Monday, June 17, 2024

Cow update

You might be wondering how our new cows are doing.

They spent about a week in the feed lot, for several reasons. One, we wanted them to get used to where the shelter and water are located. Two, we needed to treat Maggie's horn buds with fly spray. And three, we wanted them to get used to us as their caretakers.

Oh, and four: The feed lot is where the COB (corn/oats/barley) can be found. We give them each a modest scoop in the evening, accompanied by our call: "Bossy Bossy Bossy Bossy BOSSY!!" (Named after our very first cow.) We want them trained to come to the "Bossy" call. Here they all have their noses in buckets.

For about a week, I took a book and a crate, and just sat in the feed lot for an hour or so each evening, watching the animals and talking to them in a friendly tone. One evening I heard a crashing of hooves, and a cow elk came down the hill, bypassing the corral without noticing me.

By the time I'd snatched up my camera, she saw me and passed down into the woods, where she regarded me with the deepest suspicion.

Another time while sitting in the feed lot, I noticed one of Maggie's horns that had fallen off a few days before.

We've never banded horns before, and it was interesting to see the band.

I must admit it did a nice job. Except for the dramatic bleeding that happened just before the horn fell off, it was a tidy process, and apparently painless.

One afternoon I went out to check on the animals and they were ... gone! But how...? They were surrounded by six-foot horse panels!

A fast look revealed the rubber fasteners designed to lock the panels together had snapped on one panel. With such thick rubber, we hadn't factored in that the horse panels have been sitting unused for several years, during which time the rubber cracked and weakened in the sun. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the cows pushed open a hole and slipped through.

The trouble is, they slipped into a portion of property where we hadn't finished fencing. They were all happily grazing on the green grass and were nowhere near the fences, but we couldn't risk keeping them there.

So, armed with PVC push poles, we recruited Older Daughter's assistance and guided the animals into the one pasture that was fully fenced and ready for them.

While the cows happily explored their new digs, Don and I wired every horse panel together with wire to reinforce the rubber fasteners.

We were pleased to see the cows had no compunction about coming into the feed lot for water and to rest while chewing their cud. This is good. We want them to associate the feed lot with comfort and security.

Meanwhile it's wonderful to look out our windows and see the pasture with cows in it.

Maggie was a little skittish at first, but she's taming down nicely. And boy does she love her COB. This is a good thing – it will make training her to milk all that much easier.

Here she's watching Darcy with great curiosity as we take him for his evening walk.

Each evening we put a scoop of COB into each bucket and start yelling "Bossy Bossy Bossy Bossy BOSSY!!" We want the animals locked into the feed lot each evening, and what better way to lure them in than with grain?

Maggie and Mignon (the Angus calf) respond with alacrity, to the point of stampeding into the corral. Fillet (the Angus mom) ... not so much. While she loves grain just as much as the others, she doesn't like being told what to do. Generally she moseys up when she feels like it, long after the others have finished their treats, and condescends to accept her own portion of grain. Last night Don stayed up by the gate with the bucket while I went down and shooed her uphill toward the barn. She went with a good enough nature, but she had to be prompted at the beginning.

Still, I'm not worried. Fillet is literally beef on the hoof. She's due to calve in late January or early February 2025, and once her future calf is old enough to wean, we'll probably put Fillet in the freezer and concentrate on Mignon as the matriarch of our beef lineage. Mignon is turning into a total sweetheart.

So that's your cow update.


  1. When I had ten day old chicks in the house, I would say Delilah in a very high tone as I put feed in their box. I wanted them to associate the call with food as I planned to lure them into their pen at night with the call. It worked as they would practically fly to get to pen where I could lock them up. I could have as easily said chicky chicky, but I did not want anyone to know I had chickens in the city.
    I am glad they did not wander too far. And, that bossy works to get them to come to feed lot.

  2. I saw this and thought you would like it.

  3. I'm glad you solved the Mystery of the Disappearing Cows!

  4. Thanks for the update. I enjoy reading about your cattle. We would love to have even just one to raise for freezer beef, but we haven't the pasture for it. We tried sheep as an alternative, (lamb is quite a tasty beef substitute) but by the third summer our tiny flock of 3 had eaten down what pasture we had and would require feed and hay for the summer months as well as the winter. That was not economically sustainable. So, until we can convince a neighbor to sell us a few more acres, our primary red meat source will be venison, with the occasional splurge on beef purchased from a farmer friend.

  5. Banding isn’t usually so bloody. The bands can make them cranky for the rest of the day, but it’s a passing discomfort. Maggie probably hit her first horn on something before the horn was completely ready to fall off. It happens, it’s quite a spectacle, but not the end of the world. Banding is still on average “cleaner” than the vet gouging them out of the cow’s skull, and cauterizing as they go. That’s visually a lot more dramatic for everyone involved.