Creatively loading up the animals

“Once bitten, twice shy.” The thought went through my head the other day when our beef cattle weren’t cooperating. Coordinating our schedules so I can be here to help my husband load up an animal when there’s a sale at the cattle barn is a bit of a challenge, and then sometimes we have to use a little creativity in order to get them where they need to be.

One day, we had the chance to load one up. I was fussing in the house when I got a call. “Open the gate!” Translated: “Come-out-here-I’m-getting-a-round-bale-I-need-help.” We have lovely discussions relaxing in our living room at the end of the day. It’s a give and take, back and forth conversation. Outside, however, he gives instructions with as little words as possible. (I’m the one with the words.)

While I watched the open gate, he deposited the round bale into the feeder on the cow yard. This gives our big animals the incentive to make their way slowly and surely into the cow yard where our cattle chute is ready and waiting.

We quickly exchanged places, me entering my safety zone, inside the skidsteer. He chased some cows out and a couple of errant calves, leaving a few steers inside the yard. A couple of animals were distractedly chewing on the round bale.

Separating one big steer, my husband guided him into the chute and using the skidsteer, I slid the gate shut, locking him in. Getting the trailer backed up, we loaded the big guy in and off my husband went, delivering him to the sale barn. Easy peasy.

Closing up the gate and plugging in the electric fence, I breathed a sigh of relief. I am always, always jittery around these animals; forever on guard … I think I’ve established that fact.

So, OK, that worked so nifty we tried it again two days later. At the sound of the skidsteer, they all perked up their ears and watched my husband drop the big round into the feeder on the cow yard. Still in their pasture, they looked up, snorted, swished a bug off their rear end and went back to pasturing. Not a single one would mosey up to the cow yard.

“They either know what’s coming or their bellies are full!” I hollered to my husband from my perch on the other side of the fence.

We waited for a bit. My husband cleaned off the cow yard, just buying some time in case they changed their mind. He even went out to the pasture trying to round up one of them. No luck. We’d have to try again another time.

Because the window of opportunity to haul to the sale barn closed that day, we switched gears. In a few days, we would be taking our two pigs to the butcher shop. They had fattened up in an area in which they rutted and ate and rolled and drank and furrowed since May. It had rained quite a lot just lately, and it was a mud fest in there. When we fed them, we had poured their breakfasts and suppers in their trough over the fence instead of venturing inside because of the mud. How in the world would we be able to get them in the trailer?

My husband came up with the idea of snipping the fencing on one side of their pen and backing the trailer up flush to the opening. Because the trailer wouldn’t be needed for a while, we could leave it there, thinking they’d get nosey and hoist themselves up. Brilliant idea. We waited a few days.

No luck.

Pigs rut. They really rut. In just a short while, they had burrowed a deep gully right next to where we had snapped the fence and backed up the trailer. There was no way they could step up inside the trailer from that hole they created. We pulled the truck and trailer away and I kept an eye on the gap while husband hauled three skidsteer buckets full of gravel, filling in the hole they had created.

Again, backing the trailer up flush, we stayed and watched. I ran for a pail of whole-kernel, shelled corn and adding a bit of temptation, sprinkled some milk replacer powder on top. If that wouldn’t lure them in, nothing would. We also had previously stuck leftover beets and green tops from the garden inside the trailer. They had a smorgasbord in there. Eventually, they started sniffing closer and closer.

“That looks like it’ll get them in!” I spoke out before I could think. Too late, at the sound of my voice, they shrank back.

“Don’t talk so loud!”

Quietly, we waited. I was getting cold. Snow showers the weatherman had not predicted were hitting my face. Sideways.

“Let’s unload that load of wood.” Good idea, at least I’ll warm up.

Finishing that task, we went in the house to have lunch. Later, husband checked on them. They had made it up! They were snug as two-bugs-in-a-rug in that trailer, enjoying a dry, straw-filled home with beets, corn, milk replacer and water in which to finish their life on the farm.

This trailer has come in so handy. It has hauled steers, a bull, and cows to market, even chickens to our Amish butcher and also pigs once a year to the butcher shop just down the road.

Loading up the animals is part of life on the farm, but sometimes you just have to use a little creativity!

(“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get His help and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” James 1:5-8, The Message Bible)