So much for our 50 degree days recently. The weather turned off colder than a witches…well you know the expression. Fortunately, Mike has taken care of the calves, allowing me to stay warm and toasty in the house and to tend to the fire that keeps the cats lounging about the place.
I wonder, though, if the babies miss me? While I have been in here, lamenting a life off the farm, sinking into depression, whining about my lot in life, and generally being an emotional pest (let’s blame it on Nature, shall we?), did the bottle babies, Pip and Rowdy, or even Brahma Mama miss me?
I might answer that question this afternoon, if it warms up enough to melt off this dusting of snow we got two nights ago. Not that the snow concerns me, only, I’m thinking that if it is warm enough to melt it on the ground, I won’t freeze my you-know-what off. I think I already know the answer for Pip and Rowdy. Rowdy misses me to the extent he misses anyone that comes in that might bring food with them. He has a sort of “sure I missed you, whatever you say, what did you bring me?” attitude towards life. Pip missed me flat-out, no lie. That little calf LOVES me, loves his lead, loves our adventures, and loves that I know just the right place to scratch behind his left ear to almost put him to sleep.
Mike asked me recently if I wanted to turn Pip into a steer. It is supposed to make the animals more docile, help them to grow faster, and keep them from wandering to females in heat wherever they might be. Yeah, so I can see the advantage. But to my mind, turning him into a steer also means he will never be a breeder and if he is not a breeder, he is steak on the hoof. I guess I still am not ready to face that little fact straight on. If he was a mean calf, a bully calf, one that was so ugly even his mother didn’t want him, or even blind to the point where he could not function without constant attention, I might be able to face the fact the cattle are raised here for meat. Nuh-uh! Pip is a breeder and will remain so, if I have anything to say about it. Yes, he has become my pet.
I let Pip out of his pen a few days back when the weather was so warm. Brahma Mama and the Painted Ladies were grazing on the hay bale behind their pen and were enjoying basking in the sun. I though he would like it too. He did! But he was lonely in his own yard…he wanted in the pasture with them, or for Rowdy to come out and play, or for me to run Amuck, Amuck with him. His pitiful little moo said it all.
So I decided to let the little bull in with the females and see what would happen. Maybe he was big enough to mix with a real herd now. How to get him into their pasture was another story. His ‘yard’ has an electric fence around it to prevent the bigger cows from getting into his pen. Their pasture forms a sort of horseshoe shape around it. I could not turn off the electric to his pen without turning it off on theirs and running the risk of a huge Brahma cow and three 600 lb Holstein heifers running off.
Meeeewwwww! I hear Pip’s pitiful moo again.
Hmm…maybe I can put him on the lead, take him through the gate to Brahma’s stall and let him out the door to girls’ pasture. What if I come face to face with Brahma? Now, face to face isn’t exactly a correct way to put that. Brahma, standing flat-footed, towers above all 5 ft. 4 inches of me. I dare say, she probably is the first to know if I need a root touch-up. Her head is half the length of my body, almost. And, well, to put it bluntly, I don’t think Brahma likes me. She constantly watches me, allows me to pet her then snorts and throws my hand away with her head and always stands between me and the Painted Ladies. I tried to feed her one day and she shoved her head into the feed bucket so hard I dropped the bucket, left the stall and did not retrieve it until she decided to meander outside. Yeah, I am afraid of the bitch! So, how do I get Pip through there and what do I do if she decides she doesn’t like the little guy in her stall?
It was so beautiful out. The brilliant blue sky seemed higher than usual since the clouds vacated. The sun cast a warm yellow halo, it seemed, on everything. And meeewwwww, I heard pitiful Pip call again.
That was it. I made up my mind. Brahma or not, my pet was going to play in the sunshine with the other cattle!
I grabbed the lead, negotiated around poor blind Belle (who is afraid of everything and kicks at anything), passed by Rowdy who had his head in a bowl of feed, as usual, and out the stall door to Pip’s ‘yard’. Holding it high, I called to him “Pip! You wanna go for a walk?”
Pip made a dash for me and for a moment, I worried about a charging 200 pound bull and was thankful he was not 1200 pounds. Then he stopped on a dime in front of me, sliding a few inches closer. He sniffed the lead and dropped his head for me to clip the lead around his neck, look over towards the females and I swear, at that moment, he smiled a “nah-nah” at the four of them, who watched in fascination.
Quickly, I shut Brahma’s door, locking her and the girls out of their ‘room’ and led Pip through his door, past Belle who kicked at us, and beyond Rowdy who looked up once, licked his lips and went back to eating. Haw, Pip! and down the ‘hall’ we went to Brahma’s huge stall. There Pip stopped and refused to follow voice command. He even began to fight the lead. I don’t know why…perhaps it was scary being in the larger stall, perhaps he wanted to explore the different smells in the place, or perhaps he too worried whether Brahma lurked nearby. I unclipped the lead, he kicked up his heels and began to run back and forth in the stall. I think he thought it was his new ‘bedroom’. Wrong.
While Pip enjoyed this moment, I carefully opened the stall door. The nearly black Painted Lady Number Three charged in and began to chase the young bull, who panicked, kicked over their water bucket and tried to jump the gate. I ran as fast as my little gingerbread legs could carry me back to where Pip had been, figuring I could call him from there and he would at least have room to run away from PL3 if he was outside the building. I called. No response.
Brahma stopped eating from the huge roll of hay in her yard, at that moment. She calmly walked towards the building, and blasted a bellow. PL3 immediately stopped harassing Pip and ran out of the shed and Pip emerged from the building to greet Brahma with a nose-to-nose ‘thank you’. Brahma then went back to her hay bale and Pip discovered the huge ‘yard’ he now occupied!
Round and round the little bull ran, stopping short of the fenceline each time. Galloping at full speed, he would slam on the brakes, turn and pour on the steam again. At one point, he stopped long enough to greet PL2, the mostly white Holstein, spar with her with a little head bump and both the animals kicked up their heels and ran the distance. It delighted me so that I found myself giggling almost uncontrollably…and Brahma…she calmly kept eating, looked up occasionally to be sure all was well, and went back to munching down.
After a few minutes, I realized that everything would be fine and I could leave Pip unsupervised by a human. Clearly, Brahma was a good baby sitter. I walked back towards the shed, not realizing I still held the blue lead in my hand. Brahma, seeing me move, ran to the fence nearest me. Uh-oh, she’s at it again!
I spoke gently to the giant cow, and prayed she would not discover that the only thing between her and I was a small electrically charged ribbon. She put her head out, as if to ask for a petting, but as I reached to do so, she suddenly turned towards the lead in my other hand. I held it up for her to smell. Obviously, there was something in that blue snake-thing that the little calf liked. I think she wondered if it was edible.
Discovering it wasn’t, she nonchalantly returned to her hay bale. But she and I had reached an understanding. We are both protectors. We are both mothers. And we are both curious about the other’s ways. We both remain leery of one another too, but after that day, Brahma lets me pet her and even scratch that special place behind her left ear that almost puts her to sleep too.
Pip asked to go back into his own pen later that day and went, without the lead, straight to the warm snuggle of his straw bed, closed his eyes and took a nap. It was an eventful day for all of us, to be sure. But he missed his own place and its familiar surroundings. I am convinced he misses me too.