One Close Call 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

I slowed down, looking for the driveway off Old Holley Road where Dr. Buhn had his cows.

Dr. Buhn, a local optometrist, was having me out to vaccinate the calves at the start of their weaning. I think several of the local professionals were using my services as I struggled to survive, waiting for the completion of the clinic building.

I was expecting to work with limited facilities. I was surprised when I pulled up to a pretty well-constructed corral system. All the calves were in the corral, and the momma cows were on the outside.

When I stepped out of the truck, a chorus of moos and bellows came from both sides of the fence. I always called it bellering. Whatever you call it, it is constant and loud. 

Ed met me with a handshake.

“I have my son here to help today,” Ed said. “I think we are pretty well set up and ready to go to work. Do you need any help with your stuff?”

“I just need someplace to set up alongside the chute,” I said. “Preferably, on the outside of the corral, so the calves don’t knock things over.”

“I am surprised at the racket this group puts out,” Ed said. “The neighbors will be tired of listening to it before it quiets down. It bothers everyone except my son, Ed. He is deaf, so it is all the same to him.”

“It will only last a couple of days,” I said. “Then they will be settled into their new routine. The calves will benefit the most from this, and when they go to the sale barn, they will be much less stressed.”

I got everything set up, and we went right to work. Old Ed ran the head gate, and young Ed kept the calves lined up in the crowding alley. 

It didn’t take long, and we were down to the last three calves. They were not so easy to get into the chute. Young Ed was getting frustrated and tired out. I grabbed my rope and climbed into the corral.

With the two of us, we finally ran one calf into the chute.

“Do you want to do this one now or get them all into the alley?” old Ed asked.

“I don’t want to be crawling over that fence every couple of minutes,” I said. “Just hold that guy in the chute, and we will get these next two in the alley.”

Around and around the corral, we chased the last two calves. Finally, we cornered the two at the entrance to the crowding alley. Young Ed waited a moment, and when the one steer looked into the alley, Ed rushed him and pushed him into the alley. The other steer pushed by me. Ed looked at me, and I motioned him to hold the calf up the alley. 

I took my rope and headed to the far corner to get the last calf. This calf was wild-eyed and didn’t know which way to run to escape my approach. He finally bolted to the right.

 Wrong move, buddy, I thought as I threw a perfect loop that fell over his head and cinched tight around his throat. I pulled the rope tight, and the calf bucked and bellowed. He continued to dance around on the end of the rope. I could hardly restrain him, but I bounced around the corral behind the bucking calf.

I thought he would tire himself and slow down, but I began to think I was the one who was going to wear out first. I started to look for a post to tie him. 

The calf made one more loop around the corral. He would buck and bawl every time I increased the tension on the rope. On this last loop, he headed into the crowding alley. I pulled hard on the rope, and the calf bucked and bellowed louder.

Young Ed was still concentrating on holding the second calf in the alley. He seemed oblivious to the goings on behind him. I wondered why Ed didn’t respond to the chaos behind him when I suddenly realized he didn’t hear a thing and wasn’t aware that he was about to be trampled by an ornery calf.

I wrapped the rope around my butt, planted my heels in the dirt, and leaned back with all my strength. The calf bucked at the same time. With my pull, the calf flipped over and landed on his back, not three feet from Ed. 

When the dirt and dust flew up, Ed realized something was happening behind him. He turned and looked and the situation. Both I and calf were on our backs in the dirt. Ed smiled and gave me a thumbs-up. I had no idea if he knew how close he had come to being trampled.

I got up and tied the calf to a post before it had scrambled to his feet.

We finished the two calves in the chute, and then I had old Ed hand me the injections over the fence while young Ed helped me hold the calf against the fence.

“That was a close call,” old Ed said. “You put a pretty good stop on that calf.”

“It is always the last one in the chute that causes all the problems,” I said. “He is going to market, but I would put a mark on his mother and send her along with him.”

“I am only in the cow business because I needed to do something with this property before it’s developed,” Ed said. “I think as soon as these momma cows are pregnant, they are probably going to the sale also.”

“That’s good. I guess she will be somebody else’s problem,” I said.

Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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