To Cull, Or Not To Cull, That Is The Question
(Published October 2012)
One summer back in the late ‘90s, before I had seen a Devon, I bought a group of big, slick Angus/Simm bred heifers from a solid outfit in Keswick. The heifers started calving in the glorious weather of early October and the maternity ward was a luscious green with waves of tender grass and clover. Afternoons were sunny and golden but with a slight crispness, the nights were cool enough to stymie the flies, the creek was gurgling clear and the leaves were stunning—fiery reds, sharp golds and bright yellows. It was a good time to be a cow.
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon I picked up my mother and drove into the maternity ward to see what dividends the heifers had brought forth that day, only to find that two of the girls had backed up to each other and calved and were thoroughly confused about which solid black bull calf belonged to whom. Compounding the confusion was a third heifer, a heavy springer who was claiming both calves.
The cattle were located under a dead tree next to a gentle
grassy slope that descended about eight feet to the lower level of the pasture, near the creek. The plan was to pull up next to the calves, pop them in the back of the truck and let the heifers follow us to the barn where I’d sort matters out.
I positioned the truck between the cows and the calves and told my mom to hang on just a sec while I loaded the calves. The two heifers who had calved didn’t offer me much of a challenge as I loaded the first calf but as I bent
over to grab the second one I heard a serious snort and looked up to see the third heifer coming around the front of the truck head-down, nose-out straight toward me, with hate in her eyes.
Without pause I shot down the grassy slope and was a little amazed at how fast I was running. I remember thinking “man, you are one swift-footed 40 year old boot-wearing Anglo-Saxon, dang you are fast!” Then, a sensation of mounting the air and a swirl of technicolor, blue sky and white clouds and bright leaves and green grass amid my mother’s screams, and then a face-first whap to the ground.
The heifer’s momentum carried her well past me but I heard her turn around, gather herself, and charge back toward me. There wasn’t time to get up so I lay there until the last second then rolled out of her way. Flipper, as she’s now known, wasn’t finished. She made another run at me and I fought her with a stick but she wouldn’t let up. Had to do the matador-step to avoid her charge.
Flipper’s foul intentions must have triggered a rush of adrenaline and testosterone in me. Suddenly I was in kill-or-be-killed mode and was totally focused on getting Flipper before she got me. I yelled at her to come on, and kept yelling as I fought her with sticks and small rocks. When I realized the weapons at hand weren’t stout enough I ran to the truck and climbed up in the back to find something in the toolbox that might do the job.
Then I sort of woke up. I loaded the other calf and got the heck out of there. I won’t mention the kind of shape my mother was in.
Figured I’d sell Flipper after she raised her calf, but her first one weighed 690 at weaning so she got another chance. The next year she had twin bulls that together weighed 1320 at weaning. Every year after that she raised the top calf in the herd. She also treed me several times (she’d stalk anybody in the field when she had a calf), fought with my horse multiple times when I was gathering the herd, chased my helpers out of the corral, and dang near nailed me several times around the barn lot. One of the best episodes was when she treed a 280 lb. he-man cop friend of mine on the gate-post into the corral. It was remarkable to see a big, tough guy like that perched on a 6” post, saucer-eyed.
Should have culled her sooner
- Guille Yearwood -