running, then lead him across the lane. And for once, it seemed that it was working beautifully. He got to the gate first, and before all the other cows could get there, we managed to open the gate and get him into the lane. However, before we could get the gate closed, Annabelle slipped through. I quickly shut the gate to keep the other cows from getting out, as that can be a problem getting them to go back in. One cow would be easy, or so I thought.
Randy opened the gate to the weaning pen, and Annabelle shot straight through. Bart was a little more wary, but couldn’t resist that rattling bucket. Using the cow candy (Range Cubes), we led him through the weaning pen gate and on up into the working pen. Of course, Annabelle decided to push her way, as well.
Normally, we prepare for a solid hour or better of trying to coax the cows into this pen and through the chute, as they are well aware this is the place where they get poked, prodded, wormed, teeth checked, fly-sprayed – in general, we call it ‘working’ the cows. They don’t like it, so try to avoid that area as much as possible. Consequently, we are used to moving slow, easing around, and standing still, while we try and push them in one direction and block them from pushing back out. Not this time. Our feet got tangled as we had to run, jump and fly, because Annabelle just decided to head straight through all the gates and directly to the chute. Thankfully, Bart followed. Next thing we knew, Annabelle was already in the trailer (which we positioned at the outlet at the end of the chute), and Bart was standing right behind her. I was keeping one gate shut, while Randy was hustling to open the chute’s side gate to get in and push Bart the rest of the way. Fifteen minutes. Start to finish. Amazing. And unheard of.
There was only one problem. Annabelle wasn’t supposed to be on the trailer. And you couldn’t get her off, because she was the first one in. In order to get her off, you had to unload Bart and try to get him back on. We are smart farmers. We knew that, once he got back off, we would probably not get him loaded again for another month. So, Annabelle was going to get to take a ride. How we would get her back on the trailer if she managed to get off at Danny’s was a problem we would deal with when we got there.
I stayed home, and didn’t get to watch, but I noticed when Randy got home he was limping. And Annabelle was back in her pasture, calmly munching grass. It seems that when he got in the trailer from the side door, he had to use some fancy footwork to keep Annabelle from getting out. Everything went just fine, until Bart got a whiff of his other girls and scrambled to get out. Before Randy knew it, Bart did a little extra dance and one hoof came down on the side of Randy’s foot. Then it was Randy’s turn to do a little dance.
Thankfully, his two smaller toes aren’t broken. And all I could do was laugh. I wish I had a dime for every time Randy has told me NOT to get in the trailer with the cows, and not even stand in the gate on the side, for this very reason. In truth, it is a very dangerous thing to do, and Randy could have easily been seriously hurt, or worse. It was just one of those stupid actions/reactions. He knows it – his only excuse was he wasn’t thinking, he just didn’t want the extra trouble of having to either reload Annabelle or leaving her at Danny’s for a while.
But Annabelle had a great time. She got to see what was on the other side of the fence –much further down than the strip in front of the pasture where they occasionally escape. She enjoyed the wind in her face and the strange smells along the road. And she had some great stories to tell the other cows. Knowing her, those stories are greatly exaggerated, but I won’t be the one to take away her fun.
Have you ever just wanted to escape for a minute? To get away, see something different and enjoy a few minutes away from your normal routine? Take a page out of Annabelle’s book. Push your way through, hitch a ride, and enjoy the moment. However, you may want to take a car, a bicycle or a bus. A cattle trailer can be a little smelly and slippery way to do it.