Working Cows

Today was frustrating.

The morning started off well. We got through chores pretty quickly and set about getting things ready to let the cows out. We had to set up a few more “fences” which are just moveable posts that hold electrified cord. It was funny because the cows knew what we were doing and were moo-ing like crazy. They knew it was for them and were ready to get out!

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That was the easy part.

After lunch we had to sort the cows from the heifers. Luckily, it worked out that most of the cows were red (Devons) and the heifers black (Angus crosses) so we could sort them largely by color. This is where things got frustrating.

Working with animals is hard. There is a kind of sixth sense you develop over time that I just don’t have yet. You want to stay out of the “flight zone” – i.e. if you get to close, the animal panics and runs – but you also need to be close enough to manipulate the animal to go where you want it to go. You want to move slowly to avoid working the herd into a frenzy, but if you don’t move quickly enough the animal won’t respond. You have to focus on the animal you are working – the one you are trying to get to move – but you can’t lose sight of the rest of the herd.

Also, cows are herd animals. What one does, the rest will do, too. Trying to isolate one or two is incredibly difficult. We were working one black cow at a time in order to keep the reds from running out to pasture, but pulling them away from the herd created an apprehension that made them more difficult to maneuver.

Long story short, Ryan and Steve have the patience of saints. They’ve both been working cows for most of their lives so this is second nature to them. I, on the other hand, made more than my fair share of blunders which was immensely frustrating. What’s worse is that this isn’t something I can go read up on and figure it out. It is an instinct that comes with time and practice.

Once separated, working them was pretty easy. The farm is divided by a creek so one group will graze the north side and the other the south side. After we’d sorted out the heifers, we moved them over to the north side. Since we were moving them as a group, this was simpler.

20130418_0016I’m really hoping something clicks soon and this starts getting easier!

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One thought on “Working Cows

  1. Becca, the future cow whisperer… 🙂

    This is probably a stupid question. Can they be desensitized to the presence of people if started from a young age? I’m thinking about my own experiences, such as when someone only comes around when they want something vs. someone who is around all the time. With the former, my guard immediately goes up, whereas with the latter, they can ask for something and I don’t necessarily see it coming. Also, does eye contact have anything to do with it? I remember hearing/reading something about that in regard to horses? This stuff is interesting!

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