The Cattle In My Yard

☆ September 18, 2010

cattle in the yard
I took this photo in early July and began writing this post back then, but then This Summer happened and I never finished!  So now I shall.  These are the cattle that spent the summer with me here at home.  Sir Baby has since joined them, as of about a month ago.  More on him, soon!

Here we have Daisy, of course, the matriarch, ring leader, cow princess.  Frisco, her calf, is beside her; he melts me.  And Ricardo the goose still thinks he’s a cow.

TR, the steer on the left, is a Farmily member I’ve not yet mentioned.  He was born last summer to one of Mike’s very old cows that has since gone off to cow heaven after a very long and lovely life.  Since he was born midsummer, much later than the rest of the calves who were born in March, he was not branded nor banded (castrated).

When all the cows and calves came home for the winter, this male calf had to be separated from the bunch as he would have bred all the heifer calves by spring, which would have been a disaster.  We did castrate TR eventually, but in the meantime, he and Sir Baby hung out together with Houdini and Sunshine away from the girls.

He was Sir Baby’s first bovine friend (Baby was an only child with Daisy, his adopted mom, for the first summer and fall of his life), and I was so happy to have TR help socialize Baby in the ways of cattle.  Playing, headbutting, all that normal stuff that Baby had never had opportunity to do.  TR was much bolder yet much smaller than Sir Baby so I felt they were evenly matched.  TR, I suppose I should mention, stands for The Runt.

After Sir Baby left to go spend the summer impregnating heifers, TR bonded with Frisco, who, at 5 months, had grown to about the same size as TR.  And TR, after befriending Frisco and spending all his time with him and Daisy, BEGAN SUCKING DAISY!!!  Even now, she is content to nurse two very large steers.  It’s a truly ridiculous sight – Frisco and TR are nearly as tall as she but she stands patiently as they flank her, one on each side, suckling every drop of milk she has to offer.  (I separate her from the boys at night so that I may get milk each morning; then they drink from her throughout the day.)

TR was meant to be sold to a neighbor for them to fatten and dine on but since my emotions govern my checkbook I bought TR from Mike instead and told the neighbors they had to find another steer to eat, this one was family.  He can be a pain sometimes, he manages to get his head stuck everywhere and he’s still so runty and quite pathetic looking, but he’s a good little steer.  He’s smart, he’s sweet, he is a friend to Sir Baby and Frisco, and he showed me when Daisy was cycling this summer – though he can no longer get the job done, he still has The Urge when a cow comes into heat.  He’s important around here.

The other adult cow in this picture is 16.  She was with the herd on the day we trailed to the mountain.  There’s a short stretch of BLM from Mike’s back gate to the dirt road that goes up the mountain which should have taken us about 20 minutes to cross with the cows.  They’d been that way before, and there’s a trail through the sagebrush and the yucca.

tryin to trail

The blasted YUCCA.


Cows LOVE yucca flowers. It’s like dessert to them. And so, instead of trickling towards the mountain in a smooth, easy line, the cows scattered across the BLM, hiding in draws, running every which way to munch on yucca.


This is not what trailin’ cows are supposed to look like. They are supposed to look like THIS. But thanks to the yucca buffet, they were milling around, headed every direction, and were nearly impossible to move once they had latched onto stalk bursting with delicious blossoms.

Mike and I – it was just the two of us, which would have been fine if not for the yucca being in bloom – were going insane.  We’d circle the scattered cattle from the back and, by the time we got them herded into the bunch, the cows in front had scattered.  We raced around trying to gather the cows and get them moving forward, screaming at eachother, sweating, frustrated… it was not pretty.  That 20-minute stretch took us three hours.  Once we hit the dirt road and the yucca plants were behind us, the cows strung out in a perfect line and ambled straight up the mountain like angels.

The next day was 100 degrees by 10am.  And there was a lone black cow standing at the back fence.  I jogged up to her and opened the gate, knowing she’d be wanting water and hoping to get her locked in the corrals.  She belonged on the mountain.  I opened the gate and then circled around her on foot to run her in but she went crazy and ran back out into the BLM.  Very odd behaviour.  I chased her a bit, to no avail; it was too hot to try to herd a crazy cow on foot by myself, so I left the gate open for her and went home.  I knew she’d come in eventually to get water.  When Mike got home I had her held in the corral.

