When Cora came to live with us in October, 2012 – she arrived with a red bull calf at her side (her first) and confirmed pregnant, due to drop her 2nd calf in early May, 2013. But – she also arrived with her Dam, PF Patriot, whom also arrived with a heifer at her side (her second) and confirmed pregnant, due to drop her 3rd calf in late April, 2013.
Both cows were Brood Cows, never having any halter training until some minimal prior to Dwayne picking them up from the previous owner, rarely even touched by a human hand. From the very beginning – it was obvious that Patty took on a Herd Matriarch disposition, immediately. She wasted no time showing us what we could expect from her in the future, from the very moment she was off-loaded from the trailer to a stall in the barn. And red flags began showing up on a daily basis – until the day she departed.
There was something about Cora that told me we had a good chance with her fitting in very well – if – we got Patty out of the way. Cora dropped her 2nd calf during the middle of a storm, trapped by the ramrodding of Patty who was determined she would not ‘ allow ‘ Cora to have her calf in the barn. Just as I had feared… I was home alone. I’d never been so close to a calf being born, even worse…collecting one out of storm to get to a dry stall inside a barn.
And when our neighbor came to help me load the calf into a utility wagon, there was a moment when I read so much in Cora’s eyes… as I headed to the barn with her brand new baby. She wanted to follow me to the barn. She even began following. But Patty intervened with her nasty determination and forced Cora to go back to that far corner of the paddock. It would be later that evening after Dwayne got home from work and we had more help arrive, before we would be able to help Cora get to the stall and reunited with her baby.
My mind was made up at that point. Patty was not going to fit in with the herd. She kept our entire place on edge, until we took her to butcher shortly after weaning her calf a few months after she dropped her own calf. You could even feel the tension with our Bull. But you could feel a huge blanket of calm and peace all over our place, as soon as everyone could no longer even hear Dwayne’s truck or the rattling of the trailer driving away with Patty.
Still – we’ve walked a careful road with Cora, as she’s dealt with conflict in disposition. The ‘Brood Cow‘ in her has remained. But there’s been an obvious goal in Cora’s heart. She’s wanted to be touched and pampered the same as all the others. She would take Alfalfa cubes from our hands like it was nobody’s business. But then… Cora is one of those cows that will never turn down food! She’d follow me to the barn – IF – she saw the food in the bucket. But not until she saw the food. No fooling her with an empty bucket.
She began following along the fence as far as she could go this spring, as if she were grazing with us, whenever I’d lead April out to the open yard where she could graze on the early clover and grasses coming in better than in the paddocks, yet. But it became more than obvious about a month before she calved… when she, deliberately, swung her butt around to trap me in a corner of her stall fast enough that I lost my balance and had no choice but to lean on her back hip to catch myself. She didn’t even flinch a muscle, or, tighten a leg to prepare for initiating a kick.
In fact – she’s never kicked. Period.
Even then… I just refused to push limits beyond touching her lightly every once in a while, mostly if I needed her to shift so I could clean an area inside her stall. But I kept a close eye on her body language… her eyes… even her muscle movement. When we both stood outside the little yard on that morning I awoke and found her standing there with Seamus… we both witnessed her walk to her calf and begin nudging him in the butt, getting him to step forward… toward me. It was as if she were wanting us to come see her new baby. And once we encouraged her to go inside her stall with the calf to get him away from flies, which were beginning to show up for the season, already… she had no problem letting Dwayne come into the stall… touch the calf… and even administer his bovine e.Coli oral suspension. We were stunned!
And I guess the gates were just fully opened on the dam when the Mastitis came around. One step at a time to get her into the chute… using one tool after another… her calf, her ration… anything.
The 2nd day was harder. After spending over 3 hours in the chute and not being let out until after 10:30pm… she wanted no part of that chute. But she wasn’t happy with us taking Seamus out to the little yard, either. Dwayne was able to get her into a combo halter/lead rope and we managed to get her into the chute well enough to close the back door. With the help of our Vet… we finally managed to get her secured into the headgate. Dwayne thought about it. We decided to put a Dexter Control Halter on her while we had a chance.
It paid off, because the 3rd day was even harder. The day before entailed needles. She was given antibiotics, Banamine, and her annuals. We were just cruel to her, and she’d decided there was no way she was going back into that chute. I don’t think the tractor would have even been able to make that girl budge! It was then… that the ‘Don’t touch Me‘ era with this girl disappeared. She didn’t care. Dwayne was able to touch her all over. He brushed her. He massaged her shoulders. He prodded with a show stick. He even tried intimidating her with a lawn rake… began scratching her back with the darn thing. She LOVED it! Started curling and moving a little back and forth… making sure to keep those feel planted solid, of course.
I ended up going back in to help. Once again, she shocked us. She let me hook the lead rope, turned with me and headed to the chute. And once again, she balked when we got a couple feet near the chute. But she knows my buzz words, “I promise.” She looked me in the eye and we crept through the chute… one foot at a time.
We followed through with the promise. And yesterday was the easiest day, so far. Today – we’re moving the chute away from the barn door to let her out to graze. She’s been without green grass. We don’t want the other side of her bags to deplete. Today’s challenge will be to get her to walk into the chute from out in the little yard.
Eventually – the goal is to be able to lead her through the barn to the little yard and into the chute… until we no longer have to milk her. Hopefully, Seamus will be able to nurse on that left side.
Culling Patty has been a wise decision. It’s amazing to see all the transformation going on with Cora. We expect her to keep that rule of not wanting to share her food. But it’s been so worth having the joy of being able to help her become pampered like all the others. Even more… she is really enjoying her experience with this new calf… even with the troubles from the Mastitis!