In early June, when we moved the herd from the Mountain field to the South field, Crazy Heidi balked at the gate. She turned and ran the back the length of the field, taking Billy and her calf, Billie Boy with her. Those three spent weeks alone, not being vaccinated or fed sweet grain and without the protection of the herd. The lack of being with the herd bothered Billy but Heidi’s fearfulness was infectious so there they remained.
Fast forward a few months, the time came to again when we moved the herd from the Mountain field to the Front field, and this time Crazy Heidi cooperated. She and three other cows were separated out to join the heifers in the Front field, close to the working facility.
My initial plan to get Crazy Heidi to market was to tranquilize her in the field with a dart gun, lift her into the trailer with a tractor and then take her to the auction. After running this plan past Dr Amanda, I learned that there is a multiple day waiting period to allow the tranquilizer to exit the cow’s system before she could be sold. I had to come up with another way to get rid of this cow.
My next idea was to hire a few expert cattle handlers to help us load her into the trailer. After Crazy Heidi twice chased me up and over the fence the day we moved her to the heifer herd, I was not looking forward to another rodeo. Unfortunately, finding this kind of help proved difficult, there is not a “Cattle Wrangler” category on Angie’s List or Care.com.
The day before the next cattle auction, I sent a text to our friend and neighbor, the cow whisperer who helped us deliver Scarlet’s calf, to ask for his advice. Later that afternoon, he stopped by the farm and listened as I described the harrowing experience of separating the fearful Crazy Heidi from the herd.
He liked our corral improvements and felt the pens were mostly sufficient to contain the wild cow, suggesting we add height to one section of fence to discourage any thoughts of jumping. He also strongly encouraged us to load Crazy Heidi ourselves, without anyone else helping. Crazy Heidi had grown comfortable to me feeding her so adding an unknown person would make her wary. He reminded me to move slowly and quietly, using just my presence to calmly pressure Crazy Heidi to walk in the direction where I wanted her to move. The goal was to move her from the corral and into the trailer without any running or jumping cows, without any extra cows in the trailer and with no one (me) getting hurt.
Later that evening after we fortifier the corral fence by adding old gates on cinder blocks for more height, I snacked the herd sweet grain inside the corral. As everyone was enjoying their feed, I slipped around behind them and quietly closed the gate. The herd of 4 cows and 6 heifers spent the night in the corral.
Just after daybreak the next morning, I filled two buckets of sweet grain and again snacked the herd in two troughs, one in the main part of the corral and the other in the crowding pen. While the cows were distracted, I opened all of the gates from the working area through to the head gate. The 4 older cows, Crazy Heidi, Pippie, Garnet and Gilley began wondering where this breakfast was leading while the young heifers kept their noses in the feed, oblivious to the activity.
When there was not much grain left in the corral trough, Crazy Heidi moved into the crowding pen, joining a few heifers to eat there. I quietly followed her into the pen and closed the gate, one step closer to our goal. In this picture, the extra gates we added temporarily extending the fence height and the blinds to block the view through the gate are visible behind the trough. The white face heifer at the trough is Crazy Heidi’s daughter from last year, Aretha. Thankfully, she did not inherit her mother’s fearfulness.
As she surveyed her situation in the smaller pen, Crazy Heidi grew suspicious but not yet frightened. Seeing the second trough of sweet feed, our oldest cow Gilley stood by the panel gate wanting inside. Having a seasoned companion cow in the pen would help keep Crazy Heidi stay calm, so I opened the gate and let Gilley into the crowding pen.
Keeping our friend’s advice in mind, I stood in the crowding pen without even a cattle prod, using just my presence to encourage the cows to walk towards the alleyway. When the feed was gone, a few of the heifers meandered through through the alleyway where Bill let them out into the corral. Crazy Heidi saw this and wandered into the bud box and then hesitated, looking around for direction. I had slowly followed her and now stood blocking the exit out of the bud box. And then Gilley, as if knowing she was there to help, walked past me and basically showed Crazy Heidi the path into the chute. Seeing the opening through the head gate, Crazy Heidi walked down the alleyway where Bill caught her in the head gate.
With Crazy Heidi finally securely captured, we opened the gate so the rest of the herd could head out of the corral and into the Front field.
This next two pics tugged at my heart. Crazy Heidi turned and watched as the cows and then Gilley left the corral. As difficult and dangerous as Crazy Heidi was to move and work, all of her actions came from fear not meanness. I felt sorry for her.
Bill backed the trailer up to the head gate and I opened the latch to load Crazy Heidi for her trip to the auction. At one point, she had her hoof up on the wall of the trailer trying to escape.
At 8am after just a 20 minute ride, we arrive at the auction barn.
To limit her movement and keep her safe during the drive, Crazy Heidi made be trip at the front of the stock trailer behind the cut gate. Even in that smaller space, she moved around so much the trailer felt like it was swaying.
Heading off the trailer at a trot, Crazy Heidi moved on to her next adventure.
Before leaving the auction barn, I checked in on her one last time. Her ears were not pinned back, she had calmed down and was more relaxed. Even seemed to be making a few new friends.
Good-bye, Crazy Heidi!