Her bag was very tight (ie, her udder was very, very full), which meant her calf was up on the mountain without her.  We figured she was hiding in a draw eating yucca during the morning madness of the day before and we missed her, and meanwhile, her calf had traveled up the mountain with the herd.  So we loaded her in the horse trailer and drove her up the mountain and dropped her off at the very top.  That way, she’d have to walk through all the other cows and calves to get to the mountain spring for water, our hopes being that in doing so, she’d find her calf and all would be well.

The next morning, she was standing at the back gate again.

I couldn’t believe it.  She’d walked all the way down the mountain, by herself, in the dark, and come back home.  I went out to try to herd her in and again, she ran off like a crazed beast whenever I circled around her.  So again, I left the gate open and left her.  When Mike got back, she was still standing out beyond the fence so he went out on his 4-wheeler to bring her in, and we planned to load her in the trailer again and drive her up the mountain again to try to unite her with her missing calf again.

As Mike circled through the sagebrush just beyond the fenceline, he saw a tiny black baby calf nestled beneath a bush!  The mystery explained!  This cow had not lost her calf; she had HAD her calf the morning we trailed to the mountain.  She had left the group when all the cows scattered for yucca, had gone off by herself to have her baby, and had stayed behind.  Her udder was so full because her baby was a newborn and not drinking as much as she was producing.

When we drove her up the mountain, we were unknowingly taking her away from her baby.  And this is one of the reasons I love cows so much.  Generally speaking, they are incredible mothers.  A cow will do anything for her baby.  This cow hoofed it, quite literally, down a mountainside in the dark to get back to her hidden calf.

Ever since then, she and her calf have been here at the homestead with Daisy and Frisco and TR.  And from that first day when we brought the new little calf in, Frisco has been IN LOVE with her.  He dotes on her and sleeps next to her and she’s now a feisty little tomboy, with both Frisco and TR wrapped around her tiny hoof.


47 Responses to “The Cattle In My Yard”

  1. Donna
    September 18th, 2010 @ 10:30 am

    thanks for the smiles

  2. Jim Corey
    September 18th, 2010 @ 10:30 am

    What a sweet story. I loved it. However, you’re still wrong about that “that.”

  3. Mareike
    September 18th, 2010 @ 10:31 am

    Thank you

  4. Jerry Johnson
    September 18th, 2010 @ 10:31 am

    I continually marvel at the way you can weave words into an adventure; turn seemingly mundane life on the ranch into a fairy tale I want to drink in. Thank you from one of your loyal readers.

  5. Stephanie
    September 18th, 2010 @ 10:49 am

    Very awesome I love hearing about your adventures and yes you are right cows are VERY amazing animals and deserving of good treatment till the end of their days whether for meat or of old age…most ranchers and farmers understand this big corporations do not…

  6. Michael Conti
    September 18th, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    You need a couple Australian Cattle Dogs to keep the cows in a herd.

  7. Kathy Austin
    September 18th, 2010 @ 11:03 am

    Hey, I have a GREAT 6 mo old Aussie/Shepherd mix who would LOVE to herd the cows! She’s trying to herd US! She’s a beautiful Merle. Want her?

    And are you going to name 16 and her baby? If not, maybe you can call the baby….16 1/2.

    Love your stories (and pics)….they make my day!

  8. karzie
    September 18th, 2010 @ 11:10 am

    Haha!! that momma cows actions remind me of a Lassie episode(where Timmy fell in the well)lol!!! #16 was talking to you,animal style. Poor thing probably wondered why the heck you all keep driving her up the mountain. Oh!!! if only our animal kingdom could truely talk..:>)

  9. Colleen G
    September 18th, 2010 @ 11:20 am

    I love seeing Ricardo in the mix – what a hoot! Long live Ricardo! Is 16 1/2 going to get a name? I love your stories and I’m looking forward to hearing more about the cows :-) Maybe you could teach Charlie how to herd? Just kidding, methinks that wouldn’t work out too well…

  10. Chris
    September 18th, 2010 @ 11:23 am

    Oh, just hilarious. Sorry for the frustrating time you and Mike had getting his cows through the yucca buffet (lovely turn of phrase). That drives home why working cattle on open land is so labor-intensive, if it took two people to move those animals such a short distance. Which of course is why good horses, trained dogs and skilled people are so valuable for such work, even now.

