Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life without Ruby

Thank you for all your support for our difficult decision to butcher one of our herd matriarchs, Ruby. The butchering went off without a hitch last Monday.

So what is life like without Ruby? As predicted, much calmer.

And I mean, seriously calmer. The big test comes each morning and afternoon when we feed under the barn awning.

Up to this point we fed over two fences -- the barn awning, and another fence into the feed lot. The reason for this is because Ruby would literally take over either one feeding spot or the other while she ate, while much of the herd would ebb and flow to the other feeding spots in accordance to Ruby's whims. Anything to get away from those horns. With that jittery dynamic no longer a factor, everyone has been grazing more peacefully under the awning, protected from the weather as they're supposed to be.

The animals still jockey for position, of course, but that's just normal pecking-order stuff.

I've been keeping an eye on Alice, Ruby's calf. At ten months she's certainly old enough to be without her mother, but that doesn't mean she wants to, if you know what I mean. But because we always make sure butchering is done out of sight of the herd, Alice doesn't know her mother is dead, just gone. So far she's adjusting fine, with a minimum of fuss.

But I did catch her sneaking a drink from Matilda, along with Matilda's calf Amy.

God bless Matilda, whom we affectionately call our Universal Donor. At one point three calves were trying to cop a drink, which is pretty funny since she only has two working quarters. But it's nice to know there's a little comfort food for Alice if she needs it.

One of the reasons we were anxious to see what life would be like without Ruby is because we plan to build feed boxes this fall, under the awning. Feed boxes would reduce the amount of wasted hay, as well as keep it cleaner (out of mud, poop, and urine). But feed boxes assume you don't have a domineering horned animal going around goring everyone.

So for the moment life is peaceful once more. It's really amazing how one animal can affect the herd dynamics so strongly.

Our other herd matriarch, Jet, has been in the bull pen with Samson, our bull, for the winter. When she comes out, we'll see what happens as far as dominance goes. Jet is also fairly bossy and she has horns, but she's never had an ornery mean streak as Ruby had, and was never inclined to gore other animals.

If that changes... well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.


  1. Isn't it interesting how one animal can determine the entire view you have of a group even when you know its just the one that's causing that dynamic.

    Last week I took out four roosters from a flock of 100 hens. They weren't overpopulated in the male department and in fact, taking them out left me a bit short on roosters. BUT....those four were such a real pain that they had to go. They were harrassing the hens to the point of doing real damage to their backs, fighting each other, hogging the feeding stations and eating way more than their share of scratch. They are gone now (yummy!) and my hen yard has returned to the quiet, peaceful place that its suppose to be. The remaining roosters are acting like gentlemen, the hens are happy, the roosters are happy and I'm definitely happy.

    One of those roosters I really liked too, and had intended to keep him. It was hard to take him out, but the end results have been worth it. Sometimes you just have to make the hard decisions.

    Best of luck with Jet.

  2. Love your cow stories! We have cows too, but aren't nearly as interesting. I just wanted to say what a good looking barn, shed, fences you have! Gonna be even nicer when you build the feed boxes. Envious of the whole set up.

  3. Way to go!!! And it's wonderful that you have Matilda as a Universal Milk Donor for the 10-month old calf. Thanks for sharing.

  4. hi. just a thought. in old days little brass balls were screwed onto horn tips.
    don't know if they are still extant but a good idea. even if cattle are not prone to goring accidents happen.
    deb h.

  5. We ,read that I, just this last week, had to eliminate a rooster , that was attacking my wife. It would wait til she had her back turned and go to the spurs, she took her pistol one day , and shot him but forgot she had snake shot in it so she dusted his butt with the shot. I went down with the 1911 and finished him post haste. We do not relish these decisions but it has to be done for the peace of the flock and we the ones who have dominion over them.

  6. Are you de-horning Alice?

  7. I recommend you "tip" all your horned cattle at a very young age. They will still get bossy, because they can, but they can't hurt each other.

  8. Also, you will waste a lot less hay if you slant a couple panels out from the ones you have under the awning. Tie them at the bottom to the other panels and then "lean" them out and tie them to anything that will hold them out - a couple short boards with holes drilled in them will work. Then you feed between the two panels kind of like a hay mow.