Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Grass Is Always Greener Department

This is a pretty common sight when calves are involved. That is a four wire barbed wire fence that is in great shape, but it's still too coarse to keep little calves in. Mom is hanging pretty close to keep an eye on Junior, and Junior isn't straying very far. He was brave enough to get out - but further explorations? Not so much.

So this isn't really a major situation where I'd let the owner know they had cattle out. If there were a couple of calves or more, it would be more risky. The little devils would start playing and they'd lose track of important things like oncoming vehicles. This one was well aware of me, as was Mom. Plus, like human juveniles - having several together would give them more courage to disobey their Mothers. Scampering around out of Mom's reach is appealing no matter the species.

What prompted this post was threecollie's "The Way They Are" post on her blog Northview Diary. A lot of you that stop by here know her and read her stuff already, but for those of you who do not - she and her family have a dairy in upstate New York. The article was about the dangers of farm animals - she had a couple links to a story about a deputy that was killed by cattle, and an article about stock caused fatalities in four states. The line she used that really stuck with me was:
I love cows. But they are not the creatures of Disney.
This is so true. Livestock of any kind are dangerous, period. Most of you who read here already know this, but some do not. Now, I'll admit to never hearing of anyone being hurt by sheep, unless they were run over en masse or something. Hogs? They are evil. Never turn your back on hogs in a pen. Stories abound of people who were knocked out or injured into immobility who were eaten while defenseless. Hogs are not Wilbur or Babe. Period.

The situation in the picture above? 99% of the time no one is in any danger. However, it's that one percent that'll gitcha. Ol' Mama peering at me in the pic? That is not a look of love nor trust. She'd clock in well over fifteen hundred pounds. That fence would slow her down only for a moment if she decided there was a threat to her baby. She could outrun my fat butt in short order, too. I really wouldn't count on any of the bangsticks or hand cannons in my pickup to stop her before she'd put a hurtin' on me.

I've hauled a load of calves once way back when, and I've got a lot of friends in the cattle hauling business. It's a very poor idea to get into that pot bellied trailer with cattle alone - one always wants some sort of aid and assistance there with you. I'll never forget hearing about calves out of Florida. They're used to fighting off gators, so a puny trucker fails to impress them. The slaughter houses around here have dedicated haulers to keep the production line going that everyone calls "fat cow haulers" - fat cows being cattle (including heifers, steers and bulls) at the proper slaughter weight - around twelve hundred pounds or so. Fat cow hauling is mostly a whole bunch of short trips from the local feedlots to the area processing plant. A lot of guys like it for several reasons - one is they are generally home every night. It isn't a job for wimps. Most of the guys I know have several "war wounds" from something going wrong - getting caught in a gate in the trailer, or the cattle breaking something that hurts the driver, being crushed, stepped on or whatever. There are a lot of partially missing digits, facial scars, and broken bones. By the time the "fats" have reached slaughter weight, their fear of humans is just about gone.

Any time I step into a pen or pasture with cattle I'm on alert, watching for something hinky. A bunch of cows, calves and a bull or two? Do not get between the calves and their parents. The bull might just decide you are a threat, no matter what you've done. All bulls? One walks smoothly and no sudden or jerky moves, plus something like getting into a staring contest might be painful. All cows with calves? Once again - upset mothers. Calves aren't as much of a threat, but you never know - the term calves includes six or seven hundred pounders - and they are much quicker and stronger than you or I.

Possibly the most dangerous times are when the cattle are stressed and out of their element. When we're doctoring, branding or moving cattle - we keep the ol' weather eye out. One of the more hazardous situations happened to the Texas deputy in threecollie's link. He was at the scene where a cow had been hit by a car. Any traffic accidents involving cattle are fraught with danger, because the animals are stressed, probably in pain, in an unfamiliar environment, and in a defensive mode. If a cow wagon gets blown over, the cattle he's hauling that survive are gonna be in just the same mode. While our natural urge might be to get out and help herd cattle, I'd say if you've never done it before to keep your butt in your car. If you've never been around large animals, you may not have the necessary fear of them to successfully handle the critters. The thing is - considering where that deputy was from - he probably had experience handling cattle in his past. Look where it got him.

There are already plenty of critters out here that have no love for humans. Coyotes might not attack you directly, but Fluffy or Bowzer makes a great snack. Rattlesnakes? Not pals. Do not mess with badgers - they might be smaller, but they do have 'tudes. Skunks? They are never afraid of launching their ultimate weapon.  Racoons don't take kindly to being cornered, either.

But when the critter is way, way larger than you? Disney be damned.


threecollie said...

Excellent post! So true. You should see the boss when he first stands up out of a chair. He has been beaten up so many times he looks about a hundred (although I can't keep up with him for five feet once he gets moving). He can name just which injury came from what cow. His most aggravating one came from a cow we thought was a real milk wagon so we hung on to her way longer than we should. She was SO mean. Went on test and she was giving fifteen pounds....And thank you for the link.

Lisa Paul said...

True, except for rattlesnakes. Ours are gentlemen. They rattle to let us know where they are and retreat quickly when we get near. Plus they keep the rodent population down. Now I've heard Texas rattlers are another story...but then compared to Texas anything, I suppose California bred things look especially mellow.

I was surprised to hear that the most dangerous animal in Africa is not the lion or the elephant, but the buffalo which is mean and will attack anything. Why shouldn't his domestic American cousin not have a little of his moxie?

Jeffro said...

The rattlers out here aren't much on retreat and don't always remember to warn. Plus they are practically invisible in a pasture setting. Many times I've been fixing fence and heard one singing in the general direction of where I needed to go next, and I'd just go down the fence a ways, fix stuff there, and come back later.

I don't remember how many that I've nearly stepped on. That'll give ya the heebie jeebies for the rest of the day.

Anonymous said...

"Hogs? They are evil. Never turn your back on hogs in a pen"

Too true...and don't go into the pen unless at least one person is armed.

Anonymous said...

Awww, come on, you know they is all fluffy little talking creatures who think and act jut like humans!;-)

Jeffro said...

Oh, yeah, Robert! I bet ya jump right out of the saddle to counsel a couple of fighting bulls for anger management, too! We must all live in harmony!

Laura said...

I lived on a beef farm. They are indeed not from a Disney flim, but more from a Stephen King made for tv movie.