All livestock managers know that any attempted schedule will most certainly be overridden by one created by the livestock themselves. Cattle are keenly aware when the primary caretaker leaves the county (albeit temporarily) and choose to punish this absence with mayhem.
Rachel had departed early one Wednesday morning in late August for a post-baby-Gary-delivery checkup with her physician. I was feeding the replacement heifers before I left for work when I noticed a cow lying down in the back of the lower trap.
Rachel had left the gate open from the trap to the 100-acre pasture to encourage the cows in that pasture to graze the trap down. That created the perfect opportunity for one Charolais mama to ask for help. She bravely managed to bring herself as far as the back of the trap to be seen solo, indicating that she needed help. I drove the ATV to her location to offer feed and assess the damage. She was dragging her left rear. I shut the gate leading to the pasture and texted Rachel who indicated that she would take care of it upon her return before lunch.
I finished getting ready for work and was on my way out when I noticed another cow issue in the pasture next to the house (the Hebes herd). This lady was sporting a large red mass protruding from underneath her tail. A cervical prolapse warranted a bit more than a text.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Rachel said. “Of all the mornings. I don’t even think she’s bred.”
I texted my boss that I would be late to work and then offered to pen the Hebes in the shady upper trap in an attempt to make Rachel’s life slightly less stressful upon her return from the doctor. Of course, that required first relocating the lame cow (who had dragged herself to the upper trap in the interim) to underneath the barn. All God’s cows need shade in the Alabama August heat. I prepped the pen, led her in with a bucket of soy hull pellets, and watered her. I then loaded more feed onto the ATV and set out to pen the Hebes.
All but one pair (with an out-of-season calf that did not get shipped with the others the Monday prior) penned like a dream. The Hebes immediately went to town on the leftover round bale of hay that had been used for penning during shipping. I made sure they had water and kept an eye on the cervical prolapse victim. Addressing that issue is one of Rachel’s many specialties so while I awaited her return, I read about data analysis for my upcoming dissertation defense.
Not even three pages in, I hear a gate rattle. The lame cow managed to engage her non-lame upper body to hoist herself over the gate separating her barn quarters from the replacement heifers’ double pasture. As this was already mid-morning, the heifers had finished their breakfast and retreated to the woods in the lower pasture. I shut the gate to confine her to the upper pasture and updated Rachel.
“Yeah some of them really don’t like being penned under the barn.” You don’t say!
I knew she wouldn’t go far. In fact, she plopped down immediately in the shade on the west side of the barn. She wanted to choose her own shade. Clearly what I had offered was too restrictive.
Rachel returned shortly and gathered the materials for addressing a cervical prolapse, which she subsequently performed with great ease. Only my sister would be happily singing the lyrics to “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles as she is gently pushing a bright red cervix back into its original position. She did not catch the irony.
Afterwards, we managed to re-pen the lame escape artist with the help of more feed and the ATV. Appropriate meds (we aren’t sure what the problem is but antibiotics couldn’t hurt) were administered, and the two special cases were then given the shady upper trap in which to recover.
“This is why I run out of time every single day to accomplish anything I have planned,” Rachel remarked.
“Running out of time is one thing,” I said. “Just don’t run out of feed.”