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Holy Cow! Can we get some cooperation around here!

October 22, 2012

Subject 2. One bovine, female, with brain the size of a lemon.

Mission: Move Subject 2 about 30 feet to the west, with the encouragement of Subject(s) 1.

Long story short: We’ve been at it for three weeks now, but the aforementioned cow is in the same place she’s always been, with little sign that we will ever get her to the desired location.

What is so hard about moving a cow from one 10-acre pasture across a farm lane to a second 10-acre pasture, and why would you want to do this in the first place?

Funny you should ask.

This all began (wavy dream sequence) back in the summer when we began looking for a boyfriend for three members of our herd, including our legacy cows, Cleopatra and Heifertiti.

By September, we had settled on a wonderful Belted Galloway bull named Cliff, who resides in the Richmond area, and contracted for two months worth of his services.

Ideally, we would have thrown the C-dog in with the balance of the herd and allowed him to filet the beef, so to speak, to his heart’s content. Unfortunately, this was a nonstarter, because among the herd are youngsters with whom a randy bull can absolutely not be trusted.

This explains the logistical situation referenced above.

If I were a real rancher, I would have adequate cattle-management infrastructure in place, which basically means something on the order of the Bastille, but stronger.

My vet, starting with the words “it’s real simple,” sketched out a construction plan for me once on the back of a feed bag, and 20 minutes into it there were so many gates and alleys and corridors and chutes and headcatches and ramps going to the moon and back that my eyes totally glazed over and the project was dead before it began.

Not to mention that it would have cost more than my entire small herd was worth.

So when we need to move an animal, we must fall back on finesse over strength, coaxing the subject-cow with feed tubs, while holding others back with electrified rope. Once in a while it works. It did with Cleopatra, who, for the past month, has had Cliff all to herself.

But more often, you will find that cows as a species will always do exactly what you want them to do, right up until the time you really, really need them to do it, at which point all tarnation breaks loose.
One heifer has been so totally uncooperative she has earned herself a one-way ticket to Four States Auction in the spring. Heifertiti has come oh-so-close to the temporary passageway that we erected between the pastures (walled in with a curious patchwork of pickups, gates and rope), that we still hold out hope.

Not that you would know it by watching us. Beth and I cajole and drive the cattle while frantically arranging and rearranging a whirlwind of electrified corral wire and affiliated hardware. One problem is that, because of its jury-rigged nature, none of this various and sundry hardware has a name. So we’ll shout stuff like, “Quick, wrap that gizmo with the fratzis on the tip around that goober with red thingie! NO, not that thingie, the RED thingie with the round hoozits on its whatchamajigger!”

Cliff the Bull, meanwhile, gazes at this circus from the adjoining pasture with a passive but amused element of self-interest, much like you would watch the hibachi chef an a Japanese steakhouse.

Which is exactly where everyone is headed if I don’t soon get some cooperation.

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

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