Cows become crippled for a variety of reasons. Some go through temporary paralysis from a difficult birth, while others might dislocate a hip slipping on ice or mud. I’ve had some become lame from fescue foot or a pebble in their hoof, while some just plain wear out from old age. Whatever the reason, most farmers will make them as comfortable as possible, and carry feed and water to them for as long as it takes for the beast to get over it. It is in these situations that a cattle producer will discover that particular animal’s “fight zone.”
Whether it’s because the old girl is hurting or scared, she knows something is wrong, and the first time a human brings her some grain, hay or water, she doesn’t realize you’re trying to help her. That means her first natural reaction is to try to get rid of the perceived danger (you).
Every animal has its own comfort zone, from the ex-show heifer that knows you’re good for food and welcomes you right up to her head to the kinda crazy one that didn’t like you to begin with and requires you to push her feed and water to her with a 10-foot stick. Most, I’ve found, have about a 6-foot zone that allows you to push the feed to her with the cattle prod you keep behind the seat of the truck, without putting your life in danger. But, like I said, every one of them is different.
I was walking pretty close to this old gal the other evening when I actually observed her trip on something and plant herself, face-first, into the ground. I could tell she was hurt pretty badly, based on the noises she started making. After only a few minutes of watching and hearing her, I knew something had to be done. Being the good farmer I am, I went and got a vehicle to transport her; after several minutes of wrangling and prying, I finally got her loaded and hauled her back to the home place, where I figured I could take good care of her. Unloading the critter was every bit as difficult as the first job, but eventually the chore was completed, and I thought I had her in as comfortable a place as possible.
Early the next morning, I knew she would be hungry and thirsty, so I fixed up some feed that I thought would be both welcome and satisfying. Arriving at the place I had left her the night before, I wasn’t surprised to find her still hurting and quite a bit more than a little grumpy. Carefully, I placed the food and water on a hastily made sled-of-a-sort and used a yardstick to gently push it toward the injured victim. Seeing the anger in her eyes, I realized I should have used a longer push-rod.
For the record, my wife Judy’s fight zone is 3 feet and 6 inches.
Crownover writes from Missouri.