    Thanks for the Farmily line-up and personality profiles. And even if you hadn’t already stated so, that image of your little herd makes the need for the log fence around your yard clear…

  11. Jo Davis
    September 18th, 2010 @ 11:27 am

    I love cows too, I grew up with them and have always appreciated how wonderful they are as you have discovered….and that which sooooo people don’t even have an opportunity to ever know!!!! thank you again for sharin’ your insightful stories and your awesome pictures with all of us… :)

  12. Lorrian
    September 18th, 2010 @ 11:34 am

    Thank you, Shreve. Love your stories.

  13. Melissa
    September 18th, 2010 @ 12:01 pm


    I love that you can put me in that exact place as you tell the story! That’s a great story teller!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  14. Linda D.
    September 18th, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

    What a lovely story. It warmed my heart (especially the part where you took in TR) and made me chuckle at the end. I guess it is time to train Charlie and Chloe to be working dogs?
    Thanks for sharing.

  15. Scotty
    September 18th, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

    hey Ricardo ! moooo !

  16. Sheila
    September 18th, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

    I loved the commentary but am concerned about Ricardo’s immigration status Any chance we could get him a green card so he’d be a legal (cow) alien?

  17. Maggie
    September 18th, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

    What a great story for my Saturday morning. Thank you!

  18. Lesley
    September 18th, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

    I just love that Ricardo has equal prominence.

  19. Carolyn
    September 18th, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

    Wonderful story, wonderfully told, as usual.
    Ricardo knocks me out.

    Thanks so much for sharing the whole on going crazy

  20. Marianne
    September 18th, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

    I have heard so many sarcastic remarks about cows being stupid and uncaring mothers. This beautiful story demonstrates that this is not the case. It is a shame and an irony that such remarks are made by the one animal who is, amongst all others, most notorious for willingly and knowingly abandoning their own offspring.

  21. dusty pines art
    September 18th, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

    lovely, beautiful, joyous, sentient . . . you, your life, your photos & story, where you live on earth . . . the internet is really an amazing medium, allowing us to share our selves . . . thank you, shreve.

  22. *gina
    September 18th, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

    Thank you so much, Shreve, for making me laugh out loud today. esp.when you write how your emotions govern your checkbook! Mine too! Life is way too short NOT to surround ourselves with what makes us happy and having TR there seems to have made you and all the other animals very happy with his presence! And the mother cow just trying to tell you about her baby was an amazing story! I’m glad that she is now part of the farmily and off the mountain. I can’t tell you AGAIN how grateful I am to you for your sharing of all of this with me! it somehow satisfies the lost cowgirl in my! And I love Ricardo out there with all those cows!

  23. Gloria Spurgeon-Smith
    September 18th, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

    Shreve, love your stories, love your photos. Beautiful one of Charlie today. I saw the goose in with the cows and was fascinated. My cousin in Texas has a prize-winning bull, McLovin. Won 1st prize at the Broward(?) County Fair last year as a one-year-old. She just got a new baby bull. So, anyway, checking in with you is one of the pleasures of my life. Cow stories, goose stories, whatever.

  24. Steph in Oregon
    September 18th, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    If someone didn’t know your story they would assume you were born and raised in Wyoming. It’s a treat to read about the relationship you have with the animals. I’m glad you posted this story–it’s very touching (and funny!).

    Does Carol hire out her dogs? :)

  25. Amy Greene
    September 18th, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

    You are such a gifted storyteller. Thank you so much for making me smile on a daily basis.

  26. mlaiuppa
    September 18th, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

    This is why I love cows. I think 16 needs a better moniker. Perhaps a “Sweet”.

    I’m a carnivore, I understand the process, but I am still glad you found the heart and the discretionary income to adopt him into the farmily for Frisco. Does this mean you[‘ll have a pair of “oxen” to pull your plow?

    And Ricardo is just a crack up.

  27. Tessa
    September 18th, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

    Just wondering if any of the cows or Ricardo will be included in your 2011 calendar?

