Friday, May 29, 2015

Moving Bulls - Change is Hard

For almost two weeks, I've been needing to move one of my bulls to another pasture for breeding season, and for me, "move a bull" usually means sorting out the correct bull, loading him onto a trailer, and then hauling him down a dirt road to the pasture where I've got the cows grazing.   But with all the recent rains turning the dirt road into a bottomless pit of mud, I haven't been too enthusiastic about trying to see if I can pull a stock trailer sideways down a muddy road after it has slid into an inescapable ditch, so I've been putting off moving the bull until it stops raining long enough for things to dry out a little.

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it on this blog but since it's kind of important to the story I'll mention it again, but there are railroad tracks running through part of the farm that split it into two parts and there are a couple of underpasses that allow the cattle to move from one side of the tracks to the other.  For a while, I've had the bulls and a handful of later-calving cows in the pasture near the barn, and the rest of the cows and calves were two pastures away on the other side of the tracks.

I considered just trying to sort out the bull and walk him across the pastures to the cows, but it's not easy at all to walk, cuss, beg, and/or force a lone bull away from a pen full of cattle, across a pasture, through an underpass, across another pasture, and finally through a gate to another herd of cows while slogging though a bunch of sloppy mud.  Even if I had a halfway decent horse that knew its way around cattle and a pack of cow dogs, it would probably still be an exhausting and frustrating undertaking.

Another option was just combining all the cows and bulls into one herd instead of sorting them out into two breeding herds like I've always done it before.  A couple of weeks ago, I could have just opened up the underpass and the gates, and been done for the year with moving bulls, but I couldn't get over my bias towards doing things differently than I've always done it because for some reason, it's a little harder for me to experiment with something different when it comes to the cattle.  There are lots of reasons both for and against having a single herd with multiple bulls during the breeding season, but right or wrong, I've always tended to think the negatives outweighed any positives.

I finally decided to just wait until it stopped raining and everything dried out enough that I could get down the dirt road without fishtailing from ditch to ditch.  The weather and the bulls apparently didn't like that idea because yesterday I found all the cows and bulls on the same side of the tracks with only a barbwire fence separating the two herds.  Even though I usually check the underpass after every heavy rain, the last rain produced enough runoff to wash the gates open, the bulls found the open gates, and made the decision to quit messing around with all this wait-until-the-rain-stops-and-everything-dries-up-nonsense.  Since there there was no way I was going to get everybody moved back to where they came from, I opened the gate, and now we've got one herd for this breeding season (although I guess I could always sort everyone around sometime later this summer).

Today, I had some cows cycling, the bulls weren't trying to kill each other instead of breeding cows, I didn't have cattle spread out over two pastures instead of one, it didn't matter anymore if the road was muddy or not, and the world didn't come to an end because I changed how I was doing something, so maybe I never needed to divide the herd into two separate breeding herds after all.

After just two days of moving to a single herd instead of two herds, I'm wondering why I didn't do it sooner.


  1. Sometimes I struggle with decisions and procrastinate in hopes that something will happen that will show me the path. Almost always in the end, I think that things work out the way they are supposed to be whether it be fate or just my brain accepting what happened as the best way. Had this been my situation, I would chalk it up as another decision that sorted itself out with time.

    1. It doesn't hurt that I've been thinking about just having one herd for a few years, but if I had a group of heifers out there that I needed to breed to a specific Low Birth Weight (LBW) bull, there would have been much swearing, self-questioning of my competence, and predictions of the end of the Earth.