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Saturday, March 08 2014

     We always seem to make an adventure out of everything we do and buying cattle is no exception. The big Livestock Show & Rodeo started this week. For us this involves looking at a lot of cattle, and that's what we were doing yesterday. We have slowly started adding Santa Gertrudis heifers to our herd. Bred to Angus bulls, these produce fast growing babies that give us little or no problems in this climate.

     Despite the fact that we were planning to attend the 7 pm Santa Gertrudis sale, we sit down in the bleachers for the 2 pm Braford sale - just cuz. Cuz we have time to kill. And our feet are tired. At a show this size, finding a place to rest tired feet is an issue, so Other Half urges me to go to the cattle sales arena and plop down. I cannot be held blameless since I agree to this. My feet are tired and my experience has been that the upscale cattle sales work very much like Las Vegas casinos. They WANT you to stay. They WANT you happy. They will provide free food and drink to keep you there. So although this area has limited access to the 'regular'public, people with 'real' cowboy hats and real cow shit on their boots are welcome.

     So we sink into the bleachers and relax for a moment. And then Other Half looks around. I have known him long enough to recognize that look. Before he even utters the words, I know what he is going to say.

"Since we're here, I might as well register. You never know. We might see something we want. You never know."

"But we're steering towards all Santa Gertrudis heifers . . ."

My words just kinda hang in the air.

He is quick to point out "Dancing Cow is a Braford. You like Dancing Cow."

     I don't point out that Dancing Cow is a Black Baldy, a Hereford/Angus cross, not a Braford, a Hereford/Brahma cross. He knows that. I know he knows that, but he doesn't know I will remember that. Typical man. To him, a group of cattle is a group of cattle. To me, every one of those cows has a name and a personality. I KNOW those individual cows better than he does. Nevertheless, I let it go.

     My feet are happy to be sitting here. Besides, this is an International Sale which brings in buyers from Mexico and South America. No matter how many times we bid against those big Mexican ranches, they still take home the best genetics. They pay dearly for those genes, because we don't let them go cheaply, but the big money normally wins these things. So with that in mind, I'm happy to sit there and preview the sales catalog.

     Brafords. Nice cattle. Big red cows with large splashes of white. I like them. But then again, I'm not here to buy cows. I'm here to rest my feet. He returns and happily plops down beside me. We study the sales catalog like we're buying Brafords. I know NOTHING about Braford genetics. I am simply looking for a nicely built, naturally polled heifer. 

     The sale begins. The prices quickly climb. What we're looking for easily runs $3000-$5500. For unproven heifers. Fine if you're planning on buying it, but not really what we want to spend for a cow we didn't plan to buy anyway.

     Then this little cutie walks into the ring. She's young. Other Half looks at me. I shrug. Whatever. He starts bidding on her. I assure you, Las Vegas has nothing on the allure of a cattle sale. In no time, Other Half is happily involved in bidding on a heifer that isn't even part of our breeding plan. And each time he looks at me for assurance, I nod. What the hell!

     All is well and good for a while. Things are getting excited though, and through the shouting and chaos, I note the calf getting more and more stressed. As her excitement builds, she begins to sling that little boy handling her like

a rag doll -

and then - she drags him across the arena -

- and then -

she jumps out of the freakin' arena!

She flies! Like a bird! Like she has wings! (like a Brahma cow!)

My mind races backward in the bidding. Yes! Yes! It had stopped on us before her fit. Oh crap!

She is quickly captured by a gang of burly ranchers who thrust her cowhide back into the arena. One of them has relieved the boy and is trying to handle her himself. It isn't going well. She now climbs the podium, knocking flowers everywhere.

Oh f*#*!

As I watched a full grown cowboy ski across the podium, the stage, and back into the arena, I have two thoughts -

1) I bet that cow now belongs to me.

2) Thank God I have Border Collies.

The auctioneer continues. Yes indeed. The bidding had stopped at us. Does anyone want to pay more for this beast?

Crickets chirp.

No one? Really?

The gavel comes down.

And that's why this little cutie will be at our ranch instead of Mexico.

     Now some things are just meant to be. Over my lifetime, I've come to trust that God has a plan. So even though the absolute LAST thing I need is a wild cow that jumps fences, I am willing to sit back and let God drive. Other Half goes to pay for this beast while I gather up my courage and walk around the curtain to meet her. 

