Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When the Spawn of Josie escape.....

Nico told me last night about a nice compliment he got.  A local lady had bought a bunch of steer calves for a 4H project from a neighbor who purchased one of our bulls.  She told Nico how nicely the calves were turning out.  My first question: Was the bull one of Josie's offspring or relatives?

Some background is needed.  Josie was an awesome cow who routinely lead the herd in volume of milk produced.  Her only "quirk" got her the name "la vaca que habla mucho" from the milkers and the nickname "Moanie-Groanie" from the family.  When Josie saw a human, she'd start grumbling.  She'd grumble....and grumble....and grumble.  If Josie liked you, she'd let you pet her and continue moaning.

Some of Josie's offspring - although not all by any means - had a different quirk.  They were a bit brighter than the average cow and used that intelligence to escape.  One of her daughters nearly got sold because whenever she was in heat, she'd take off - away from the bull.  Another grandson - or great grandson - got the name Houdini.  Houdini spent the better part of one summer running around the milking barn of the main farm.  He'd cuddle up against a pregnant cow in the birthing area for a nap, then head across the alley to snack on the fresh cow food.  On sunny days, he'd hang out in the shady free stalls by the parlor.

On a warm day last summer, one young bull at our farm learned how to lift a gate off its hinges with his head.  He let a bunch of young steers and bulls run free.  I saw them out and started rounding them up while more people came from the main farm.  Most of the steers were behaving like a herd except for one.   After two laps around the calf barn, I figured something out. That one - 406 - would look backwards at me, decide which way I was trying to steer him and bolt in the other direction.  If 406 was anticipating my moves, I could try and push him in the opposite direction.  I wanted him to go to the left.  Normally, I'd stand behind him on the right.  He'd look at me then bolt across my line of travel towards the right.  With nothing to lose, I shifted my position so I was standing on the left of him.  406 looked at me and bolted across my line of travel toward the left.

406 was so proud of himself. He was bouncing and prancing around the corner...until he saw the open gate to the catch pen.  I swear his mouth dropped open.  That was when I realized that cattle have relatively poor spatial relations.   From 406's point of view, we had started in one place.  He'd run forward with an occasional zig-zag but had never gone backwards so we kept moving away from the evil pen.  In reality, 406 had walked forward the whole time, but took 3 left turns around the calf barn leading him back to the starting point.   Knowing the game was up, 406 meekly wandered back into the pen.  

Catching our breath, Nico pulls up 406's information on his phone.  He looks at me and says, "Hey, 406 is out of one of Josie's daughters."  My reply "Of course he is...."

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