I have the cows running on brome grass meadows and need to get them fenced off them before the fertilizer comes. How do I know this? I know this because my co-op called me to see when I want my fertilizer applied and if I was ready.
My first reaction was, “why are you calling me so early? I want my fertilizer on in February. Oh wait, it is February. Yeah, I am ready anytime.”
I hung up the phone and began wondering how I am going to get the fence built.
To top that off, an arctic blast coming in has given me a swiftly approaching deadline. I admit that I work better on swiftly approaching deadlines, but it does not do my heart and blood pressure any good.
In any case, I had two days of nice weather to complete the task. Two days should be more than enough because the fence I must build is not that much or that hard to build. But if you know me, you know it is not enough time.
Day 1 of the nice days saw me trying to fill all the hay feeders and run some errands that had to be done. Remember what I said about swiftly approaching deadlines and my ability to work better? Finally, at 3 p.m. I had gotten to the point of being able to build fence. It left me two hours before I had to do chores and check sheep. It should have been enough time. That was if things went smoothly and that is a big “if.”
I took Ida, our cow dog (using the term cow dog loosely), loaded up supplies and went to the first patch. I thought I could sneak in with the side by side and get the job done quickly and quietly. I really like my side by side, it makes life a lot easier with tasks like rotating cows to new pastures. Funny thing is that it makes other tasks like building fence much tougher. The cows are conditioned to think they are getting new, fresh grass each time they hear the side by side.
I pulled in the patch and started to hook up the corner insulator where we split the native and brome meadows. I looked up and here came the herd at a full stampede gallop right at me. They came to a screeching halt right before they crossed the line into the brome. I was still good.
They seemed content to watch me run the wire and tie it on the other end. They were watching my every move, but staying where I wanted them to be. I started back toward them putting posts in as they watched me, and I watched them. Some of the cows even started drifting back to the feeders and away from the fence. Then Ida decided to get involved.
She bailed out of her spot on the seat of the side by side and trotted over to the cows. I am not sure what was going through her beany little brain. The cows looked at her and decided either she was a threat or something to be played with. Immediately they started to chase Ida.
Instead of running away from the newly assembled fence, she decided to run through it. Remember, I did not have all the posts in, so the fence in one spot was nose-high to a fat blue heeler.
She proceeded to take the fence and most of the herd with her through it and out into the brome. I am not going to lie, I renamed her and every cow as they plowed on into the brome, dragging my fence with them.
I had been three or four posts from having it complete. I drove out to them, collected the sheepish dog. I tried to drive them back in, but they would not cooperate. They knew something was up.
Then the light bulb went on. (It is a dim bulb, but it does light up occasionally.) If I could not drive them back in, I would lead them back in.
I turned and started driving toward the bale feeders, calling to my cows as I went. They picked their heads up and came at full gallop. When we got to the feeders, I had another dilemma. How do I get them to stop following? I quickly searched the bed and all I had were a few flakes of straw. I threw them out and sped back to the fence. Luckily, I was able to find both ends quickly before the cows figured out the bait and switch. By the time they ran back to the side by side, I had both ends in my hands and was feverishly working on splicing them.
I got the ends spliced and the remaining posts in, and the cows were corralled on the right side. Ida, the supposed cow dog, cowered in the seat while I finished the project.
That left me one day and one fence to build. No problem. What could go wrong – especially with a swiftly approaching deadline?
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.