September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Clever cow tracks

By Jacqui Davison- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

What is the first thing to happen when the ground is muddy on a farm? The cows get out! It never fails, be it the spring thaw, after a big summer rain, or a week of 40 degree temperatures in early February. I'm convinced this is a premeditated effort on the cows' part. Over hours of cud-chewing they secretly discuss their plans for total lawn destruction, waiting patiently for the prime opportunity. After they have done their damage, I often ponder what is worse, hoof prints or mole tunnels on a lawn. I have decided both aggravate me equally.
When the boys and I stepped out of the van last Friday morning, we were immediately greeted with the evidence of the party the night before. Hoof prints across the lawn around the house (and in the flower beds) and manure across the driveway. It is a wonderful way to teach the boys how to track animals, and with the surplus of prints, this was a very easy lesson. By the time we got to the first set of freestall barns, we were sure it was more than one or two cows - probably 20 or 30. When we rounded the corner and saw the hillside now covered with perfect hoof craters, Ira and I thought maybe 50. By the time we reached our barn, Stacy said they were having a good time by her hutches as well. Somehow I forgot, on our farm, it is very rarely only 50 cows, usually it's more than 100 of them kicking up their heels, bellowing, "Free at last, free at last!" Turns out they saw a door open and pushed the gate until it fell off and out they went. No one realized they were gone for about an hour, when one of the employees was scraping the group across the feed alley and glanced over to see a mere 20 cows left in the barn. This means approximately 112 bovine beauties were out on a moonlight rendezvous. They certainly made their presence known from one end of the farm to the other.
I'll never forget the phone call of distress from my dad a few summers ago, "Come quick! Group one is out, and bring your camera!" All I could think is that this must be a good one. Isn't it funny how your oldest cows, the ones that take the longest time to walk to the parlor, suddenly feel five years younger when their hooves hit the grass? They run just as fast as the rest. After we corralled 100 of our oldest girls, the culprit of the day's escape was revealed. There stood Big Three, looking quite proud, yet a bit miffed that she couldn't join in the festivities. She had stuck her head through the gate to reach an itchy spot, and lifted the gate clear off the hinges to release the herd. There she was, ready for her Kodak moment, with a 12-foot red gate stuck on her neck. Quite a sight.
Then there was the time last summer when I was doing chores by myself, enjoying a quiet evening in the barn, looking at the clock thinking, "Wow, I could be home by seven!" How silly of me to think that could actually happen. The first sign was the dogs barking. I peeked out and figured it was only one cow that I "didn't see." The barking didn't stop and as I walked around the corner of the barn I was greeted by 60 lovely ladies tearing up the lawn. The need for back-up was clear now, so I called Dad. He calls me back in minutes, laughing because the other half of the group was down by the house, in the sheds, and by the bunkers. Running down the hill, breathless, I called Peter asking where he hides the key for his four-wheeler. I went zipping across the yard, actually kind of happy to chase cows; it gave me a good reason to cruise around on the four-wheeler like a maniac. Needless to say, after all of that excitement, I didn't make it home early.
Come to think of it, the same group of cows sneaks out every few months. They are definitely plotting. How else would they know that if they divided up they could cover the most ground, literally.
Jacqui, her dad and brother milk 550 cows and run 1,000 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children - Ira (4) and Dane (2) - farm with her while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. She loves to cook, quilt and garden and wishes there were more hours in the day to get it all in. Farming and teaching others about farming are her passions.
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