Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hogs at the slop in paradise

If you've ever slopped hogs you've seen a genuine feeding frenzy. It starts quietly, with all the pigs getting their snouts in the trough. As they gobble, though, they start swapping positions. Soon they're in a frenzy of shoving each other aside while inhaling as much food as they can.

It always looks as if they think their fellow hogs are getting the better deal, and they want that deal, dammit! That's anthropomorphizing though, attributing human thinking to animal behavior.

It's more likely that it's simple instinctive competition, a drive to get the most of a limited food supply. In some sense that meets the criteria for survival of the fittest, with all that that concept entails.

Humans do evidence similar behavior and it's impossible to disprove the notion that it comes from our animalistic past. We developed reason long before we developed civilization and cooperative behavior, and those survival rules of "me first at all cost" were business as usual for at least hundreds of thousands of years.

In today's modern first-world society such animal behavior is held in check by only the thinnest veneer of civilization. And much of our so-called civilized behavior is simply a more sophisticated form of getting more than our neighbors.

A couple of days ago I talked about health care costs. I believe that most people living in this country today are perfectly fine with being swindled so long as they imagine that they are getting stuff for free and -- most especially -- as long as they think they're getting somebody else's stuff for free. I'm pretty sure that describes the very superficial thought process involved in the American medical transaction.

I also think that my proposition is worth thinking about. Give it a five minute think and discipline yourself to do so without any yabbuts. What could it hurt?

And now that you've endured the lecture...


Two calves born yesterday, both in the early evening.

Now yesterday was a long, hard slog. I did a lot of physical labor and amassed about 6 miles of walking during the process of laboring. More on that in the not too distant future. Anyway...

By the time early evening came around I was on my chinstrap, very tired and very sore. The first cow to calve had a big heifer calf which was already up and nursing. I rather wanted to get her tagged, mostly because I prefer to get jobs done rather than letting them wait until later.

But mama had other ideas. She let me know that I wasn't going to get close to her calf. Well, good enough. The calf was still damp and was probably halving her first nurse, so the smart thing was to leave them alone and tag the calf in the morning.

The other cow I must confess had a calf about the same time and I completely missed the event. Had no inkling.

Anyway, when next morning rolled around I went out to tag the new calf with the owly mama and to check the rest of the cows.

As I approached owly mom, she charged over to a calf on the ground and defiantly stood guard, keeping a close eye on me and shaking her head menacingly.

Now the interesting thing was that the calf she was guarding wasn't hers, it belonged to a different cow and was three days old.

Owly mama's calf was about 200 yards to the north. I carefully and slowly drove around to the big heifer calf which was laid up in some tall grass, snoozing off a heavy breakfast. Owly mama gave me the stink-eye the whole time while bravely standing guard over what she almost certainly believed to be her calf.

I got out and snapped an ear tag into the big heifer, which immediately launched her into rodeo mode, bawling loudly and kicking up a fuss.

I was watching owly mama with one eye, and as soon as she heard the bawling she did a double take, then came on the run. It was quite amusing, that double take. I could almost see the "WTF?" balloon form above her head.

While this antic was amusing, she was still coming hell bent for leather. I had a devil of a time subduing the calf long enough to vaccinate her. But I did, and I did so in plenty of time to avoid being turned into paste.

Mama closely inspected her baby, gave me a serious glare, then the pair trotted off to quieter pastures.

Just another morning in paradise.

What's that? The other calf?

That one was a heifer too, and her mama was a lot more understanding.

Like I said. Paradise.


  1. Be careful out there.

    Don't want some mama cow ruining my vicarious ranching experiences!

    Very handsome beasties.

  2. Happy to read that everything is ok, or at least normal. I stopped by here earlier today and there was no post up, had me a bit concerned, it did.

    This may be a bit personal, but do you have a partner in running your spread? I can't imagine doing what you do by yourself, based on my experience at my wife's family's ranch.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. If I was a dedicated blogger I'd plan ahead/post ahead. Maybe someday. As I do it now, the posts are liable to pop up any time at all. Depends a bit on work load and a large bit on mood. I probably make too much of the danger. There's always risk in working with large animals but I've learned to be cautious. Sometimes the highway is more dangerous than a charging cow.

      It's a family operation. While I do a good bit of the day-to-day labor I get lots of help and lots of good advice from parents and siblings.

  3. I am much more comfortable with calf 720, and her Mom. Being from Wisconsin, if it isn't black and white, it isn't really a cow. ( Although there are a lot of red and white Holsteins, as well ). What type of cow beasties do you deal in?

    1. We're a beef cow-calf operation, so they're beef cattle first and foremost. All of our cows are crossbred. Most of the red cows are Red Angus x Simmental and there is obviously some Hereford background in a few. The blacks are usually called "Black Whiteface" cattle and are Angus crossed with a bit of several things, Hereford, Simmental, and other English and Continental breeds for the most part. We normally wouldn't have the blacks but they came up at a good price point to fill out herd numbers and so there they are.