Cows with an Attitude
Last year when #41 calved my husband said, “There’s your cow—remember her?” as the pickup puttered past the new pair. I looked at him blankly, trying to figure out what he was talking about; then he reminded me that she put both of us up on the fence during calving season the year before.
I usually can’t remember calving details of every cow unless we’ve had a memorable relationship with them and even then I rarely remember them by their eartag numbers. Three years ago while trying to sort #41 and her new calf into a separate pen from the other cows in the barn, the cow tried to take us both. She calmed down some after we turned them out of the barn so we didn’t write her off just because she was overprotective. We gave her the benefit of the doubt instead. Last year she had a textbook calving outside; therefore, we didn’t encounter any behavioral issues so we dismissed her belligerence as circumstantial. After three calving seasons of chances to prove temporary maternal instinct behavior, we now think otherwise.
This year it’s become apparent that she’s developed a habitual bad attitude and has been nicknamed “Grumpy” regarding her moodiness. We’ve determined that her temper is going to stick…it just isn’t going to stick around here come sorting time in the fall.
A few weeks ago my husband got her under the lean-to to calve on her own outside, yet still be protected from the wind. When he checked later, she’d had the calf but it was kind of puny and lying flat. A calf lying flat is never a good sign. My husband managed to slide the little bugger under the panel away from Grumpy and put it in the calf warmer box. He gave it some electrolytes and a “Gene pill” (what we call a miracle pill that boosts calves’ energy and was introduced to us by a neighbor named Gene).
Grumpy wasn’t cooperative in letting my husband and son milk her to help get the calf off to a good start with its first dose of mother’s milk in its belly. Turning the pair out didn’t seem to change #41’s attitude either. She’s made it clear that she wouldn’t hesitate to try and take us.
A guy hates to write off a good healthy mother cow, especially ones that clean right away (drops her placenta/cleaning soon after she calves—a sign of a healthy cow) but there comes a point when a cow’s unpleasant temperament overrides her positive attributes. Some cows may only get aggressive when they’ve calved and mellow out after some time has passed. Then there are cows like Grumpy, who develop a mean streak and stay that way.
Most cattlemen will give every cow the chance to prove that her aggressiveness is just a temporary maternal instinct, at least until proven otherwise. Once it’s obvious that a 1,200-1,500 pound cow that can throw her head around like a wrecking ball is too dangerous for anybody to be around, then its time to cull her out of the herd.
Grumpy won’t be with us next calving season but that’s all right. She’s given us the kind of memories that have been recorded in our calf record book history. No cows we have close encounters with are ever forgotten.