Saturday: Getting the cows pregnant has been more of a challenge than I have ever conceived of. The heifer is easy to read, as she enthusiastically mounts our sow when she is in heat, but the mama is somewhat quiet about the whole thing. Last summer we began our efforts toward bovine reproduction, trying only to get the older cow pregnant, as she belongs to a friend of ours and they would like to sell her. Thankfully our awesome neighbor offered up their Dexter bull’s services; all we had to do was walk the cow down the road and drop her off. (Side note: you probably have one or two awesome neighbors out there too; a good way to find out is to try to be a good neighbor whenever you can, first.) After a month of hanging out with Bruno the bull, we figured they had had their chance and it was time to bring her home, even though we never really saw any action from across the pasture. A few months later when both cows were seemingly in heat again, we made arrangements to have them put in with their big bull for a second shot. A few weeks in we saw him mounting the poor heifer, and she could hardly stand up under him. We were hoping that had done the trick, but a nagging doubt hung in the back of my mind.
Sure enough, a few weeks down the road, our neighbor texted to inform us that her small herd of cows had come back into heat again, after 4 months or so of exposure to their bull. This did not bode well for Bruno. Understandably, they had come to the decision that at eight and a half years old it seemed as though his sperm was struggling with the upstream swim, and it was time for him to step down and let the younger bull take over. Unfortunately, a ‘step down’ from breeding stock is generally the freezer, due to the expense of feeding a 1200 lb animal, and the increasing incidences of violence between him and the up-and-coming replacement. Understanding that a nearly nine year old bull is likely to be on the tough and dry side, and probably not wanting to spend the butcher fees on meat that would all need to be sent to the grind, Bruno’s owners were kind enough to offer him to us for slaughter, since we butcher everything ourselves and can make good use of the old bull. We set the date for a week out, and were all somewhat glum about his impending demise, for he had always been a good and gentle bull, who had a uniquely harmonious relationship with his master.
The day came, and I went to work early, half hoping to miss the kill. Unfortunately, when I arrived home, I spotted the bull standing in the middle of the pasture, and I could see Nicholas, our good friend Greyson, and our neighbors standing about the gate, staring at Bruno. My phone rang.
“Hey Babe, could you bring my .30-06 and a couple rounds over real quick?”
Unfortunately the .22, which we usually use with good success, didn’t even remotely affect the bull. He placed the shot on the spine where it connects to the skull, but we later figured that the shot was angled too far forward and probably hit the atlas bone or another large boney protrusion in the nether-skull region. The bull took off after he’d been hit, and spun around to look at the offending party. Apparently he shook his head a few times as if trying to shake off a stinging hornet, but showed no other signs of injury. Initially Nicholas figured that he may have completely missed the shot because Bruno’s reaction was more of fear and anger than of pain. It was shortly after this that I arrived home and delivered the much larger rifle. It was clear that this was going to have to be a long range kill, and that the bull would have to be herded into a specific position in the pasture to get a clean shot with a safe sloped backdrop. Even though the neighboring property was an empty sloping field, it was extremely important that if he should miss, that the round not leave the bull’s pasture. To assist in positioning the animal, Greyson jogged into the pasture and bravely faced the wounded bull. Every time they would get him close to the right position he would pick up the pace and run to an unsafe position for shooting. Greyson edged closer. Bruno turned to face him. Initially everything seemed normal; cattle are notorious for facing their adversaries before turning to flee, but this time Bruno took three or four steps towards Greyson. In that instant we all knew something was about to go down. Bruno gathered himself up and began the charge. Greyson high tailed it toward the field fence, arms pumping, running as fast as he could to escape those horns. He had about a quarter of the whole field to cover, where Bruno probably had just under half, so when he got to the fence he only had time to fly over it head first, arms outstretched. As he tumbled onto our property on the other side of the fence, we all let out our breath. He popped up, arms raised and let out a victory cry: “Woooo hooo!!” It frequently occurs to me that really need to carry around a video camera, and this is a prime example of one of those times where it would have been great.
It was time to get the job done. Bruno walked back down the pasture and turned to stare at Nick and his gun. BANG.
He dropped quickly this time, as all life left him. Nicholas reloaded his gun as a precaution and strode up to the carcass to slit the throat. I hugged our friend and neighbor. I had a feeling that I probably understood what she was feeling. We’ve decided that even though bigger louder guns may upset the neighborhood, we’ll be skipping over the .22 for big bulls.
Days 2 and 3 to follow…