Thursday, January 9, 2014

Biting the Dust

To bite the dust definition:  To crash, fail, or otherwise no longer be in contention.  Now I have your attention don't I?

Saturday was the day to move our cow herd from the field across the road from our house to another of our fields about 3 miles north.  They will be there a few weeks then move again.  That is the pattern from the time they come home from the summer pastures until just a few weeks before the cows are ready to have their next calf starting in March.  I was standing in our yard taking photos as they started out.IMG_7939Several guys that all have cows work together to move each others herds and sometimes they move several guys cattle, one group after another on the same day.  This time there were 5 of them on horseback to drive our 100 cows and 6 bulls, then to move one of the other guys cows after.  Last year’s calf crop have already been sorted off and are being fed in a pen across from our house and will be sold at an auction in a week or two.  We keep the bulls with the cows until we move the cows back closer to home right before they start calving.  The cows are all pregnant now, hopefully, so it is OK to keep them together for a while longer.  

The cows all started running as they always do at the beginning of a drive but after a bit they settle down to walk most of the way to the new grazing field.  The bulls get excited too and most of the time just follow the cows.  This time 2 and sometimes 3 of our bulls started fighting.  You know how boys can get to wrestling, well bulls too have to determine who is the best, strongest and lead bull.  By the way, while they are getting moved is not the best time for this conflict.   If you look closely in the photo below you can see a black bull and a red bull head to head and several of the cows watching the action.  This is happening only less than 1 minute from the time the guys got their horses in the field.IMG_7942Here is another photo taken a few seconds later.  You might think why is this head to head fighting to be even noticed but what you don’t see is the force behind each bull.  Our bulls probably average 1900 lbs. each and if they are pushing against each other that is a lot of power.  They sometimes go round and round, trying to push each other, oblivious to anything around them and sometimes they appear to be just touching foreheads but it is all serious business to them.  There are times when bulls fight they will actually knock down fencing, dent barn siding, etc just pushing each other around.  They are extremely strong beasts and rarely hurt each other but push and shove until one gives up.IMG_7943The green arrows show the fighting bulls and the red arrow is John on his horse Tracy.  John and the guys were hoping to keep driving the cows and the bulls would follow along and quit their fighting…..Wrong!IMG_7944-3The cows and the fighting bulls are stirring up a lot of dust as it is a clear day.  Here is a little more information about John’s horse.  Tracy is a young horse that has never helped drive cattle in stock fields before and was ridden only one other time this fall to help round up cattle so she is a newbee when it comes to cattle.  I guess she has to learn sometime if she is going to be on our farm and be a good cow horse.  Can you see where I might be going with this story now?  Keep reading for the conclusion to this gripping tale.

Now here is where I goofed up….I did not get a photo of what happened next.  John and the other guys said as they moved closer to the bulls, the bulls moved quickly and frightened Tracy.  She jumped sideways very quickly and sorry to say John didn’t stay in the saddle.  One of the guys said it looked like a cartoon fall with him in mid air for a bit before he crashed to the ground.  He says he didn’t get hurt as it happened so quickly and he didn’t have time to think but landed on his back.  It helped that he had several layers on with a sweatshirt, heavy coat, hat and gloves so that insulated his fall.  Anyway he was on the ground and Tracy took off back towards the house and away from the cattle as fast as she could gallop.  I didn’t want her to run through the electric fence on the edge of the field and get hurt so I stepped into the middle of our driveway and flapped my arms and yelled to get her attention and thankfully she turned, still running for all she was worth.  (That flapping arms business was probably worth a blackmail photo too.) The other guys were trying not to frighten her and worked to get around her to stop and catch her.IMG_7946They did get her stopped before she could run out of the gate and onto the highway, thank goodness.  After calming her down for a bit John got back on her and rode her to get the job done.  She needed to learn that she had a job to do and to get over her fear.IMG_7952And the bulls fought on, and on, and on.  Sometimes it was just these two and occasionally another would try to get in the middle of it and then back off.IMG_7959Here the guys are waiting for the John and the other 2 guys to get back and for a break in the fight to head them in the right direction.IMG_7964John and Tracy are the last of the three riders and will get the bulls moving up to where the cows were waiting to get on the road for their trip north. IMG_7979
See the 3rd bull just looking on as the action continues.  He really wanted to be in the fight but must be down farther on the pecking order hierarchy.  There is always one lead bull and the others challenge him for that position and sometimes they win and become the lead bull.
As you can see the bulls are separated in this photo and moving with the cattle.  I was almost 1/2 mile away from them at this point so this is as good as my zoom lens could get.  The guys told me later that the fighting bulls got together again and fought most of the way to the new field.  They said the cows walked 3 miles but with all the fighting the bulls probably walked 10.IMG_7991
When I brought lunch for the riders at the end field this fighting guy was pooped.  He stood by the tank of water, drinking and panting occasionally.  The other bulls and cows were spreading out in the new field to graze but this one just needed a break.  I wonder if he was the victor or the defeated one or if after all the fighting it  ended in a tie.

After a can of pop and a cookie or two the guys loaded up the horses and went to move one more bunch of cows that afternoon.  No more horse wrecks that day and John claims he isn't even sore after his escapade.

Until Later,

1 comment:

ga447 said...

Thanks for the photos and story, it is just like TV. I watch an Alaska show and they move their cattle in the spring and they have many challenges - 2 rivers.


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