Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer milestone

We just did what we consider a milestone of summer: We let the cattle onto an adjacent piece of property for extra grazing.

Every summer we lease this 20 acres for grazing purposes from a neighbor. It has beautiful trees and a wonderful stock pond, and it's a handy and excellent place to expand our pasture rotation. Everyone refers to this parcel, cleverly, as "the pond property."

But before we could let the cattle on it, we have to walk the fence line to make sure the beasties couldn't escape. So, armed with pliers, nippers, wire, and Lydia, we set off to walk the perimeter.

The first thing Lydia did was find a bone, which she carried for half the excursion before finally deciding it wasn't tasty and dropped it.

But until she dropped it, she was very pleased with herself. It looks like she's smiling.

The fences were mostly in good shape, but we noticed some loose wire in what had evidently been an attempt at a hot wire. We tightened up and secured this wire so it wouldn't trap or tangle anyone.

It's always nice to get a different perspective of our region.

The next day -- quietly, without fuss or fanfare -- Don and I walked down to open the connecting gate. Brit, our horse (who, by the way, is free to a good home if anyone wants her!) was already near the gate. She knew precisely what was up.

Once the gate was open, we gave our universal cattle call: "Bossy bossy bossy bossy BOSSY!!!" (Bossy was our very first cow.) Oh my, that got their attention!

Within seconds, the entire herd stampeded our way -- the older cows because they knew what was up, and the babies because they were following along, having a fine time running.

They poured through the gate. (Those are our neighbor's horses in the back, watching enviously.)

They instantly buried their heads in the tall grass, eating.

With one pathetic little exception. There's always one calf who gets a little turned around and can't figure out what a gate is.

We call this the "puppy-stupid" stage of life, when they can't "see" the ten-foot-wide gap in the fence and instead stand around in bewilderment, wondering where mama and the rest of the herd went.

In the past we've tried scooting these stray calves through the gate, and know from experience it doesn't work. They just panic and run away from the gate. So, trusting his mama would eventually figure out her baby was missing, we left him all alone in the big empty field.

Meanwhile the younger cows and calves were literally kicking up their heels with joy in their new digs, racing around and having a blast.

And that was that. Everyone settled down. The calf found his way through the gate. All was quiet and peaceful.

Two days later, the whole gang moseyed back toward the house for a bit, seeking the salt block. Here's Matilda with three of the calves.

Polly nursed little Pixie.

Everybody hung around for awhile, then they all filed back to the pond property. Ah summer.


  1. I really enjoyed this post. I miss having cattle, but I don't miss stacking hay! ;-)

  2. Your Lydia looks just like our Fannie who is the cornerstone of our homestead. My husband calls "Hmmm Bossss" when he wants our cattles attention and they act the same as yours when being moved to new pasture. If only we humans could get so excited about the little things.

  3. Can you share some info on Brit?

    I live in north Idaho, 3B, and my son is in the horse project in 4H. We are riding tonight, in fact. He doesn't need another horse right now but I could certainly share any info with the leader who may know of a 4Her that needs a horse.

    Thank you.

    1. Brit is about 12 years old, a full-blood Appaloosa. She’s very sweet but has never been broken and has more or less been a herd guardian since she was given to us. She can lead on a halter, and loves people. It would be wonderful if she could find a home where an experienced horseperson can train and ride her.

      - Patrice

    2. Thank you for the info. I must have been dreaming when we discussed Thursday evening riding, as I thought it was every Thursday. We've been going, but there's not been a meeting. I didn't forget Brit and I will bring her up to the leaders and parents that might be interested when I get a chance (county 4H horse show is next week).

    3. A question that is sure to pop up if someone is interested: Is she registered, to go along with the "full blooded" She is beautiful. It may be that someone would like her for breeding as well.

    4. As far as I know, she isn't registered but IS register-able. The breeder is our neighbor and he knows his bloodlines.

      - Patrice

    5. Thank you. I did put the word out about a Brit with a leader. I will remember to bring her up again soon at another horse event.

  4. My wife and I are moving our family to a farm in north Idaho and planning to lease some of our acreage for grazing. Just curious about the particulars of such a lease. Seems like the landowner wants you to do the fence maintenance yourself. How does one go about locating farmers with animals that need land to graze on? Without revealing the exact figure, can you give a ballpark for typical lease rates?

    1. It's a pretty casual arrangement. The landowner charges us $200 for a couple months of grazing. He's more interested in keeping weeds and grasses controlled than anything else. In return for the inexpensive cost, we maintain the fences.

      - Patrice

  5. There's a pasture out behind our house that a local Amish farmer leases. He keeps his backup heifers there until they can be rotated into his dairy herd. One evening last year my wife pointed out to me one of the heifers had broken through the fence somehow and was roaming around a neighbor's backyard. I drove down to the Amish man's farm and told him the situation. I ended up driving him and his 9-year old son back up to my place.

    He told his son to open the gate and we ran down to where the heifer was wandering about. He shouted at the heifer in Pennsylvania Dutch to guide her back to the gate and told me to run alongside to keep her moving and said "Make sure she doesn't bolt for the road". Luckily she didn't because if she had bolted in my direction I would have gotten out of the way! Ultimately we got her into the gate which the Amish son closed and shut.

    Three years ago I was living in a rowhouse in Philadelphia and if you had told me that in the near future I'd be chasing cows around a farm I would have laughed at you.