Thursday, March 7, 2013

Moving Pairs

We moved the first set of pairs today. It’s my favorite horseback task. It’s slow for one thing, in fact the slower you go the quicker you’ll get done. Mom needs to keep her baby with her so patience is paramount.

Separating pairs from the “dries” (uncalved, non-lactating cows) is engaging work. The dries have a different mentality, a devil-may-care attitude, like a young adult with no responsibilities. You can usually tell them because they have a clean tail (no birth fluids messing things up), a full “bloomy” coat and belly, and a flacid udder with no tell-tale sucking signs. Sometimes it’s hard to tell as some udders fill a long time before calving. The calved cows are motherly, with fleshy, toned udders. And if you put pressure on them they usually look around for their calf.

Strolling through the herd must be done very carefully. You want the dries to stay glued to their spot. If they feel any pressure, you’ll get a mass migration and chaos at the gate.

Following the separation and as the new pairs file into their new field, each one is observed to make sure they anchor with their other half. Sometimes in their excitement to enter a fresh field, a few cows may run ahead and leave their babies behind. If that happens we put them back together. If they're not firmly attached in their new pasture, they’ll go back, sometimes even jumping the fence if a cow, or crawling through the fence if a calf.

We choose a calm day; wind makes cattle flighty. And on windy days calves stick to the ground and Mom has a hard time finding them. We get them settled in their new pasture before dark. 

Moving pairs is about technique, sensitivity and patience. Good attributes to keep in mind whenever you handle cattle.  

Sly nudging a calf up

Checking out the new pasture

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