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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Get in the trailer you frickn' cow.

Every few months we take a cow to the locker and fill our freezer with grass fed beef.  That should last us about six months.  Today was the big day.  Knowing what a pain it is to get a cow in a trailer that has never been in a trailer before, I decided to load her up last night.  Good thing, otherwise I'd have been later than I was for my locker appointment.  You see, a smart farmer builds a nice chute that the trailer can be backed up to.  And, if he's really smart, there will be a ramp that matches up to the trailer bed so the cow can go straight into the trailer without stepping up.  I'm not a smart farmer.  I'm just a guy who dabbles in farming so I don't have a nice chute to make loading a non-stressful event.  That means it takes longer, we risk getting hurt and the neighbors experience an expanded vocabulary that ensues with the cow doesn't want to get loaded.  Who can blame her?  Heck, she's headed to the locker the next day.  It must be sort of like walking The Green Mile getting into that trailer.

I was working in the barn on a couple of projects with my son Evan when I realized we hadn't yet loaded the cow and darkness would be upon us in about an hour.  We quickly hooked up the trailer and backed it up to the gate where we usually load the animals (because I'm not a smart farmer with a chute).  It was raining a bit so I knew it was a 50/50 proposition that I'd get up the slight incline with a trailer hooked up and a cow adding further weight.  But, that's the best place we've come up with so far so that's what we did. 

We open the gate, add on a cattle panel and create a sort of chute/pen.  Getting a cow into this is often a challenge, but that went amazingly well.  Got her in on our first try.  We just had to put her mom in first and she followed.  Old trick that works every time.  We then need to get her nose headed into the back of the trailer and encourage her to get up with hay or grain.  Neither worked.  We got her mom into the trailer after much pulling and shoving only to have her turn around and walk out.  A word sort of like frickn' snuck out of my mouth. 

I got some chicken feed and managed to entice the mom back into the trailer.  This time I tied her in there so she couldn't back out.  I'd have left there in there all night and even taken her on the ride to the locker in Winterset if necessary.  The calf coudn't resist and poked her nose into the trailer.  We closed the door on her to limit her egress.  She was sideways but her butt was backed to a fence post and she had little room to maneuver.  Yet, she managed to slide out.  About that time my son, Seth, walks up and offers to help.  We positioned him so the calf couldn't sneak out along side the trailer.  We got her nosed back into the back of the trailer, pressed the gate into her side and tried to encourage her to step up.  Seth suggested that we grab her tail and push it in the direction we wanted her to go.  Bingo! She was in.  Now, I knew that trick but got so wrapped up in my dripping sweat and honing my language skills that I'd completely forgotten about it. 

The next challenge was getting the Excursion pulled out with the trailer with an extra 2200# in the back and slippery grass to drive on.  My first try failed as my tires just spun, thowing up mud.  I backed up, knowing full well that I may end up backing up even further to the point I'd have to get towed out.  But, my second run made progress, throwing mud all over the front of the trailer.   I finally got to the top of the incline and pulled up the driveway towards the house.  Once on gravel again I stopped so that we could unload the mom.  My biggest fear was opening the door and having the calf escape and having to do that all over again.  I got the mom untied.  Evan manned the rear gate.  As the mom moved toward the gate I stuck a pole into the trailer to block the calf.  The mom stepped off and we were ready to roll. 

We made to the locker by 8:15 for our 8:00 appointment.  The calf stepped off the trailer without a glitch and we headed home.

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