Country Living Series

Friday, May 5, 2017

Rite of spring

This morning we did one of our annual Rites of Spring: We released the cows into the pasture.

Ever since Matilda's debacle in mid-March in which she fell down in the woods after being chased by the rest of the herd, we've kept her strictly away from the others. Sean, her yearling calf, toggles back and forth (sometimes he wants to be with the herd, sometimes he wants to be with mama); but we've been keeping dear elderly Matilda in the driveway, not in the woods with the others. I don't want any more gray hairs (at least from that source).


But green grass is getting scarce in both locations (driveway and woods) since the beasties are eating it down as fast as it grows. Yesterday we caught naughty Matilda leaning over the fence to crop the grass in the yard.


So -- shrug -- we opened the gate and let her into the yard for a couple of hours. (Lydia didn't think much of this arrangement, so we kept her indoors during this time.)


The Ultimate Country Lawn Mower, right? Maybe we could market her.


But it was clear the animals needed more grass. The pasture is now grown to the point where it can sustain the herd. So yesterday morning -- the first truly summery day we've had this year -- was the grand and glorious Moving Day.

We made sure various gates were opened, then gave our universal cattle call: "Bossy bossy bossy bossy BOSSY!!"

Oh my, the herd knew what THAT meant! Brit led the jubilant pack, galloping toward the gate, neighing with excitement.


Various other cattle followed, running as fast as they could.


Within moments -- we're talking 45 seconds, tops -- everyone was chowing down on the green grass.


Well, almost everyone. Victoria's little calf, not old enough to be familiar with the seasonal Rite of Spring, got separated from the herd. "Hey, where'd everybody go?"


Fortunately he found his way through the gate within five minutes or so.

Brit renewed her acquaintance with the horse next door.


However we still had Matilda and Sean to move. I kept them in the barn, their usual night spot, until the rest of the herd was moved down. That's because I wanted to put a halter on Matilda and walk her down into the pasture, followed by Don acting as an armed escort. I wasn't about to take a chance the herd would gang up on her, since she's been apart for so long.

I needn't have worried. Everyone thoroughly ignored her, intent on cramming as much green grass into their bellies as fast as possible.


It was a very peaceful reentry for Matilda, and I'm glad she's back where she belongs. It also underscores the idea that the herd wasn't attacking her back in March when they went chasing her in the woods; they were just in high spirits, looking for an excuse to run. (I just -- ahem -- tend to be overprotective of my favorite cow.)


Later that afternoon, I saw the sweetest sight. Since Matilda and Sean spent the winter in the corral and didn't associated with the rest of the herd, it also meant Matilda was separated from her adult calf Amy. Well, now Amy and Matilda are together again. I caught a quiet moment when mother was grooming daughter. The pleasure in both animals was tangible.



Look at the expression on Matilda's face.


So all is right with the herd. Spring is here.

UPDATE: I'm getting a lot of concern about how awful Matilda looks. Please, folks, she's a Jersey! Don't compare her to "meatier" breeds, like our Dexters (Amy is half-Dexter, so she's meatier than her mama). Jerseys are all "skin, bones, and udder," as a dairyman once put it. The rule of thumb about a Jersey is you should be able to "hang your hat on her hipbone." They just look naturally skinny because they're milk animals, not meat animals. Have no fears, Matilda is quite healthy.

19 comments:

  1. While you ALWAYS want to avoid the back end of a cow, I remember that being ESPECIALLY true when they first got on new grass in spring.

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  2. Matilda certainly is the matriarch of the herd, isn't she? She looks like a gentle loving mama....So glad that the herd wasn't trying to attack her, like you had thought...
    Love your posts.
    Love from NC

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  3. I love Matilda! She looks great and I'm very happy for her that she was able to be with the others and no problems.

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  4. Matilda looks very thin - is that her usual condition?

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  5. Back on the farm in Illinois we had a 1 acre orchard and wind break. The grass naturally got very high so my father purchased about 8 sheep to use as orchard lawn mowers. They were just splendid in that occupation!

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  6. My Amish neighbor brings his backup heifers to the pasture out behind my house every spring. He was supposed to deliver them today. I'll see if they're there when I get home from work.

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  7. Poor Matilda looks terrible. Is her health okay? She seems to just not put on weight, even after a winter on hay, in an enclosed, protected area. Could it be time to do the right thing by her? Is that the most loving thing to do? Will she fill out over the summer on pasture?

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    1. I've never considered a cow being old and thin (especially in Spring) to be a reason to "do the right thing."

      This is especially true if the animal is not in pain, happy, and healthy enougj in other respects.

      It seems rather forward of you to make such a comment. Don't you think the owner of the cow is in the best position to make this judgement?

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    2. The owner is the only person to make such a decision; is the only person on the spot to know the condition of the animal. However, there is absolutely no harm in my mentioning the thought. An experienced homesteader takes no offense...maybe even appreciates someone who shows deep concern for the animal.

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  8. Thanks for the update on Matilda. She sure looked like a goner back in March!

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  9. Do you not worry about bloat first thing on green grass in the spring?

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    1. While we've been feeding hay up to this point, in fact the animals have all been cropping grass as it came up. That's why there wasn't much left for them to eat in the woods -- they'd been eating it all. This is an excellent way to do it since it means their systems get used to green grass long before we put them on pasture.

      - Patrice

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  10. Do you not worry about bloat first thing on the green grass in the spring?

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  11. This brings back so many memories for me growing up on the farm. My Dad would call, "Come, boss! Come,boss!" and those cows just followed him. I miss that. I love the yearly rhythms of the farm.

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  12. The cried when I read the post when she was down. I feel stupidly invested in her. I just love that she loved on Amy when they got back together. I didn't realize that they would still feel an attachment like that. So cool. I hope the expo went well!

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  13. We always worried about bloat when we put cows on green grass first thing in the spring.

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  14. Do remember the "Rite of Spring" well. Years go farming, about 75 miles north of you. We wintered about 300 head of livestock. When the pasture grass was finally ready and you turned them loose, it was best to stay out of the way. Don't think they stopped eating the fresh grass for 24 hours, and yes it was not safe to walk behind them.

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  15. Loved the pics of Matilda and Amy's reunion! So sweet! I wasn't concerned about Matilda's appearance, I just figured it was due to her still nursing Sean. I didn't know that Jersey's were supposed to look like that, see you are also teaching us something!

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  16. My Jersey look just like Matilda and she's pregnant! Gotta love those milk cows!

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