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Cow jumps over fence, sets sights on moon

February 22, 2012

I tell people that I breed my own cattle — which I do, in the same sense that people who say they “remodeled the kitchen themselves” have really just purchased the materials from a home-improvement center and then watched as an unemployed handyman from down the street does the work ... usually in exchange for soup and a two-week supply of Pabst.

It’s easy, but not too scientific, to turn a bull loose in the pasture, and then wash your hands of the project for a month or two. I tried this route with moderate success.

The bull was named Dan, as in Dan the Man, but he soon became known as Dim Dan, the product of being unsure which end of the cow to mount.

And, as pleasures of the flesh go, his interests were more gastronomic than romantic. The boy could eat half a round bale while the heifers were standing around drumming their fingers and waiting for him to get busy.

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His offspring were OK, but a little Dannish in some ways, so I decided to improve the line by sending away for a few rounds of bull juice provided by a fine animal in New Hampshire by the name of Lance.

How they go about collecting bull semen is a question that I did not ask.

It comes in very long, very thin plastic straws that the vet does something with while I am busy averting my eyes.

So we now have a couple examples of Lance’s work on the ground, in the form of a heifer named Lucy and a little steer. We normally don’t name steers destined to be steaks (a friend of mine named her’s “Dinner”), but this one was born on Halloween, so obviously he had to be named Spooky.

Spooky is pretty much what you would expect from a bovine — a slow-motion kaleidoscope of grazing, resting and staring. A little animated when he plays, but other than that, pure Ferdinand.

Lucy, on the other hand, is a problem.

Lucy is into everything. She runs and bucks like a stallion, strutting around the farm, bossing everyone around and setting that day’s cow agenda, even though she is not even 6 months old.

Entirely disrespectful of property rights, she has decided she is to be a “neighborhood cow,” foiling fences whenever she discerns there is something on the other side that she wants. Needless to say, this is Not Good.

The other cattle will stand on the correct side of the fence and bellow at her — either calling for her to come back, or praising her moxie, I can’t tell.

Generally, a cow is a lumbering animal that will break through a fence kind of like a glacier breaks through sandstone. So it’s never too hard to find the hole they made, except that in Lucy’s case there was no hole.

I couldn’t figure it out, until I caught her out of bounds earlier this week and gave chase. She ran straight up to a section of the fence where there was no apparent structural damage, and I figured she had to turn one way or the other and began to adjust my course accordingly.

Instead, she simply levitated and jumped the 4-foot fence slick as a horse at a steeplechase. I stopped cold. I’ve seen a fair amount of things on the farm, but never this. All the heifers in the world, and I get the Celebrated Jumping Cow of Washington County.

There were a lot of things I was bargaining on when I got into beef cattle. But surrounding the entire property with a deer fence wasn’t one of them. Short of that, it looks like the best thing I can do is bring back Dim Dan.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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