Through the Fence 12-21-09
I’ve never seen the logic in keeping wild cows. Who wants an animal whose only desire in life is to escape and run off down to the next pasture? My dad once had a buddy in the Charolais business that loved the wild, jump-the-fence kind of cows. When Dad asked him why he purposely bought those kind, he said it was easier to wean their babies. He explained how he’d carefully corral the wild mama cows with their calves. Then, he’d slip into the gate quietly and then scream bloody murder. All those wild cows would jump the fence at once and the weaning would be done.
We haven’t had any wild mama cows, but we have had one acrobatic bull. A few weeks ago, Dean, the livestock auctioneer, and his son came to pick up our 20 cows and calves and a huge tiger-striped Brahman bull to take to the sale barn. My husband and several farm hands had come to help round them up and load them into the large trailer.
Most of the cows and the calves had dutifully marched up the ramp and into the trailer, and the big bull was next in line. When he started walking through the chute toward the trailer ramp, he balked. He started looking around anxiously for an exit route. He hopped up on the top rail of the chute and got his front legs over it. In a flash, he’d cleared it and began pacing nervously around the corral. When the men tried to turn him back toward chute, he sailed over the bars of the metal pen as effortlessly as a deer and trotted off into the pasture.
“That’s not the first time he’s jumped,” my husband admitted. “My son and I tried to load that bad boy last year, and he did the same thing.” Apparently, when they had started crowding him, he reared up and got his feet over a section of welded wire that was attached to two old posts. With 1,500 pounds bearing down on it, it gave way, and he sauntered off down the trail with another young bull at his heels. “I guess I thought that with this much manpower, we’d be successful this time,” he said.
They eventually finished loading the cows the other day, and my husband planned to return for the bull later. But the jumping bull wasn’t done jumping. Since there were no longer any cows left to cavort with, he had no reason to stick around. During the next week, he jumped at least two more fences on the way to our friend’s property, where there were a bunch of dairy cows. When our friend called to tell us that our bull was in his pasture, he assured us that he would be able to round him with no problems. We were skeptical. Even though the man is an experienced rancher, he’s no spring chicken, and he hadn’t seen the acrobatic bull leap tall fences with a single bound.
When we saw the man a few days later, he told us about his experience. He had prodded the bull into his pens where he had rigged up a makeshift chute out of several metal gate panels standing on their ends. Just like my husband had done before, our friend eased the bull toward the chute. That bull didn’t even come close to entering it. For an animal so large and bulky, it was amazing how he gracefully leaped over the two rows of 6-foot panels that comprised the chute. Once again, the escapee galloped toward the furthest reaches of the property and back toward the cows.
As of this moment, the jumping bull is still at large. We’ve got to get him to the sale, though. Our next plan involves a half a dozen cowboys, a tranquilizing gun and a log chain. I want to be there for that one!
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This the first in a six-part series of articles covering basic water law in the United States, predominately in the western part of the country, and how it affects this finite resource.