Monday, June 08, 2009

The Cows Are Out. Now What?

I finally had a chance this weekend to catch up on my farm/ag reading, including the June e-newsletter from Sassy Cow Creamery. If you don't subscribe to this little treasure trove of info, you really need to. It's a great combination of useful dairy tidbits and entertaining farm updates. My favorite part of this month's newsletter is the column by co-owner James Baerwolf, describing the process for rounding up cows who have escaped their pasture.

Here's an excerpt -- if there are any farm kids out there reading this who are now working at desk jobs, you'll particularly enjoy it. I know it brought back memories for me. If you've ever met James (pictured above at a grand opening last year) and know his sense of dry humor, it's doubly entertaining.

From James Baerwolf, Sassy Cow Creamery:

"I wish the cows would be as cooperative as the weather has been. One group of young ones has been particularly mischievous. We got a call late at night that some cattle had been spotted on the road and it was thought they may be ours. In fact they were and they had gotten as far as East Bristol which is three miles from their home. When adult cattle get out at night they usually stay close to home but the young ones always seem to make a road trip out of the occasion. If they start their excursion at the right time of night they can get quite far by morning.

When we arrived at the scene we only found a portion of the perpetrators and we knew that the others had to be out there somewhere in the dark. By 1:00 a.m we had to give up because they could be hiding out anywhere in a five square mile area. In the morning we resumed our search and found them split up in two groups about a mile apart from each other. Rounding everyone up and getting them back to their pasture took a good part of the morning but they didn't give us to much grief. They seemed to know they were in trouble and were happy to be back in their pasture.

Fortunately in June the crops are still small and you can spot a cow that may wander. By later in the summer when the corn gets tall a whole new dimension is added to finding an escapee. It can actually become quite a rush for the thrill seeker but I certainly wouldn't recommend it. Being in a tall corn field at night in the dark with a large group of cows that are out is a whole new sensory experience. I would describe it as a cross between running with the bulls in Spain and being in a corn maze with no trails.

First off it is dark so they can't see you and you can't see them. However, you can hear them as they lumber through the field. They can hear you and sometimes that will spook them into running. So imagine standing in a dark cornfield and you hear the cornstalks crashing as a herd of cows are coming through and you know they can't see you. Slightly scared for your life comes to mind as you don't want to be trampled down by the oncoming rush so you start to run as well hoping you are going in the right direction. It is a good time to yell as well so hopefully they hear you above the roar and avoid you. If the group runs by you and you are unharmed then the adrenaline rush is over and you can go after the stragglers.

The smart ones figure out that the main herd is back in and they head back as well. The not so smart ones need some assistance. Now an exercise in silence begins. You go into the corn field and listen as intently as you can for the sound of an eighteen hundred pound cow in a corn field.

Standing there they can be silent but moving always gives them away. When you hear something you start to hone in on the location and seek her out. When you get a few out of the field and it keeps getting later you desperately hope you won't hear anymore. Then you do and you start the process all over again. Eventually it becomes quiet and you know you have gotten them all. All is back to normal, however they now have gotten a taste for corn and you had better make sure your fences are extra sturdy from that time on. You certainly don't want to repeat the experience anytime soon.

If you are getting the picture that farming is a lot of work interrupted by moments of excitement and unknowns you on the right track. When you get up in the morning you really aren't sure what you will all be doing or encountering that day but that makes life interesting. Next month I will tell you about some of the social things that farmers do. One small hint. They usually involve beer tents and tractor pulls." -- James Baerwolf

Ahh, makes me realize my day job pales in comparison. Thanks, James, Kara and all the folks at Sassy Cow for keeping me entertained!

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