As the drought in East Texas continues, it’s become necessary to feed the livestock hay. A couple weeks back, we moved our cows to the back pasture where there was still some green grass. Now even that is looking dry and sparse, so out come the hay bales.
When the cows are locked in the back pasture, we have to fill water tanks daily, since they can’t get to our pond in the front. Every morning, while it’s still moderately cool, I fill up several tanks with a hose.
This not only gives me the chance to be outside without roasting in the heat, but also to watch our cows interact. The whole herd usually comes up to the tanks while I fill them, and I witness their pecking order in action. I was surprised to find out that our dominant cow, one of the older Longhorns, had been usurped by one of our Black Angus females, Mabel.
How do you know who is in charge? There are different ways, but the easiest is to see which cow doesn’t “give way” to anyone else. The others all give way to Mabel at the water troughs and mineral block.
Another interesting thing I noted at the watering hole was how my horse, Shiloh, lets the calves play with him. I watch as he just stands there when they rub on or even jump on him. Shiloh seems to be convinced that he’s part of the herd. However, he doesn’t let any of the cows push him around except Sienna. They are best buds, but she will push him out of the way when he’s blocking her. And he lets her. I just shake my head. I’ve never seen a horse let a cow push it around before.
Sometimes when I’m standing on the other side of the fence filling the tanks, a calf will decide it’s brave enough to come up to the fence and sniff my hand. Usually, they barely touch my hand and then back off, as if I smell bad. However, Seven-Up, Sienna’s calf, will stand there and lick my hand. Of course, he’s a lot tamer than the others. He’s also the biggest calf, even though he’s not the oldest. I’m sure that’s due to the creamy, plentiful milk he gets from Sienna.
Speaking of calves, when we brought Mabel back to our pasture after a two-month stay with a nearby bull, her calf tried extremely hard to nurse from her again. After eight weeks, that calf still thought he needed his mama’s milk. His mama, thankfully, told him no, very aggressively. I watched as they went round and round. He tried to nurse, she kicked him or spun around and butted him away. He came right back and tried again. Eventually, he gave up.
So far, we’ve only had one problem with keeping the cows in the back pasture. A couple weeks ago, I woke up to Sienna’s bellowing. I knew something was wrong, because she only does that if her calf isn’t with her, and she’s waiting to be milked. But her calf was supposed to be with her that morning. When I went out to check on her, I could tell immediately that her calf had not nursed. Her bag was full and tight, and she was not happy. My husband and I jumped on our four-wheeler and went to search for Seven-Up. We checked the fence line first, thinking maybe he had gotten across the fence somehow and couldn’t get back in. This is exactly what had happened.
Scott opened the back gate to let Seven-Up back in. He came running, but then stopped when he got close to Scott. He wasn’t sure about approaching him. I can’t say I blame him. The only interaction he’s ever had with Scott was when Scott banded him and punched a hole in his ear for his tag. I got off the four-wheeler and walked over. “Come on!” I yelled at him. Seven-Up equates me with food, since I’m the one who brings his mama back to him after I milk her. He heard me call and came running. I’m not sure how he got out, but I was relieved he was okay.