Wednesday, September 9, 2020
What the hell is checking cows?
Every morning I go out and check cows. I frequently write and talk about checking cows. It's not uncommon for me to suddenly realize, in the middle of a conversation or in reading a comment, that my correspondent or conversationalist really doesn't understand what I'm talking about. And why would they? Not many people check cows, and only one people check cows on the EJE Ranch.
At a slight tangent to the thrust of the previous paragraph, I also sometimes realize, usually in spoken conversations, that the person I'm talking to is completely certain that they know not only what I'm talking about, but they know it far better and more completely than I ever will. They've never checked a single cow anywhere, mind, but they know, and they know better. They are a superior form of life. They're what Orwell described as "more equal" animals in Animal Farm. That's kind of a scary situation, because people who spend a lot of time in the realm of certainty and extra-equality are some scary motherfuckers. Butt I digress.
The obvious (at least to me!) question is in the title of this post. What the hell is checking cows?
Well, brace yourself. Because checking cows is a lot of things, and assessing the health and wellbeing of cattle is only a small part of the thing.
Nevertheless, let's start with that. What am I doing when I check an actual cow?
In one sense I'm doing the same thing I did when I was seeing human patients in sick call. I'm looking at the cow or bull or steer or calf to see if they look healthy. Is it upright and breathing? Is it moving around? Is it eating and or drinking? Does it look at me? How is it holding its head, how is it holding its ears? Is it calm and relaxed and doing normal cow stuff?
When I first started this actual ranch operations cow checking, I had to eyeball every single individual animal and look closely while checking off my "healthy animal" list. Over time I got to where I could take these things in at a glance, and later still, I began to be able to assess cow status by seeing patterns. "How does this pattern of cow distribution and behavior match up with previous patterns, with 'normal', and is there anything in this pattern that looks abnormal?"
Whenever the pattern is disrupted by anything abnormal or different, the different thing or things stand out like a flashing strobe. A single set of droopy ears or a single drooping head. A hitch in gait. a "ganted-up" or gaunt looking animal. When I see the different thing I can take a closer look and assess whether there's a problem, and if so, begin to put together a plan.
Sometimes the different thing is fun. When I see a group of cattle which appear to be looking at the same thing off in the distance, I follow their gaze. Sometimes I see coyotes, or dogs, or fluttering bits of paper. One morning I saw a bunch of frisky calves chasing a coyote, and the mama cows seemed to be watching with approval.
I look at a lot of other stuff when I check cows. I look at grass and water and fences and weather. I think I'll save those things for another day.
What's the opposite of a wedgie? De-pantsing? Eigdew?
I went for a short walk through town and as I was walking along my now too-loose underwear slid down. All the way down until they caught in the crotch of my jeans. They'd have come all the way off were it not for the jeans, which themselves are now two sizes too large and cinched tightly to my waist with a belt. A belt which has had five new notches added over the spring and summer.
I did it to myself.
Took Tommy and Nona out to check cows this morning. It was Tommy's first time. He was a little bit uncertain.
His first time seeing chickens too.
And a first opportunity to meet Red and Jake.
Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.