There is NOTHING funny about a bull. Nothing. Bulls kill people, people who know what they are doing. Scratch a farmer and they’ll tell you the tale of how a bull chased them, how a bull knocked them down, and the very day the cute-little-pail-fed-ear-scratched, boy calf turned into a powder keg with a lit fuse. It’s a tale of betrayal and it only gets told by people who have been paying attention and have a healthy dose of respect for the critter.
So, why keep a bull?
The obvious reasons, I suppose. That and it seems a more natural way of being for the cows. But it is a calculated risk.
I have Jersey cows. The girls are known to be sweet-faced, docile, thrifty and productive. They make really good milk. Jersey bulls are known to be aggressive and athletic. There are very few free ranging, over two year old Jersey bulls roaming pastures, they are just too quick and too protective. The farm in Maine where I picked up Moe’s father, Agamemnon, kept bulls in bull pens – 10 foot high chain link, metal posted affairs with a pivoting door bolted with a piece of steel rod. They knew and they weren’t taking any chances.
A friend had a twelve year old Angus bull, Able, who came and stayed with my girls a couple of years ago. He was huge. If he wanted to, he could have done major damage, but he was a mild-mannered fellow. And while you could feel the earth moving under your feet when he ran, he wasn’t for the most part, a runner. He lumbered. Never made a move to cause harm while he was here. I never turned my back on him, but I also didn’t feel like I was being held hostage on my farm.
And now I must tell you that this blog entry was hatched as I sat patiently peering through the chicken wire end of my chicken A-frame waiting for Moe, my 2+ year old bull, to lose interest in my presence.
I had needed a couple of parts off the chicken waterers that were attached to my chicken A-frames in the cow pasture. The animals, sheep and cows, have been patiently taking the A-frames apart as they first removed the clear plastic panels and then began rummaging around in them seeking shelter from the sun.
On more than one occasion I have watched as three cows and a handful of sheep filtered out of one of these 10 x 10 structures… the creatures performing a clown-car routine by tumbling out of an impossibly small space, lacking only stage makeup and purple wigs to complete the picture.
I snuck carefully into the pasture, making sure the chains that hold the metal gate closed didn’t jangle loudly enough to catch the attention of the cows. They associate the jangle with being moved to fresh grass and consequently will come running. Moe may not be paying attention, but when the girls move, he moves.
The houses were only 50 feet or so from the gate into the pasture and the cows were 3 or 4 hundred feet away. Stella, the 1/4 Milking Shorthorn, 3/4 Jersey cross, lifted her head and spotted me coming. I ducked behind the A-frame hoping that she hadn’t registered that it was me. Problem was my view of the cows was now blocked. I set to work removing the parts in the first house. So far, so good. With one down, I moved into the second house to remove another set of parts. It was then that I realized that the cows were now milling around the outside of the A-frame that I was in.
“Shoo, shoo”, I stage-whispered to Lily who was licking at my left hand which I had wrapped through the chicken wire to steady my right-handed efforts with the waterer.
Moe was right behind her, head down, snorting.
So there I sat in my chicken-y holding cell. After a bit and a couple of heartfelt sotto voce renditions of “let my people go”, I heard banging in the house next to me. Moe had climbed into it. Here was the chance I needed. I jumped out of the house and turned to look at Moe with his head sticking out of one side of the A-frame and his tail the other. He didn’t look surprised, but you could see him calculating the time it would take to extricate himself and his likelihood of catching up with me. He didn’t move, I did. A quick dash through the open gate, and I headed for the workshop, a free man.
Moe has only two more days before he goes to a slaughterhouse in Maine. It’s not his fault, he has only done what he would do in nature. But I think Moe is the last bull I will keep on the farm.
It’s just no fun worrying about people wandering into my fields or leaving gates open accidentally. I also don’t like the notion of being held hostage to a creature that has the tools to do real harm.
Moe gotta’ go.