Now that it is dark when I get home after work, I try to do all my animal bonding and light-requiring chores in the pre-dawn glow before heading off to town. The Highlands are on their third small pasture paddock, and they still have a couple of days of good grass left before I open up the next break. These animals are pretty serious foragers and have cleaned up the brush in the pine grove very nicely. They also have made efficient use of a small creek for drinking, even though I keep a stock tank filled with fresh clean water in the corral.
I really enjoy working with cattle on foot using a combination of the Bud Williams approach and a bit of common sense. In keeping with that low-stress approach, I like to be able to call the cattle into the corral … rather than whooping it up and driving them in. It worked with our Angus herd, so I figured it would work with the Highlands. In this case, I call once or twice (hey bos) and rattle some 100-percent-natural, 20-percent-protein cattle cake in a small plastic bucket. The stuff smells like molasses … I have been tempted to taste it myself.
This morning, even though I was out of town last weekend and part of last week, the cattle heard me feeding the Mulefoot pigs, headed to the corral and were waiting quietly for a couple of cake cubes apiece and a chuck on the chin. When the ritual was completed, they turned one by one and headed back out to the pasture. What fun. Jack the donkey, who lives with the cattle, lingered to get his treat. His rank is pretty well in the basement of that little herd. Valentine, who lives in the adjacent paddock, waited to get her cube until Jack was finished. She also got her ears rubbed.
I can’t really think of a better way to open up each day than with a glorious sunrise and some quality time with the animals whose lives so enrich ours. I cannot wait for the winter solstice to arrive … I am already anticipating longer days and more daylight on the beginning and end of the work day. I like the seasons well enough, but I thrive on daylight.
Highland cattle photo by Kate Will.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.