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Friday, June 15, 2012

Bull in need of a good home.

I know it’s silly to worry about my bull but I do. When Young Angus came to us he was so small – he looked like a black lab. Well, not exactly but he was small. Dennis the drover told the Farmer that the bull didn’t like to be alone. We found that to be very true on that first night when we spent a few minutes searching in the dark for the little bull, only to find him tucked in the midst of a row of fat cows, instead of in the nice sturdy pen that the Farmer had built him.

Despite his diminutive stature, he knew his role and played it well. The females danced with him, and they even let him lead. When his babies were born that first spring, Young Angus stood at the half-wall and watched. He sniffed the air and craned his neck so he could lick the newborn calf. He mooed and the calf staggered over to meet him, just minutes after birth.

That first summer, Young Angus was rented out to three other farms, with new dance partners at each location. We asked his caregivers to be gentle with our bull, because he didn’t know anything else. He is like Ferdinand. He loves to stand under the apple tree smelling the blossoms, daydreaming about the fruit that will soon be there. He has a sweet tooth, and can be trained to follow instructions if molasses-laced sweet feed is involved.

When he was returned to us at the end of the summer, the sound of the cattle truck rattling around the bend got all the beasts in a tizzy. The sheep started baa-ing like crazy and Donkey and Misty came running up the field, hooves like thunder. Farm animals know that sound. It either means someone is coming or someone is going. The cows crowded around the gate, sniffing the air. Before Dennis had even stopped the truck, a conversation was struck up between Angus and his women. When Dennis opened the back of the cattle truck Angus stepped carefully down the ramp, pawed and sniffed the ground. He seemed happy to be home. I couldn’t believe how he had grown. His shoulders had rounded out into those of a full-grown bull and his head was massive.

I think everyone recognized each other. It had been a few months but Angus was home.

Dennis told us that Angus’ last keeper had him trained on apples. And the one before had him trained on sweet feed. So my bull was becoming quite tame. But he was the size of a small truck.

The next spring when the young heifer wandered down the fence row in search of a place to give birth in the snow, I ran ahead of her with a blanket. The other cows, the bull and the Farmer came out of the barn to watch. Every time I got near the heifer with the blanket, she would turn and run in the other direction. I don’t know what I thought I was doing. As if a cow is going to agree to give birth on a blanket just because I spread one out for her.

The Farmer was holding his arms out as if to say, “What are you doing??” and his lips were moving but I couldn’t hear him over the mooing from my end of the field. Finally the heifer decided to return to the barn, where we locked her in so she could give birth in safety and comfort, under our watch. The Farmer turned to me. “Did you think it was a good idea to run in front of a bull, out in the middle of a field with no protection, waving a red blanket??”

I smiled. “Young Angus wouldn’t charge me. He’s a gentle bull.” But then I glanced over and saw Angus had his beefy nose pressed against the crack in the barred door. He bellowed, as if to say, “Let me in. I want to watch!” I hoped he wouldn’t try too hard because he could certainly bust that bar if he tried.

Angus’ babies are old enough to have babies of their own now. It’s time for us to bring in a new bull, and it’s time for Angus to go, I’m told. That makes me sad. I hope his new owner appreciates our gentle giant and treats him well.

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