Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Abortive Attempt to Breed Sara

After my post about the head gate, a reader requested an update on how it worked.  This was supposed to be that update as I told about getting Sara bred by AI (artificial insemination).

The corral and head gate were all ready in the Lower Pasture.  All we had to do this morning was move the animals from the Back Pasture (at right) to the Lower Pasture (at left).  You can see the gap between the two off-set gates; since we didn't put in these fences, we didn't have the choice of setting the gates directly across from each other for easy movement between pastures.
Here's how we solved the problem.  Herb wired the two cattle panels at left to:
1)  The Lower Pasture gate post at one end
2)  Each other in the middle
3)  The Back Pasture gate post at the other end (not visible in the photo).

Then he wired the cattle panel he is touching (to his right) to:
1)  The Lower Pasture's open gate
2)  A fence post by the Back Pasture gate.

All that remained was to open the Back Pasture gate--where the animals were all eagerly congregated--and let them through the temporary chute into the Lower Pasture.

It all went like clock-work.  The horses came thundering through and took a gallop around their new space.  Then I haltered them and led them to the round pen so that Sara would head that way.

This step proved unnecessary and merely prevented me from photographing what happened next because I was busy holding both the horses' lead ropes.

Herb got a bucket of feed and tried to lead Sara toward me, the horses, and the round pen.  Sara LIVES for feed!  She is a Feed-Seeking Missile!  It was more a matter of Herb running to try to keep ahead of Sara as they headed for the round pen.  I WISH I could have gotten a photo, but this one of Sara thinking the camera is good to eat will have to give you the idea.
Sara got a bit of feed dumped out on the ground just to reassure her that yes, the bucket does hold feed, and then we waited for Mitch to arrive from Bickett Genetics.  While waiting, I took the horses back to the Back Pasture so they would be there ready for the cattle to join them.
While waiting, I was also able to check on T-bone's progress in becoming a steer.  Yep, he's a steer!  Even the rubber band is gone.  (Ouch!)
Waiting also gave me a chance to get a nice, un-posed mother-daughter portrait of Siobhan and Sara.
And finally, waiting gave me a chance to get a photo of T-bone from the other end!
Mitch arrived and said he would be happy to operate the head gate if Herb would lead Sara through the chute.
Here is Mitch, ready to operate the head gate as Sara follows Herb to the beginning of the narrow part of the chute.
And that was as far as she got!  She looked at Siobhan; she looked at Hero; she looked at T-bone.  She hurried off to chase T-bone away from Siobhan.  She chased Hero.  I let Siobhan out of the pen.  Mitch and I herded T-bone out.  I called Hero away.  All this time Herb was patiently shaking the bucket under Sara's nose, rubbing the grain in his fingers and letting her smell it.  But she never got any closer than this.

Unfortunately, we were not able to drive her through because we were too generous with the size of the pen, and Sara had too much room to maneuver.

Finally, Mitch said that Dr. Bickett feels this is a bad time of year to breed a cow, anyway, because it's too hot and they aren't coming in season.  He suggested we wait till cooler weather since we only have one semen straw and he'd hate for it to be wasted.  So we agreed to wait till October, and meanwhile we will make the pen smaller and add a "squeeze gate."  (Future post!)

So Sara got her grain and her freedom and a few more months to enjoy her sylph-like figure!
After Mitch left, we decided to let the horses back in and keep everyone in the Lower Pasture for a few days to give the Back Pasture a rest.  Since we don't need the Lower Pasture again until October, it will have plenty of time to recover from being grazed now.

So while Sara enjoyed her new-found freedom with a little gallop, the horses enjoyed their re-new-found freedom with a little gallop, the dogs enjoyed racing after them . . .
. . . and Siobhan enjoyed a game of soccer with the empty feed bucket.

So pretty much everyone is happy.  We're a little embarrassed and feel bad about wasting Mitch's time, but we know what the game plan is now, and we can get ready for October.  Mitch wasn't even bothered at wasting an hour (people down South are SO laid-back!)  I guess the only unhappy people are my poor readers who are still waiting to see how the head gate worked.  All I can say is, stay tuned . . .


  1. I love the horns on Siobhan. I like horned cows, as you can guess.

    You might want to look up a 'Bud Box'. There are some great videos on youtube. A couple of links here:

    The entryway to the chute is the trouble at our farm, too. We're thinking of a crowd tub just to keep humans out of the way of potentially grumpy bulls, cows, etc. But a crowd tub is expensive and a bud box is cheap.

    There's also a system (I forget the name) where you basically squeeze the cow between a strong fence and a gate. Works great for horned cows and for AI.

    Finally, what breed is T-Bone. He doesn't look too meaty, more like a dairy breed. You need to find a little Salers calf! :-)

  2. Actually, that's Sara with the horns. Let's say I love horns on cattle photogenically, but not in practice. I find them a bit intimidating!

    I'll look up "Bud Box." I've seen crowd tubs in catalogs, and they are great, but way too expensive and high-tech for our few cows. The first time we had Sara vaccinated, four of us pinned her against one corral panel in the barn by squeezing her with another like you said. It worked as long as there were so many of us, but with just Herb and me, I think a head gate is the way to go--with the addition of a swinging panel to "sweep" the cows into the chute.

    T-bone is a Dexter, but the breeder sold him because she said he was too feminine to breed. No, he doesn't look very meaty but hopefully will finish out on grass to provide enough beef for the two of us. I'll try to get a photo of him and Siobhan in the same picture--if Sara will let him get close to her--so you can see how much bigger Siobhan is. And they are the same age. So we have great hopes of getting nice, beefy steers out of her down the line. T-bone is just a stop-gap measure for us until then, and he's the only Dexter steer we could find in our area for sale. I wish there were Salers around here! Although I did hear tell of someone raising Scottish Highlanders--poor things, in Georgia!

  3. Sarah looks crazy! And T-Bone looks like he's trying to avoid butchering by going anorexic on us ;-) Feed him up!

  4. Sara is crazy--for food! And yes, fattening T-bone is what we're trying to do! If Sara continues chasing him away from Siobhan this winter, we may have to separate them for him to get anything to eat.


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