Monday, May 4, 2015

Never Underestimate a Mama Cow

We're just about finished calving for another year. And every day that I check cows I think about how dog gone smart mama cows are.  "There are some people who will tell you how stupid a cow is, but that's just a sign they've been outwitted by some." I'm paraphrasing the great horseman Bill Dorrance with that quote.  But he hit the nail on the head for sure.

I see numerous people posting a picture on Facebook of a mama cow with the saying "If you want to know fear, try out running a mama cow"....or something to that effect.  But I wonder if people really stop and think about why that mama cow does what she does.  Well, if you happen to be female and you happen to be a mama, just think how you'd feel if you thought someone was trying to mess with your sweet baby.  Maybe it looked like someone was trying to do harm to your baby.  Well, you'd fight to the death, wouldn't you?  I hear other ranchers say that a cow should stand while you tag her calf.  And I kinda prefer that too, but I understand and I don't blame her for trying to protect her calf.  I'd like to think she'll stand her ground if a coyote comes pestering her baby.  And I'd like to think she'd run that coyote off and blow snot on him all the way.  'Cause that's her job!

But some of the things that I've seen all my life never cease to amaze me.  One is how a cow can leave her baby all tucked up sleeping in some bunch grass way out in the middle of a big pasture and she can go to the well for a drink, maybe head to the salt tub for a little lick and on her way stop and pick a little grass or even eat some hay if it's brought to her.  Then after several hours have passed, she can walk right back to the exact spot where Junior is still napping.  She can let out a beller from a ways away and he'll stand up and come a runnin' for lunch.

Here's another thing that I just saw again yesterday.  Two days ago, I moved some bigger pairs through a pasture that had some newborns and heavies.  I thought I had everything moved out of the way before I started my bunch through, but as I was moving them I saw a newborn curled up in the grass.  I didn't think too much of it, figured Mama was up in the hills pickin' grass and she'd be back eventually to pick him up.  I moved everything else across and left the baby alone.  So as I always do, I went back yesterday to make sure everything was ok.  When I got to the gate to the pasture where all the older pairs were, there was a cow standing patiently at the gate.  I happened to notice that her bag looked pretty full and like she had not been nursed in a while.  When I opened the gate, she kinda acted like she'd like to come to the other side, so I let her through.  I stayed and tied a wire up on the fence and then I followed her.  She wasn't in a big hurry, just walking along, but she was very obviously headed in a certain direction.  By this time, I was pretty sure where she was going so I wasn't a bit surprised when she got over to where that baby I'd seen the day before had been and the baby stood up, stretched and ran to mama for a meal.  That never ceases to amaze me.  And I've seen that happen on way bigger scales when we go to summer pasture.  The next morning when you go check, there will be a cow either standing at the gate or making her own way back to the pasture we started from.  And if you follow along and open gates for her, when you get to that last pasture, you will see her walk to the very spot she left Junior napping in the morning before.  It's almost equally as amazing to me that the calf will hide there until his mama returns.

And then of course, there's the Nurse Maid.  Well, that's what Dad always called her.  The Nurse Maid can be any cow who has a calf.  When we feed, there will almost always be one cow that will stay back with a bunch of calves while the other cows run to the cake pickup.  She stands watch over all the babies that are in her little bunch until their mamas come back to pick them up.  She won't come to the cake pickup.  She'll just stand and watch you leave if you don't drive over to her and feed her.  She'll eat, but she won't leave her post.

A cow can recognize her calf from its smell, very often from sight and I'm pretty sure they can both recognize each other's voices.  I think that's pretty amazing for a "dumb animal".  But of course, I'm of a lot different mind set when it comes to cows than a lot of people, I guess.