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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our barn has a revolving door.


We have kept Dennis the drover (not driver but drover; a driver just drives while Dennis does much more—it’s a rodeo out there sometimes folks) busy this past week. First we had him come and pick up our three male bull calves. You could hear the truck and metal trailer clanging and banging around the corner of our dirt road well before you could see it coming up the hill. The cattle were anxious to get out of the pen that the Farmer had successfully lured and locked them into the night before.
I unhooked the electric fence wire (which I had already switched OFF), unlatched the front gate and swung it open for Dennis to drive through. His tires slipped a bit on the snow as he backed the huge trailer up to the mouth of the barn. With Dennis’ help, the Farmer let the female cows out. They were very happy to be free, and made a b-line to the feeder to see if the hay was any different from the stuff they had been eating on the inside.
I stood out of the way as Dennis ushered the bulls into the back of the truck. They obediently hopped aboard without any bait. When the metal doors swung shut, however, they began to bawl a little. This got their mothers’ attention. I went over and consoled my cows with kind words and a bucket of grain as the big white truck and trailer took their babies away.
This morning, the cows all stopped chewing and stood frozen as they heard the sound of the trailer rounding the corner again. Maybe they thought their bulls were returning, or maybe they thought they were the next to be loaded aboard.
“Young Angus is home, girls!” I said, cheerfully. Mocha turned her head quickly and looked at me, eyes wide. I opened the gate and the trailer backed into the opening. Dennis stepped down from the truck, walked around back and swung the doors open. “You’re home, buddy,” he said softly to the black bull, who was significantly bigger than the last time I saw him. I swear he grew another 25% in the short time he was gone.
We rented Angus out to one farmer in the spring, another in the summer and then he was home for just a day before he was rented out again for the fall. Some of his keepers fed him apples, while others fed him grain. His coat has a glossy sheen and he is far from the small calf that we first met a year and a half ago.
I stood between two large trees as the bull was released into the yard. Immediately he snorted, pawed the ground and then curled back his upper lip and sniffed the air. The girls came over to greet him, and he walked with them over to the pasture field, as if reacquainting himself with the property.
The cows are carrying his babies again and they will give birth in January and February. He will breed them one more time in March, and then we will probably sell him, possibly to one of the other farmers who have been renting him these past two years. He is a good bull, gentle natured, and he makes nice calves.
Next week we will start taking some of our bigger lambs to market. I know which one I want to say goodbye to first. He is a big Suffolk lamb, with a black face and white body. He used to jump in the feeders as soon as we filled them with hay. Not only will this soil the hay but the stupid lamb gets stuck in the feeder and it’s very difficult to get him out. We put him in with Rambo and his mate Gretel and he jumped out of that pen too. The Farmer put fences up over the feeders so he couldn’t jump into them anymore. The next day I found him on the highest stacked bale. I guess he decided to skip the feeder and go to the source.
Philip has been released to mate as many ewes as he can. He is wearing a red crayon block in a halter on his chest. I can see that he has marked more than half of the herd so far. His babies will be born in early April.
The population is ever-changing on the farm.

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