Separating Cows

Simultaneous with finishing the fence on the cattle working area, we had three cattle goals to accomplish:

  1. Separate 4 cows and 1 calf from the main herd and add to the heifer herd
    • Gilley and Garnet – both close to calving
    • Pippie and her 3 month old calf, Annie to vet check Pippie’s limp
    • Crazy Heidi to take to market
  2. Work the remaining herd to administer a pour-on wormer
  3. Return the main herd to the South field and the heifer herd to the Front field

Step one was to move the main herd from the distant Mountain field back to the closer South field. I wanted to move the cows before the heat of the day, so we were out to the field just after daybreak. As the screech-screech sound from unwinding polywire reels echoed through the early morning mist, excitement built throughout the herd. Led by Bella, everyone rushed towards gate.

I waited in the mule with a trough of sweet feed tied to the hitch as the cows watched anxiously by the gate as Bill untied the chains.

Bella led the way through the gate and then through the woods to the fresh grass of the South field. Shane always brings up the rear, slowly taking his time and plodding along.

As the girls see their destination, they burst into a trot happy into a new, fresh field.

A couple of days after the move to the South field, we finished the corral and working area so were able to repeat the move of the herd, this time to the Front field. Once the cows were in the Front field, I fed them snacks of sweet grain each evening in the corral. Spending happy, calm time in the corral helps sooth any nerves with the smaller enclosure.

Early in the morning on the day we decided to work the cattle, we set up step-in posts and a polywire fence from the corral to the Backyard field, creating a runway for the four cows being separated from the main herd. At 7:30am, I open the corral gate to entice the ladies in for an early morning snack of sweet grain. This was a critical moment, so even before our neighbor arrived to help, Bill and I decided to close the gate and capture the herd in the corral. The cattle were accustomed to us and we didn’t want any cows to balk at the gate because they saw an unfamiliar face.

With all of the cattle in the corral, we started the process of separating the four cows from the herd. The first lady to cooperate was Garnet. Nearing her calving date and with a sweet disposition, Garnet willingly walked through the two gate alley to join the heifer herd in the backyard.

Our friend and neighbor TA, arrived to help with the rest of the sorting. The three of us circled the cattle around the corral a few times before segregating Pippie into the alley gate. With her mama removed from the herd, Annie was easily guided through one of the panels to join her. Both calmly walked through the two gates and alley, joining Garnet and the heifers.

With two cows moved and two remaining, we turned our sights on Crazy Heidi. Her reputation is well known and respected. Crazy Heidi is about 4-5 years old and has had no human contact until last year when we first began managing her herd. When enclosed in a small space, she becomes very fearful and therefore quite dangerous. Last fall when we first worked her in a panel corral in the Mountain field, she attempted to jump out and bent 2 of the panels. That time we won and Crazy Heidi received both vaccinations and an ear tag.

This morning, the three of us used her anxiety to our advantage. As we walked behind the herd, the cattle to flowed around the corral and Crazy Heidi was fairly easy to isolate and run into the crowding pen. I stepped into the pen to close the gate while Bill climbed over the fence into the pen to open the exit gate. Realizing she was captured, Crazy Heidi panicked, racing around with a terrified look in her eyes, searching the pen for a way out. Twice she came towards me a a gallop, I have never climb a gate so fast. Finally , she saw the opened gate and dashed toward the Backyard field. We all hoped she would be somewhere in the backyard, and not galloping down the road towards town.

Last to be moved was Gilley, our oldest cow who in her younger days would routinely escape the corral by jumping gates. The first time I watched Gilley sail over a gate, I suspected there must be truth behind the Cow Jumped Over the Moon rhyme. These days she is too old, too fat and hopefully expecting a calf, so Gilley’s jumping days are over. Instead as we drove the cows around the corral trying to separate her from the herd, Gilley would slip behind others cows, using them to run interference. Eventually, we got her into the pen and through the gate to the Backyard field. Goal #1 complete!

Gathering the pour-on, I was using Dectomax – a dewormer and fly control medicine, we turned our attention to working the remaining herd. All of the ladies and calves cooperated, so the task moved right along. When Billie’s calf, Billy Boy came into the head gate, I noticed he did not have an ear tag. And then I remembered that he and his mama stayed behind in the Mountain field with Crazy Heidi last spring. Billy Boy had never been worked before. So I grabbed a dose of Covexin8 which is vaccination for 8 different diseases including black leg and tetanus, and an ear tag. Billy Boy didn’t flinched for either the injection or the tag – tough little bull! Goal #2 complete!

Once all of the cattle had received the pour-on, we moved the main herd back to the South field, and then moved the heifer herd which now included 4 cows and Annie, to the Front field. Goal #3 complete!

I called the vet to schedule a farm call to examine Pippie’s leg (topic of my next post) and then lunch time!

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