Friday, June 29, 2012

Don't Mess with the Bull!

As I was planting canna lilly bulbs around our now empty bull pen the other night, I was humming the tune from the old country song "Gettin' Down on the Farm".  We got a lesson a few weeks ago in why the bull pen is built like it is.
The now empty bull pen
Built with 2' square concrete posts & 2" steel piping.....
this pen is meant to control a big, large animal!
As a farm kid, you are taught at a young age to not mess with the bull, boar, ram, etc.  It was something we kept a close eye on when Brent's cousins visit - "Don't play with, tease, or try to pet the big black cow in the pen by itself" in a very stern voice.  I remember going over a fence headfirst as a teenager from a boar that seemed upset with me - I really think he just wanted more feed, but regardless, I went over the fence faster than he could catch me because I wasn't going to find out!  Normally, virtually all dairy cows are bred via AI (artificial insemination).  This allows us to use some of the best genetics available and use multiple bulls, not just the one bull we may have on the farm at the time.  Beef producers also use AI, but most of them also keep bulls on pasture with the cows most of the summer as well.  Maybe its the fact that we are working with the cows everyday with milking, maybe it is just the dairy genes, but dairy bulls are notorious for being just plain mean.  Not playing, mean!  I remember a friend in college that got beat up pretty badly working on the dairy farm on campus - you do NOT mess with a dairy bull!  In the last few years, we've started keeping a bull around the dairy to help get cows bred.  Most of these bulls used for breeding are born on the farm, raised in the pens just like the rest of the heifers, and so are used to all of us and being around people.  Overall, they are usually pretty docile, but at some point, we do need to keep them separated from certain groups of cows or heifers that they aren't allowed to breed.  This can tend to lead to them being put into the bull pen, which usually means they are by themselves, or they get put there when they show the first signs of acting like a bull.  3M (our previous herd bull) was a perfectly behaved bull.....until one day, Brent & I went into the pen that 3M was also in to sort cows.  He never bothered me, but the minute we walked into the pen, the bull made a beeline for Brent - so to town he went.  (We hypothesized that 3M liked to "fight" with the big round bales of hay when the skidloader brought them into the pen, and Brent always drove the skidloader, and that he recognized him, thinking he could fight the bale, except this time, there was no bale or skidloader!)  Kahlua, our current herd bull,  has acted more "bully" at a younger age than most of our previous herd bulls, so we had made a point of locking him up in headlocks before we even went into the pen, but overall, he hadn't been bad enough that we thought we had to get rid of him, or at least we were willing to deal with it until we used him to get a few more problem cows bred (as there are no younger bulls growing up on the farm right now).  That was until one morning Brent & his dad came out to milking to having found Kahlua out & about the farm having cleared the gate that was shorter than the rest of his iron/cement pen, but it was still chained, not bent or looking like he even nicked it when he cleared it (and the pen is only about 20' long, so he can't get much of a running start at it).  It took them nearly half an hour to get him back in the pen, after Brent got stranded on the top of a piece of equipment while Kahlua dared him to get off - pawing at him.  So, Kahlua is now gone, the bull pen is now empty, and we've had our share of messing with the bull, for awhile anyway.  

Kahlua before he left.  The pipe gate behind him that is sitting at an angle is what he cleared to get out.  It got put at an odd angle to prevent him from doing it again.

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