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 27, 2013

The One That Got Away (and the One That Didn't)

Back in June I did a post about A2 milk and the exciting news that our foundation cow, S&H Hilltop Sara, has turned out to be homozygous for the A2 gene.  When we got that great news, we immediately made a "date" for Sara to be bred by the impressive Dexter bull, Belle Fourche Rousseau, owned by Jeff and Kim Newswanger of Hope Refuge Farm in Manchester, Kentucky.

Friday, August 16 was Sara's big date--a big day for little Tundra, too.  We started out early in the morning, knowing it could take a while to load Sara and Tundra.  Since Tundra was just over a month old, Sara was still very protective of her.

The routine went like this:

I tempted Sara into the round pen and Tundra followed.  Herb appeared from his hiding place (Sara does NOT like men!) and closed the round pen gate.

Herb and I herded Sara toward the cattle chute, then used the flexible "squeeze gate" (a welded cattle panel) to "sweep" Sara into a small area at the back of the chute.   Herb tied off the squeeze gate and disappeared from view again.

Sara was finally able to focus on the tub of feed and go into the chute to get it.  I shoved a large fence post behind Sara to confine her in the chute.

Herb came back and caught Tundra in the back of the chute so I could put a halter and lead rope on her.  Herb then "muscled" Tundra (who is a nice, hefty girl!) over to a fence post in front of the head gate and tied her there.  (This was no time for a lesson in leading!)

Herb and I opened several panels of the round pen, and Herb backed the trailer up to the head gate.  We used spare welded cattle panels to block off the sides of the ramp so Sara would have only one way to go--IN!

Herb then muscled Tundra up the ramp and tied her in the front of the trailer.

We opened the front "escape doors" of the trailer to make it lighter inside (because cattle don't like to go into dark places), put a tub of feed near Tundra, opened the head gate for Sara, and waited for Mother Nature to urge Sara toward her baby and the feed.  It's a toss-up which one tipped the balance in favor of her deciding to get into the trailer!

The whole process went well and only took an hour.  After that it was all downhill, as the saying goes.  Although it was mostly uphill, since Hope Refuge Farm is in the mountains of Kentucky--but the hardest part was done!

I took these photos through one of the escape doors when we stopped for gas because I wanted to check on Sara and Tundra.  Tundra was doing fine, lying down in the hay--until I opened the door and she jumped up.  Sara saw the light through the open door and started coming my way, right under the padded bar in front of her!  I quickly shut the door and gave up on getting any more photos.  I did not think a photo of Sara running down the freeway was a good way to end this story!

Fortunately we had a much better ending to the story.  We got to Hope Refuge Farm in a little over 5 hours.  Sara and Tundra came out of the trailer just fine into a little "reception" area made of corral panels.  Rousseau came to the pasture gate to welcome his visitors.

Sara decided she liked him.  Kim opened the pasture gate to let Sara in with Rousseau, and closed it to keep Tundra where we could take her halter off.  (Macree is wearing the halter that would fit Tundra better, so we had to get Tundra's off before she got out in the pasture.)

Would you believe that before anyone could touch her, Tundra dropped to her knees and shot under the bottom of the corral panel?  Kim has been around cattle longer than we have, and she could not have believed it possible unless she had seen it with her own eyes.  As I look at the photo now, I still can't believe she did it!  But as escape stories go, this one had a very tame ending.

Sara set off exploring the pasture, followed by Tundra, followed by Rousseau.

A few days after we left the sticker Kim had put on Sara's rump turned bright red, showing she was in season, and suddenly Rousseau was in love!  Kim also got Sara and Tundra in a "catch pen" with some feed so she could take Tundra's halter off, and that was the anti-climactic end to Tundra's escape story.

Before we left, we went to visit the Newswangers' "girls."  This is New Hope Ebony Belle, a granddaughter of Sara, and Kim's sweetheart.  Like our Siobhan, she's a first-calf heifer.  The link to her page on the Hope Refuge website shows a photo of her with her heifer calf.  Sara may not have the best temperament, but bred to a good bull she produces beautiful calves with great temperaments.  That's why it's worth driving her to Kentucky to breed her to Rousseau.  Their calf will be homozygous for A2, black, polled, negative for PHA and chondro--and have a temperament as nice as its daddy's!

We'll keep you posted on further developments! 


  1. I love watching you grow your herd of Dexter's. I also like the way you are doing it, improving the breeding stock with the best Dexters around.

    1. Thank you so much, Gordon. We're really small scale, but we don't believe in "throw away" calves just to get a cow freshened. That's why we're willing to go all the way to Kentucky.

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