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Monday, June 1, 2009

This field isn't big enough for the 5 of us...

We saw it coming. When the snow melts, the cows start to wander. Betty and Ginger made it as far as the neighbouring cornfield a few weeks ago when they were spotted by a turkey hunter who snitched on them. This escape promptly landed them in the front field with the horses, surrounded by an electric fence.
The horses were not too happy with the situation.
The first morning we led them out to their previously vacant field, they stopped just short of the gate and snorted. The new tenants had been spotted.
At first they didn’t want to venture in at all. And then, they thought, to heck with that! This is our field! We won’t give it up quietly!
As soon as we took the leads off their halters, they gave chase. Ginger and Betty, the two pregnant Herefords, exchanged a look of disbelief, then turned and hoofed it to the opposite end of the field. Ashley and Misty, the proud Belgian mares, stomped and snorted loudly, declaring ownership status over the field. The cows would be permitted to trim the weeds along the perimeter.
The next morning, we put the horses out in the field but we couldn’t find the cows. After a quick search Betty and Ginger were discovered in the rather small log barn while Mocha the calf lay in the chicken coop. I think they were hiding on the horses.
A few days later, Ashley and Misty made the very simple but very firm decision that they would not be going into the front field again. Not if those cows were still in there. They made it halfway across the barnyard, put it in park and refused to move. (It amazes me that they seem to make these decisions simultaneously. I never witness any preliminary discussions and neither horse appears to be taking the lead. They communicate by some sort of horse telepathy).
With all the silage eaten up, it is now safe to allow the horses to wander the barnyard and have free reign of all the pasture fields.
When they realized they were free to roam, the girls turned and faced the glacial moraine, which provides an obstacle course for a heavy horse. They gingerly stepped around the rocks, sniffing each one as they approached, to ensure it wasn’t a turtle in disguise. They snorted reports to each other as they slowly made their way across the field.
When Donkey discovered the two Belgian blondes were on his side of the fence, he must have thought he had died and gone to horse heaven. But when he started lurking around behind Ashley, she turned and gave him a quick nip on the side. His pride wounded, he decided to pass on the hurt to one of the sheep.
Poor little Louise the ewe-lamb (yes, I know, I named her), who had just recovered from a nasty case of bottle-jaw requiring an injection was the slowest and smallest of the herd. Donkey chased her up and down the field, nipping at her heels. It only took the horses about 30 seconds to decipher the rules of this game. They chased Donkey, who chased the sheep, right into the bramble beside the stone fence.
I saw Donkey pulling at the sheep’s fleece with his teeth, in an attempt to lift her back up so that the game could continue. I’ve seen this play before, and it makes my blood boil. I marched outside, screaming at Donkey. I slammed the gate, ripped a golf flag out of the ground, and ran up to him, swinging the stick. I must have looked absolutely ridiculous. I hope the Farmer enjoyed the live entertainment with his morning coffee.
Donkey stepped aside and I bent down to scoop up Louise. She was just an awkward bundle of sharp hooves and sweaty lanolin. Suddenly a huge hoof stamped down right beside my foot. Misty bent her big head down and nibbled on the lamb’s ear with her lips. My heart was pounding like crazy. I hoped she wouldn’t hurt the sheep. Or break my leg.
Once back on her feet, Louise took off toward the open pasture. Again, the horses and Donkey gave chase. Great. I’m getting too old for this. I eventually caught up to them where they had cornered Louise, her head stuck in the fence. I scolded the horses, who watched closely as I walked the lamb back up to the barn through the bramble.
Hopefully the novelty of this game has worn off and the animals will give each other space over the 50 acres of pasture. I can’t take much more excitement.
The cows watched the action from the safety of their restricted area on the other side of the electric fence. They seem much calmer now that they don’t have to worry about being chased by a seven-foot Belgian with big teeth. And that is a good thing, because they are supposed to be having babies in a few weeks. At least, Ginger is. We aren’t sure about Betty. She got the same visit from the EBI technician (1-800-BULL) but we aren’t convinced she looks pregnant. Perhaps she just carries it well. In a few more weeks we will know for sure.
And then it will be Ashley and Misty’s turn. We need to find a nice Belgian boy to help these girls become mamas for the first time.

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