  28. catherine
    September 18th, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

    Seeing Monsieur Ricardo in the field with the cows made my day. Great stories, really good stories, well told. Beautiful pictures, love the numbers, now I can recognize every one…The new baby cow is darling. Daisy is so special.
    That was a long post !
    Winter is coming, we will get longer posts now ! Good.

  29. Marlene
    September 19th, 2010 @ 12:13 am

    Oh I look forward to the new book….I’ll be the first in line to buy it! :-)
    Marlene in Cambria

  30. Marlene
    September 19th, 2010 @ 12:13 am

    Oh I look forward to the new book….I’ll be the first in line to buy it! :-)
    Marlene in Cambria

  31. pogonip
    September 19th, 2010 @ 12:27 am

    This story is destined to be one of my favorites!

  32. Piee
    September 19th, 2010 @ 12:30 am

    This is the sweetest story ever. Love it. It cheered me up on my bad day.

  33. Sarah
    September 19th, 2010 @ 7:33 am

    Lovely story. Cows are the sweetest!

  34. Marg
    September 19th, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    We just drove back from AZ through Montana and if all those cows spread out over those hills are an indication of what you deal with then you deserve a medal. Love the emotion you put into your experiences, it makes people look at animals in a different way, as they deserve to be looked at! The reason we came home was that our beloved dog died while we were gone and we can’t stop crying so appreciate your sensitive approach in your blogs.

  35. Abraham Lincoln
    September 19th, 2010 @ 8:41 am

    Loved the story. Lots of animals are like this. Even some people.

  36. Denise
    September 19th, 2010 @ 2:09 pm


  37. Jenny C
    September 19th, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    Oh Ricardo… “Wild thing, you make my heart sing.” He’s sort of Barney Fife meets one of the Marx Bros. Why is the mere sight of him enough to lower my blood pressure?

    This may be a ridiculous thought, but when yucca blooms coincide w/the drive to the mountain, is it possible to go out the night before and gather a bunch of ’em, bind them together with twine at one end (like a bouquet)
    and let them drag behind your horses? Probably a disaster but just a thought. Glad all worked out in the end.

    Drawing on another post suggestion above, 16 is such a dear mom, she might be a perfect “Sweet 16”.

  38. shreve
    September 19th, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    Sweet 16!!! I LOVE IT!
    The real solution is to trail either BEFORE or AFTER the yucca blooms. Never during!!

    mlaiuppa~ I’d love to use TR and Frisco as a team but it’s looking like there will be about a two-foot height difference between the two of them… not sure how that will work!

  39. Renee
    September 19th, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

    Thank you, Shreve. My heart is bursting…this is so sweet! Yucca no yukka! Yucca yummy!

  40. Sim
    September 19th, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    Amazing. I love hearing stories like this. Thank you for taking the time to share!

  41. Elly
    September 19th, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

    I really like cows, mostly from far away because cows are really big and intimidating when you’re someone who doesn’t see cows at all very often. But stories like this are why I like cows, hurrah :)

  42. Allison Sattinger
    September 21st, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    Oh, dear, she must have been so confused!!!! I am so glad it all ended well :)
    I love that you kept the steer, too :)


  43. mlaiuppa
    September 22nd, 2010 @ 12:50 am

    Okay. I know you shouldn’t name food and the farmily is growing but I can’t resist.

    Sweet 16 is the Mom. And on behalf of 16 candles and Pretty in Pink, I think her calf should be christened…Pinkie. (Also a nod to The blue Boy).

  44. SuthernJazzmyn
    September 22nd, 2010 @ 9:14 am

    My first granddaughter is due December 1st; husband wants to get her a Equine; NOW I’m thinking Bovine! OR can both be together??

    mlaiuppa has a point…but,why not Molly? (Molly Ringwald was in those movies correct?)
    The more I read your stories about cows, the more it helps me to “mooove-on” to give up beef!

  45. Stephanie N~
    September 22nd, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

    This is probably my favorite story I have read from you. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  46. Liane
    September 28th, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    I don’t know how I missed this post until now, but boy it was worth the wait. Love, love LOVE your storytelling, photos, and farmily.

  47. angie
    October 11th, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

    so sweet! thanks for the stories. do you have any idea how amazing your life is? i’m sure you do.

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