I'm a farm girl who used to edit a bunch of rural-lifestyle magazines, but then I went and fell in love with another rural-lifestyle magazine editor/farmer in Kansas. So now, I'm living the life, rather than just writing about it! My country adventures include farming and gardening, writing, crafting and cooking.
Cassie was born May 2, 2010. Rest in peace, little one.
This past September 30 we had 60 acres come out of the CRP after 10 years. We were tickled to finally be able to graze our Highland cattle on that land. Understandably the grass on the former CRP was quite tall and the ground fairly wild, but we opened the gates and watched them enjoy their formerly forbidden territory.
Sunday morning as we sat by our campfire sipping coffee, we noticed three (just three) of our cows up near the barn. The mister and I brooded and set off toward the southernmost pond with the dogs to find the others. We came to a clearing in the tall grass and instantly recognized it as a spot where the cattle had bedded down. However, we weren't prepared for what we saw next ... three hooves ... a ribcage ... and finally ... a calf head. There was beautiful Highland red hair strewn about, and it was still attached to the leg bones and head. We were exasperated and deeply saddened, trying to piece together what could have happened. It felt like an episode of CSI: The Prairie.
We walked further, toward the pond, still trying to find the others. They were right where we thought they'd be, and we knew immediately who the fallen calf had belonged to: Big Mama, as hers was missing from her side. The cows cautiously followed us back toward the "crime scene" and we could tell they were spooked. One by one, they approached the calf's head and sniffed, then slowly backed away when the moment of recognition was upon them. That was the moment I lost it ... when Big Mama sniffed her baby's head and backed away. I burst out in tears, unable to remain stoic and rancherly about the whole thing.
What we were able to deduce is that coyotes were the culprit. Either the calf died somehow, perhaps struck by lightning (the rib bones appeared "charred"), and coyotes moved in; or, a pack of coyotes surrounded a vulnerable calf and took it down. This would explain the cattle fleeing in different directions and ending up scattered the next morning. We've had intense coyote action for the last several weeks, with enormous roaming packs howling and waking us up at night.
I'm angry. I want our calves to live. And our sheep, and our chickens and turkeys. We've got a few nasty donkeys that really hate dogs. We're thinking of putting at least one in with the cattle and, the coyotes around here are officially on notice.