My great-grandmother used to say that things happen in threes. Today was one of those days.
It all started when we went to feed the pigs in the breeding runs. They normally come meet us at the gates to the pens because they are friendly and know we have food. In the six weeks I’ve been here, none of them have ever tried to escape. Until today.
The big red sow came to greet me at the gate as usual, but instead of backing up as I entered, she continued to push forward. At 300+ lbs., it wasn’t hard for her to shove me out of the way. I tried to push her back in but to no avail. Luckily, she trotted over to the boar’s gate and froze. This is known as standing heat and means she is ready to be bred. We couldn’t just let the boar out which meant we had to get her into the boar’s pen. Easier said than done. With both of us pushing, we managed to get her in and just left them to it.
Next we moved the layers. Normally we do this on Thursday but the layers are currently sharing a pasture with the calves and the calves section was in the way yesterday so we put off moving the layers until today. Things were fine until I opened up the fence to let Steve drive the tractor out. The chicken-dog bolted. Not good, but again we got lucky. She is strangely attached to me (I promise I ignore her!) and ran right to me. I was able to grab her and drag her back into the pen.
After lunch we had to move the heifers. These heifers have been nothing but trouble since they started calving. They aren’t very good mothers. They ignore their calves. They forget which calve is theirs. They seem to like their calves, but refuse to let them nurse. Or they are excessively overprotective to the point where they charge us if we get within 20 yards of their calves. And their moods change from hour to hour.
When we went to move them, the moms all seemed more interested in fresh grass than the whereabouts of their babies. After we got everyone moved over to the new pasture, we found 4 abandoned babies in the old one. (I now know that you should walk through the herd to make sure all of the calves are awake and standing BEFORE you try to move them.) Steve and I tried to chase them over to the new pasture, but calves aren’t like cows. They aren’t predictable and two of them bolted. They went under the polywire fencing and off towards the gate we’d left open. We hadn’t closed it because we thought the polywire would be enough. We were wrong.
The poor (dumb) things ran straight out the gate into a briar patch where they got themselves stuck. Steve dragged the first one out and we toted him back up to the pasture with the rest of the herd. As soon as we put him down he bolted again. And again he ran away from the herd. This time I managed to chase him back in with the group. Let me just say that running in work boots is very different from running in my Vibrams. We went back for the other guy and this time took him all the way into the center of the pasture before letting him go.
Both of the escapees were steers. Numbers 308 and 310 (the 8th and 10th calves born in 2013). It takes 18-24 months to get a steer to slaughter weight on grass. I don’t know where I will be in 18-24 months, but wherever I am, I will come back to enjoy a burger made of 308 and 310. I am sure it will be the best burger I’ll ever have.