Origin of “Bullheaded”

Shane’s 2019 work at TurkeyCrest has been completed. He spent the summer with our main herd of cows and the fall with five heifers. Sunday would be the day for Shane to head off to his second job, to our friend August’s herd just a few miles down the road. Sunday was also the day when we were hosting a holiday dinner with friends at 5pm. From prior experiences loading on to a trailer, Shane had a reputation for walking on before the gate to the field was closed. August agreed to bring his trailer over around 9am in the morning. Expecting Shane to be moving down the road by 9:30, we decided there would be plenty of time to also separate and work the three youngest heifers before combining all of our cows into one herd for the winter.

In retrospect, we should have moved the young heifers into another field a few days prior to Sunday, giving Shane time alone to grow bored and restless. But that didn’t happen, so at 8:30 the bull strolled into the corral while the heifers watched from the field just over the fence.

August arrived on time and skillfully backed his trailer into the corral and opened the doors. Shane took notice but did not make a move towards the trailer. Hmm, not what I was hoping to see. I grabbed a bucket of sweet feed, held it to his nose and led this huge bull to the edge of the trailer. And that was as far as he would move, not one more step. So much for Shane jumping right on the trailer. Thirty minutes passed with everyone trying to entice this bull on to the trailer, only to have Shane return to the fence and gaze at the heifers. I jumped in the mule, grabbed another bucket of feed to lead the heifers to the backyard field and out of view. The girls followed me gleefully, kicking up their heels and running along side the mule, happy with the change of scenery, which was the polar opposite behavior from the stubborn bull in the corral. I had a nagging feeling that the backyard field was not completely fortified since the last storm. With 5 excited heifers in tow, I discovered nearly 100 feet of missing fence. As nonchalantly as possible, I quickly set up a dozen step in posts and strung a poly line before any of the heifers noticed the gaping hole along the creek. As the morning was quickly sliding by, I hurried back to the problem of the bull.

The guys had not made any progress loading Shane in my absence. Everyone was still calm, including the bull, but it was clear he had no intention of jumping on the trailer. At one point, I found myself next to the fence and too close to Shane. He took a step towards me, turned his head and rubbed me against the wood boards. No real harm was done, but I took that as a clear warning to remain cautious and stay in the moment.

Shane became more and more obstinate, which is safer than more and more excited, but fairly frustrating to the humans. We decided to change strategies and run him into the working area, down the alleyway, through head gate and then onto the trailer. Shane slowly moved to the working side of the corral, and August repositioned the trailer close to the head gate.

“Run” turned out to be the wrong description of the actual event. Shane had grown bored and tired of the sweet grain. Where as a cow will turn away when you walk up to their shoulder, Shane instead turns and faces you. Standing in the working pen, I started googling “how to work with a bull” but didn’t find any good tips. We spent over 45 minutes getting him into and through the working area. When he finally decided moved his 2500lb body into the chute, everyone was hopeful but then again, all progress ground to a halt. Shane refused to move any further. We curled his tail, poked his hooves, scratched his back and pleaded with him to try and push through all to no avail. The chute was too tight for his shoulders and he wouldn’t budge. As I stood between the head gate and the trailer, just a foot away from this huge, unmoving head in the chute, all I could envision was Winnie The Pooh, stuck in Rabbit’s front door.

There was nothing else to do except remove the chute. Bill went to get the tractor, swap out the hay spear for the fork lift while we undid the chains and moved the palpatation cage. But first, we had to move Shane BACKWARDS out of the chute and back into the alleyway. As I lightly pushed on his curly head, I realized how ineffective pushing on a bulls’ head would be to move him backwards. Obviously, a bull’s inclination when pushed on the head is to push back. August used a board as a lever against Shane’s chest to slowly edge him in reverse. A couple of steps backwards was all we needed to have enough room to move the chute. TA closed the palpitation door then put a board behind Shane’s butt to keep him in the alleyway.

In place of the chute, we chained a panel on each side of the alleyway to the trailer. Shane waited patiently for all of these modifications to be completed, not at all upset or anxious. As the minutes steadily ticked away, the time left for me to accomplish my long hostess to-do list dwindled. I was not quite as calm as Shane.

Before opening the door to yet again try to entice Shane onto the trailer, I double checked that my escape hatch was opened. The last thing I wanted was to be trapped in the trailer with Shane.

Finally, more than 2 1/2 hours after our first attempt, we opened the alleyway and Shane slowly but steadily made his way onto the trailer. I realized that the adjective “bullheaded” was based 100% on working with real bulls. The four of us breathed a huge sigh of relief, Shane was loaded and no one injured.

With Shane heading down the road, there was still the small detail of 5 heifers lollygagging in the Backyard field with a flimsy fence, 3 little heifers that had to be worked and then the two herds combined together in one field for the winter.

Working the cows was almost refreshing after dealing with one stubborn bull. After putting the chute back onto the alleyway, we separated the three little heifers and ran them through the working area.

I removed Pearl’s weaning ring, and put another one on Annie so that Pippie, her mama, will be able to put on some weight over the winter. Rose’, our last calf of 2019, finally got an ear tag and her vaccination.

With Bella leading the way, we moved all 15 cows of the main herd including the three young heifers, back to the south field.

Then, we gathered the 5 rowdy heifers from the backfield and combined them with the main herd. There was some jostling and posturing, but everyone settled down after a few minutes.

One last move of all 20 cows and heifers to the Mountain field before we called the day’s work complete at 2pm. Well, at least the cattle working was done. After feeding the horse, pig, goat and chickens an early meal, I was finally able to turn my attention to preparing for our dinner guests. That evening, with just 10 minutes to spare, I relaxed and enjoyed a wonderful time with great friends, who fortunately also have cattle so our conversations always involve cow tales.