Farewell to the Mean Red Cow
November weaning is more than separating well-grown calves from their nursing mothers. It is harvest time; calves are weighed, cows preg checked, vaccinated or culled. This time, with no false compassion, The Mean Red Cow will go.
The Mean Red Cow is one of the few cows kept when the full commercial herd was sold. Did not plan on keeping her, just a hand full of registered Black Angus to run a smaller herd. But Fate said “No.” Got to keep you busy out here with those two small boys and a town day-job so here are five squirrelly black heifers to raise and this one young red cow the California cattle buyer would not take. She, the red cow not yet known as The Mean Red Cow, had calved early morning in the corner of the field the day the cowboys were gathering animals to ship. You cannot ship a newborn calf in a semi-truck. And best you leave the high on hormone mother alone, too.
At first we thought The Mean Red Cow was just fussy because she had just calved and would calm down. We put the other heifers in the field with her. Made no difference to her. She kept her head high all the time. If you entered the field she started pawing dirt. At the manger she hung back with her calf, hungry as a nursing mother can be, but waited till the manger was full and you were walking away before she pushed and shoved her way through the fat cows lined out to eat. She did not trust man, dog, coyote. Barely tolerated horses or pickups. She charged everything. Chased you around the truck if you tried to vaccinate her calves or climbed in the truck-bed with you. She rolled the dog a time or two and the coyotes just knew to stay away whenever she lowered her head and pawed dirt.
We knew to stay away, too, but sometimes we just had to get close to preg check her, or brand her calves. Always a rodeo production. We knew it and planned accordingly who would be the decoy clown, who would hold the syringe and run, who would try to catch her head in the chute. We developed great wide respect for The Mean Red Cow. She made great calves for over 10 years. Fat and sleek calves as red as herself or black as the bulls, and we are thankful for every one.
But this summer The Mean Red Cow never fattened to the mini-bus size she usually fills out to on good grass. Moving from pasture to pasture noticed a slip of her hip, a drag of the foot. November weather is turning; grass is short, need to start feeding, weaning and preg checking. Not going to preg check The Mean Red Cow though. It won’t matter.
Once before, with what turned into a bad idea, we allowed an old cow from the first herd we ever bought to stay on. As her advanced aging problems developed we had to end her suffering abruptly. The Mean Red Cow is the last of our original “registered” herd. Maybe that’s why we kept her too long. But cannot watch her keep slowly falling off and struggle through winter. Her calf is healthy, he will be shipped and so will she. Not because we don’t love her, but because we do.