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Thursday, July 31 2014


 

     The sight of it caused me to slam on brakes and run bang on a total stranger's door. Because I was on my way to work, I was in a police uniform, so I gave a silent prayer that this house was not a closet cocaine or meth dealer as I knocked loudly again. Out here in the country it would probably be meth, but then again, those cows are really nice, so it could be cocaine. (That's the kind of crap that goes through a cop's mind as they're banging on the door of a stranger.)

     Nevertheless, he needed help, he just didn't know it. Actually, a little fellow in his pasture needed help. I had just rounded a curve in the roadway when I had seen the drama unfolding - a newborn calf, an upset momma cow, and a nasty-ass donkey keeping the momma away from the baby.

     The donkey had separated the baby from the mother and was moving the confused little guy away.  His umbilical cord was still hanging. The momma was just this side of hysterical but every time she tried to help her baby, that nasty donkey turned on her with teeth and she backed off.  Yes, this is the kind of stuff that makes me dash into the ditch and bail out of the car.

     I started running to the pasture and the donkey decided he really didn't want any part of the "po-lice" and so he backed away from the calf a bit, giving the momma cow the room she needed to go recover her calf. The calf seemed shaken but okay. I still wanted the rancher to know that his donkey was trouble so I banged on the door to tattle on the nasty donkey.  Fortunately the man who came to the door looked more like a rancher than a cocaine dealer. Trust me, I know these things. Suffice it to say, he did not shoot through the door at a uniformed police officer on his doorstep. I explained what I saw, and he assured me that he'd move the donkey out of that pasture immediately.

"So there. Take THAT, Donkey!"

This donkey convinced me I didn't ever want to have one with my baby calves. Other Half had been talking about getting one because of the predator load at the ranch. Most of our cows are former show cattle that never had to deal with coyotes taking their babies and he's been worried about calves at the ranch. I put my money on Snickers.

After all, who needs a donkey when you have a Snickers?

This is the meanest cow south of Oklahoma.

      As you might recall last year she won "Mother Of The Year" because of her steadfast protection of not just her own calf, but ALL calves in the herd. To put it bluntly, Snickers is one psycho bitch when she's protecting calves. She mutates into a Cape Buffalo - the most dangerous bovine on the planet. Snickers will mow down a Border Collie in an instant. She will fling herself into fences, bellowing at the top of her lungs. It makes an impression, I tell you.

     Despite the fact that these cattle belong to Other Half, I am the person who knows them. I remember their show names. I remember the child we bought them from at the county fair. I know their personalities. I remember the calves they've had over the years. The calves may or may not get names, but the show cows get names. If a personality emerges, so too does a name. It's how I distinguish them. Last week we were recording births and matching calves to mothers in the pasture when Other Half asked me "What's her number?"

"Do what?"

"Her tag number? What's her ear tag number?"

"How the heck do I know? I never notice their numbers! They have NAMES!"
 
This perplexed him. I then proceeded to rattle off some names and stories.

Dancing Cow - everyone knows the bald-face Secretariat who is first to come running to feed
Paisley - Trouble
Ruby - split ear because the Border Collie took a cheap shot at the feeder
Daisy Mae - Big girl, lost her first calf "Norman" even though we brought him into the bedroom, where he died and it upset me
and Ranger
Snickers - Water Buffalo known for trying to kill dogs, bad udder, good momma cow

    I continued to point out cow names, but he gave up and walked out there to get their ear tag numbers. In his Cow Book he wants numbers and birth dates, not names and events. Go figure. It must be a guy thing. I want the story behind every cow. A number doesn't give me that. I don't remember numbers. I remember names and stories. I keep a geneology of these girls in my head. (and on a calendar)

     And that's why I knew we didn't need a donkey. We have Snickers. She's more reliable than any donkey. We'll never have to worry about Snickers killing a brand new calf. Other mothers may not pay close attention, but rest assured, Snickers knows where each and every calf is lying. In fact, the first calf born on the new ranch was born to Daisy Mae, but Snickers was so protective, we had to check her udder to make sure the calf was not hers.  And speaking of her udder, that's a sore subject.

     Snickers only has half an udder because of mastitis. I first noticed this after her second calf was weaned and pointed out to Other Half that we need to pen her up and treat it. He kept insisting that she would be fine, there was nothing wrong with her udder; she was just drying up. He proclaimed this with the air of "I'm the cow man, I know what I'm talking about!"

Whatever. I raise sheep and goats, and you'd better treat that udder because it's mastitis.

Guess what?

I was right. He was wrong. The cow lost half an udder.

Some folks would sell her, but even with half an udder, she raises nice calves. And even when she reaches the point where she can't raise calves, she still has earned her spot in the herd because she's a darned good guard donkey too. Trust me, you don't want to be on the business end of this cow when a calf hollers.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:41 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
That donkey was trying to protect the cow. Donkeys protect their territory and their herd members. From a donkey's point of view, that calf was an intruder. If the donkey was separated from the herd just long enough for the calf to acquire the herd scent then the donkey would protect that calf with its life. I sure wish people who use donkeys would take a few minutes to learn a little about them. It would be better for everyone, especially the donkeys who may be the world's most maligned and abused animal. If that rancher would bother to learn the donkey's name, things like this would never happen.
Posted by Kris on 08/04/2014 - 11:22 PM
Yes, the donkey was trying to protect the cow and herd the baby away from the cow. The problem is that the donkey failed to get the memo that the calf is part of the herd. Donkeys are good herd guardians, but they can cause problems with newborn calves unless managed properly. And you're right, chances are good that most donkeys are just thrown out there, like many Livestock Guardian Dogs, and expected to understand everything. That's a recipe for disaster.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 08/12/2014 - 10:57 AM

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