“By the way, they’re a bit skittish since we separated them from the herd. You might want to give them a day or two. They should settle down – hopefully…”
Those were the parting words the cattle breeder shouted over the truck engine just before he drove out of the paddock and left us with our two new steers, Midnight and Cherry.
I looked at the cows as they kicked up their hooves and hightailed it for the back of the paddock.
The First Afternoon with the Cows
We’d asked the cattle breeders to unload Midnight and Cherry into our smallest, most secure paddock for a few days to keep an eye on them and reduce the chances of them escaping into yonder distance. The only problem with that nifty plan was that we’d overlooked the very thickly treed area (“the woods,” as we call it) smack bang in the middle of the paddock. The woods is a lovely little area for the cattle to shelter out of the weather – unfortunately, as we discovered, once cattle are in there, they may as well be invisible.
As we should’ve anticipated, about twenty minutes after arriving at the farm, Cherry and Midnight found their way into the woods and there they stayed. As the afternoon wore on, occasionally I heard a rustle or glimpsed a fleeting cow-shaped shadow, but for the next few hours that was about it. I kept peering into the mass of trunks and leaves, willing the cows to walk out, but they refused to budge.
Eventually thirst won out. The cows crept out of the woods and made their way to the water trough, sending me dubious looks in between drinks.
In the cows’ defence, it must’ve been a pretty traumatic day – removed from their herd and dropped off in a completely foreign paddock. Understandably, we weren’t their favourite people initially…
Have you ever seen a pair of cows more dubious about their new owners?
So the past week has been ‘Operation Earn-The-Steers’-Trust.’ We’ve been trying to spend as much time outside as possible, both with the cows and also just going about our chores around the farm, letting the cattle get used to us coming and going.
For the first couple of days we tried to keep things quiet and give the boys a bit of space, no sudden movements or noise (initially just opening the back door was enough to send them running for the woods). But they’re coming around pretty quickly.
Like people, cows don’t mind a bit of the sweet stuff. Molasses is basically a cow’s version of a sugar hit. So every afternoon we’ve been taking out a tray with a small dollop of molasses on it for the cows to share. The first day they didn’t touch it. The second day they ate it several hours after we’d put it out. The third day they waited until we’d walked away before licking every last bit syrupy goo. And by the fourth day they were waiting at the gate mooing for us to hurry up. This evening we were even allowed to stand by and watch as they ate.
No pats yet, but we’re getting close…