I’ve always loved playing tag. It gives you a reason to sprint, which is an exhilarating feeling. I mean, how many opportunities do you really get to just full-on run as fast as you can?
Except this game of tag is a little different. This time, we’re tagging calves. As in ear-tags. And these calves can not only run super fast, but they can jump, bellow, kick, flip-flop, wiggle, scream, pant, and foam at the mouth like nobody’s business. Which in and of itself isn’t so bad until you add in an angry, over-protective mother who weights 1200 pounds who also knows how to sprint.
We try to tag the calves when they’re little. 5 hours old? Perfect. 2 days old? Not bad. 3 weeks old, like last night’s bullcalf? Not a great idea. At 3 weeks, these suckers are big, strong, fast and super stubborn. They also can make a noise like you’ve never heard before.
Last night presented the perfect opportunity, though, as the mother had walked down to the pasture and left her calf resting peacefully in the barnyard. Ha! The fools! We shut the gate to keep the calf in and the mother out, and the fun started.
Marcel was on lasso, I was armed with the ear tagger. The calf was running wild around the barnyard, but made the mistake of heading into the barn. Ah-ha, gotcha! Marcel caught him around the neck and the fun began. This bullcalf was strong, and started whipping Marcel around the entire barnyard. Marcel was hanging on, trying to get ahold of him to trip him up, but there were hooves flying every which way–and let me tell you, these little calves kick HARD. Finally the calf jumped close to the round bale cage. Marcel took advantage and pushed his body against the cage, wedging him in. I ran up and tagged him as quick as possible: #39. The little bugger.
In the meantime, the kids had entered the barnyard to see if they could help. They could not. But they left the gate open and Honeysuckle escaped into the yard. First off, she was scared to death from all the bellowing and bawling coming from her buddy. And second, she’d never been anywhere outside of the barnyard before, so was immediately disoriented.
Rodeo #2 formed, trying to catch Honeysuckle and get her back in. I yelled at Ana to grab a bottle, the one comfort she knows, while Marcel and Rob were trying to keep her out of the road. We live on a blind hill, the calf was about 6 feet from the road, and we could hear a car speeding in our direction. (A good reason to SLOW DOWN on rural roads, people!) Honey kept running erratically towards the road, then back again. Luckily she froze when the car got close–it was a full-sized van.
How traumatic would that have been? Shudder.
Marcel finally lassoed her, so was able to keep her from the road, and by then I had the bottle in hand and led her back to the barnyard. Whew! What an evening!
One more to go, though. We had to drive down to the pasture to find this one–a heifer calf, about 10 days old. She’s still pretty sleepy, though, so tagging her wasn’t the issue. Keeping the mother away was. After Marcel lassoed her around the neck, we slowly chased the mother and babe around until they were close to the fence. I drove the PUG inbetween the mom and babe, at which point Marcel grabbed her and tried to tag her.
Only problem? The tag didn’t clasp correctly. So now he’s trying to get it to clamp down and secure itself while the mother is chasing him around the PUG. I’m warding her off with a stick, but don’t want to use it forcefully unless she’s really going to attack him because we rely on trust to move these cows from paddock to paddock. Thankfully she’s calm enough to not attack, and only wants to know that her babe is OK. Job done, Marcel tired, excitement had.
We really need a sophisticated corral for these jobs. Any anonymous donors out there?
Anyone? Yoohoo! Hello!? Tap-tap-tap. Anyone?