You probably have noticed that the majority of the pictures of bovines on this blog are graceful, gentle, white-faced cows. They peacefully graze or gleefully lap up corn out of a feed bunk, almost as if they are saying, “Thank you, good human, for providing this sustenance for us.” That’s because Carolyn, our families, and I believe the #1 most important criteria for deciding which cows to keep is their disposition.
Unfortunately, not all cows are like ours. Add to that as a veterinarian we get the pleasure of working with said cows when they are in labor or sick, they can be quite feisty at times. And by quite feisty I mean possessing a hatred of all things human. And said angry cows can weigh 7X-10X as much as I do.
Often farmers and ranchers will warn me right before they unload these type of cows they might not be easy to work with. The warnings come in a colorful variety of names, such as snakey, owly, squirrelly, or an uncouth name for a female dog. I’m not sure why our tendency is to compare cows to less dangerous, less aggressive animals to say they are more dangerous and aggressive than the normal cow, but that’s how the cookie crumbles.
In dealing with these upset bovines, one may feel inclined to sympathize with them. They are in a strange place (the vet clinic) and often with a problem (such as being in labor). Perhaps we should look at them not as angry as simply misunderstood. However, it is hard to misunderstand their intentions when they come off the trailer with their head bared downward to grind you into the ground like a cigarette butt.
There was one time we had to deal an bad bovine that is ingrained in my mind. It actually happened at my folk’s place. We had just bought four bred Red Angus/Simmental cows. I had been in the pen with them at the sale barn and had absolutely not issues. So we bought them and brought them back to the ranch.
Mom and Dad were prepping the arrival pen as I opened up the trailer to let them out (we quarantine anything bought from outside the ranch before mixing it with the rest of our herd to decrease the likelihood of disease). Three of the cows stepped out of the trailer, while the fourth sprang out and ran into the pen.
The situation that happened next none of us were prepared for. Unbeknownst to us, the fourth cow was a snakey/owly/squirrelly/female dog. She decided she did not like her new home and preceded to let us know it. She earned the name Patsy, after Patsy Cline, because she was “Crazy”.
To help you understand the following events, I included this diagram of our holding pen at the ranch. It shows the locations of all involved parties, including myself, my parents, the nice cows, and Patsy. The red pentagon in the lower right corner is the stock trailer (Why red? Because our trailer is red!), which is backed up to the loading alley and catch pen.
So when Patsy came off the trailer, she took one look at her surroundings and decided to murder anyone who was involved with bringing her there. She took a swing around the pen, chasing my mom (upper right X), my Dad (upper left X), and finally me (lower X) up and over the nearest fences and gates.
As we all cleared the pen, Patsy continued to make laps around the pen, challenging us through the fence. At this point we realized this cow was not the kind of cow we liked to own. So Plan B was formulated.
We reinforced the loading alley, building it higher and adding more 2″x12″s for support. Then, after a couple days, we coaxed the other three cows out. While leaving a cow by herself isn’t ideal, we were concerned this loopy animal would never go back in the pen if we let her out. Then we put Patsy’s feed and water in the trailer, and waited for the opportunity to lock her in. It was a large scale version of the old box, stick, and string trick.
Although it took a few days, the trick worked. At first, whenever one of us showed up, if she was in the trailer she would leap out of it back into the pen. But one day, Dad was able to sneak up while she was involved in some hay. He crept to the trailer door and with a heave slammed it shut. Patsy went nuts, but it was too late for her to get away this time.
We locked her in the front of the trailer, and since she had calved by this time we stuck the calf on the back. We took them both to the sale barn and the calf was sold to one person and Patsy to another. The idea is that she would take a one-way trip to Burger King or Culver’s, which is what we suggested at the sale. Her three compadres stayed on, and although they were a bit skittish, lived a lovely life frolicking in the pasture.
So to make a long story short–some cows can get mean. And they are really big. It makes a person realize the human body is actually quite fragile in comparison. I just hope to never find that out personally.