Rustler's Bridgit and Sheila of Valhalla, our two Scottish Highland cows, came home Saturday!
After picking up our borrowed stock trailer outside of Winlock, we made good time down to Yacolt to Rustler's Roost Ranch, where Tyler and his wife, Kateri had the girls ready to load in their corral. I marveled at the confidence and ease with which Kateri moved around the animals inside the corral, nothing between her and them except her Danner boots (logger-style; Paul was impressed) and a pair of heavy work gloves. It took a bit to get the girls loaded, and involved roping their horns (not lasso-style, just a large slipknot around both horns), and then winching them, more or less, into the trailer, using one of the window bars as a pulling point and little buckets of grain to make the whole deal sweeter. Bridgit let fly a hefty poop right next to Kateri in the trailer, thoroughly grossing her out (fun fact: they don't absorb water in their large intestines like most animals, so, er, I'm sure you can imagine what I'm implying). Once the girls were loaded, we discovered the Watson's had 1/4 of a beef for sale in the freezer, so we snapped that up (awesome deal, too, since the owner of the other 1/4 wanted mostly roasts...we have steaks galore!), and once we got that all buttoned up, we hit the road.
It was an easy trip back home, although Paul was nervous about knocking the girls over and winced with each bump in the road. They both opted to stand the entire trip. As slow as they were to load, they jumped right out of the trailer at our place and charged straight into the paddock. In no time they were muching away...in fact, they probably started working on the paddock's smaller apple tree within about 30 minutes of their arrival.
It's been fun to observe them. They LOVE the apple trees and have pretty much removed all the limbs on the one up to about nose-height. (Funny, since it's the place they like to hang when it's really sunny and hot, and the place they retreat to if nervous.) Sheila is pretty quick to herd Bridgit around; it's not always clear what the motivation is for that, although perhaps it's just a display of dominance. Sheila is, after all, lead cow, and nearly twice Bridgit's size. She also has a mighty rack. Her horns are graceful and a bit swoopy, and are probably three feet across from tip to tip. Bridgit's, meanwhile, curve up in a U-shape. Neither would have anything to do with us, that is until Paul thought to offer bread. I got Sheila's rough cow tongue half-way up my arm the first time I offered her a slice, and it gave me goosebumps. Bridgit could only stand back and watch, as there's no way Sheila would have tolerated sharing the attention or food.
We were told the best way to get to them is through a grain bucket, and that's no lie. Yesterday Paul loaded up on a bag of cattle feeder pellets (their grain "treat") among other things, so as soon as the heat dipped a bit (it was hotter than the hubs yesterday), we attempted our first "feed and comb" session. The minute Sheila saw that grain, disinterest turned to eagerness and she came right over to us/it. She is VERY pushy and strong, and nearly forced the bucket out of my hands by pushing down on it with her nose. Yikes. We were able to give her grain while combing and petting her. She is a big girl. I have a healthy respect for those horns. Granted, Scottish Highland are touted as mellow cattle, but given the width of her horns and the sheer size of her head, I'm positive at some point I'll end up with a horn-induced bruise, whether or not it's intentionally inflicted.
We weren't able to approach Bridgit. Even with Sheila occupied, she still hung back nervously. Paul put the other grain bucket on the ground and that did entice Bridgit, but the second Sheila noticed the second bucket and headed over, Bridgit wisely moved away. Tyler and Kateri said Sheila is a pig when it comes to attention and grain, and they weren't kidding. Sheila is most certainly pregnant, and not from her encounter with Tabor Thunder over the past month; she's visibly large around the middle. This will be her second calf, and if her girth is truly due to pregnancy, we can expect her to calve in November. Bridgit is so much smaller (and two years younger) than Sheila and hasn't calved before, so it's harder to tell whether she's pregnant. However, she was pasture-exposed to Tabor from November to February, so it's likely she is, in which case we can expect her calf between September and November.
The dogs are doing so much better with our new additions than we expected, although Honey has charged the gate a couple times (the water trough is close to the gate, which may not be a good thing, but it's as far as our hose will currently reach). The dogs won't be allowed in the paddock anymore; not only is it the cows' safety zone now, but given Honey's love of rolling in all things smelly (especially if it's from the hind end of some animal), it's just not a good idea. I've had to go into the paddock by myself a few times now to attend to the chickens and so far, so good. This morning both girls were grazing next to the chickens' outdoor run, meaning they couldn't see me coming in and out of the barn's front-facing door. I made sure to talk to them as a warning of my presence. I had to get a bowl of water for our isolated chicken (another story - our bottom-of-the-totem-pole Easter Egger hen has been in a large dog kennel for several days recuperating from vent-picking and growing some new feathers) and on my way back Sheila thought I had treats in the bowl and headed my way. I scurried into the barn and she lost interest. This will be an interesting adventure. I have to say, they sure look pretty out there behind our back yard!
Here are some photos of our new charges. Enjoy!
Sheila of Valhalla, 4-year old red cow
Rustler's Bridgit, 2-year old red heifer (I guess she does look a bit preggers in this photo)
This apple tree decimation
brought to you by Sheila
Doggie jail (from left: Honey, Maggie, Gravy)