A Socratic Rancher 8-23-10 | TheFencePost.com

A Socratic Rancher 8-23-10

J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

The last bull story I told involved two bulls who put their heads together during a thunderstorm and got a lightning strike between them. I witnessed the unusual and tragic event, and gave a statement to my neighbor’s insurance adjuster, who commented, wryly, that it was a bad idea for bulls to put their heads together.

It’s too bad this advice didn’t make it out to bulls in general. A good reader of the Fence Post (who prefers anonymity, so I’ll call him Ernest) wrote to tell me this equally unusual story involving longhorn bulls who took unfortunate action with their heads.

Ernest bought a set of fancy baldy heifers, guaranteed bred, some 20 years ago. There were 256 heifers offered in groups of 25, but when Ernest won the bid on the first group he took them all. Once back to his place, he sorted them visually as to how much they were springing, and then had a vet come out and measure their pelvic area. Those with less than 220 cm, he either shipped or sorted into a special pasture for watching. All actions of a good stockman.

The heifers calved out with the usual run of distocias and mothering-up problems, but all-in-all Ernest had taken the herd through the worst of it with about 90 percent good calves on the ground. The pairs were sorted as to those who calved easily and those who had some problems. A group of about 40 head were separated out as possible problem second-calfers

and turned out with two Longhorn bulls, both of whom sported intimidated racks.

The two bulls went to work. Ernest’s plan was to leave the bulls with this possibly problematic group for two heat cycles, remove them, and preg check at the first interval and sell off the pairs of the open cows.

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One afternoon we went out to check on the group and found the two longhorn bulls fighting. This wasn’t uncommon, especially toward the end of the determined breeding period as the number of cows in heat became smaller. So Ernest didn’t think much of it. The next day he came back and the two bulls were still fighting, in pretty much the same area, but they didn’t possess the animation and aggression typical of their fights.

Upon binocular observation, Ernest saw the bulls had literally locked horns – the rack of one bull had somehow wedged tightly in the spread of the other bull’s rack. They were no longer fighting: They were trying to get free of each other. It took close to four hours to move the two bulls about a quarter mile into a corral where Ernest thought he had a chance to do something.

“But what?” turned out to be a good question. He managed to get them into a narrow alley where he could look down on the problem from relative safety. With two helpers squeezing retainers in from both ends, the bulls finally went down on their bellies in exhaustion. Ernest used a 5-foot dirt chisel to separate the racks. In a one-in-a-million collision, the smaller rack had sprung open the larger rack just enough for it to pass through and wedge tight.

“Those two bulls never fought again,” Ernest wrote.