    She is standing calmly tied to the fence. No hint of the wild critter that was flattening flowers five minutes earlier. I speak to her and she looks at me suspiciously. An old man in tennis shoes comes up. I inform him that I am the new owner of his beast. He shakes my hand and assures me that she was just scared. This was her first trip to town. He apparently had pulled her straight out of the pasture, given her a body clip, and brought her to the show. As long as he was with her, she was calm, but she didn't know the young man who showed her, and once she stepped into the sales ring, she was no longer with the other cattle. She was alone. She was scared. And this Sister has just enough Brahma in her to say,

"Nope. I'm done! I'm outta here. I can flyyyyy!"

And fly she did. 

So here's the freaky part:

Other Half returns with the sales papers and the men begin to negotiate for transport of the animal. In an eerie twist of fate, we realize that despite the fact that there are cattle from all over the country at this sale, this breeder lives two miles down the road from us!  Yes!

     I drive past his pasture and admire his cattle all the time! I have probably watched this little calf grow up! The rancher agrees to bring her home so we don't even have to hook up our trailer. He also agrees to keep her and breed her to his registered Braford bull and return her when she's pregnant.


we now have a 14 month old registered Braford show heifer and a registered calf from this heifer for less than half her value because she got scared and jumped out of the show ring and no one wanted to pay big bucks for her when other better-behaved cows were still for sale.

Once she is bred and settled, we will transport her to North Texas where she will fit in fine with the rest of the cattle there.

Side note: since she can fly like she has wings, I decided to name her "Delta."

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:34 am   |  Permalink   |  9 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, March 01 2014

     I believe we have already established that I'm a lazy dog trainer. I'm just lazy, period. As a dog trainer, I like to get bright dogs bred for certain tasks and simply shape behaviors the DNA leans a creature toward anyway. Am I aware that a bloodhound can be trained to do agility? Well yes, but I'm too lazy to do it. Am I aware that a Border Collie can be trained to track? Well, yes, but I'm too lazy to do it.

     I once completely confounded a Border Collie person when she invited me to attend her tracking practice with my Border Collie and I said, "But why would I train my Border Collie to track? I have a Bloodhound. I don't expect my Bloodhound to work cows and I don't expect my Border Collie to mantrail."

      I heard it said once that training a bloodhound to do cadaver work was like using your finest wood chisel to open a paint can. I'm not sayin' it can't be done. I'm just sayin' why go to the trouble if you have a better tool in your tool box.

     So that said, my laziness reached a whole new height this week. Even 'I' am amazed at how simple dog training becomes when DNA works in your favor.

Consider this:

Other Half is going deaf. We have seen a steady decline in his hearing over the years. Because of this, since Lily was a puppy, I've encouraged her to bark when she hears high pitched alarm sounds. Many of these pitches are completely outside the range of what Other Half can hear. Most of the time she is only alerting on alarm clocks and the microwave at the ranch, but my brand new coffee pot beeps to let me know the coffee is ready and Lily feels this is important enough to warrant alerting the household.

Every morning Lily is outside when I'm making coffee. Every morning Cowboy (Rescued Border Collie of Unknown Parentage) is in his crate in the living room when I'm making coffee. For the last two weeks each morning that the coffee pot beeps, Lily has erupted in barking from the front porch.

"Your coffee is READY!!!"

And each morning I answer, "Thank you, Lily. Good dog."

Yesterday this happened:

Coffee pot beeps. Cowboy and Lily erupt in barking. I thank them verbally. Get my coffee and ponder whether or not Cowboy has learned to alert on the coffee pot despite the fact that he has NEVER received any reinforcement for this or any related behavior. Decide it is a fluke. Finish my coffee and go on with my day.


Coffee pot beeps. Cowboy and Lily erupt in barking. Cowboy starts barking BEFORE Lily. I thank them both verbally and realize that Cowboy has indeed probably learned to alert on the coffee pot by LISTENING TO LILY.

Many animal trainers will tell you that dogs do not learn by watching each other. To them I say this:

Horse Hockey!

Dogs can and do learn from watching other dogs. I've used sibling rivalry for years to train dogs, but what I've watched Cowboy do this week is different.

The part I find most fascinating is that to my knowledge Cowboy has never been trained to alert on high pitched sounds. We've had him for several years and have never seen this behavior before, and yet, after watching Lily alert at the coffee pot for two weeks, he has decided that this is a chore he wishes to assume himself. Note that he has never seen Lily rewarded for this behavior in any way other than a simple "good dog." He just knows that in some way, the beep must be important to the human, so he should bark to alert the human when he hears it. Interesting. Very interesting. You realize, this opens up a whole new level of laziness for me.

I continue to be both amazed and humbled by the mind of a dog, particularly a breed of dog that has been bred to assist man in some way. I am firmly convinced that when it comes to teaching them, we are only limited by our own imagination, and their lack of thumbs. 

Good dog, Cowboy. Good dog.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 08:50 pm   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email

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