Where’s My Heifer?!

I dumped alfalfa pellets into the bucket and added some water; sheep tend to eat too fast and choke if the pellets are dry, so I have to soak them first. By the time I walk up the hill to the pasture and dump the pellets in the bowls for them, they are all saturated and soft so no one will choke on them. I made my way up the hill, slowing down to say hello to the rabbits and then greeting the mooing and baaing flerd of hungry sheep and cattle.

I only glanced at them for a moment initially as they came towards me, awaiting their delicious snack. Confused, I looked back up and counted the hungry herbivores. Seven sheep, but only one heifer? Where the heck is my other cow? “Meh, she’ll come running in a second once she hears me.” So I filled the bowls and waited. Now I was getting a little concerned. There’s nothing more important than snacks to a cow!

I looked in their shelter. I walked around the shelter. I looked in the shelter more closely. It’s kind of hard to miss a 600 pound black heifer. I listened for her and studied the edge of the fence, looking through the greenery in case she had managed to find a way through the fence. I was growing more than a little concerned at this point. I began making quicker strides as I hurried towards the lower portion of the pasture, being careful not to stumble on the uneven ground while simultaneously searching the brush along the fence lines.

Suddenly, my eyes caught a line of black on the ground further down the hill. I stopped, but only momentarily, as I processed what I was seeing. I heard myself say “No!” as I thought “She’s dead.” I sprinted towards her, my keys jingling on my belt. The sound brought her round and she began thrashing as I ran towards her. I breathed again as I saw her move and ran faster. Once I neared her, I slowed down in an effort to not scare her.

Apparently, she had stumbled and slipped at a giant groundhog hole. The hole was in enough of a depression that when she had fallen, her back was downhill. In this position, she was cast and no amount of thrashing would get her back up again. It seemed she had struggled so much she had even pooped herself and who knew how long she had been laying like this! She stopped thrashing and panted heavily. I got down against her back hoping she still had the energy to try to get up. I pushed and she worked to throw her legs under her rotund self.

With a heave from me and a throw of her head, she found her footing and got herself righted. She appeared woozy and only walked a few steps at a time, but we walked back until her sister saw her coming up the hill. Her sister came to greet us and began gently mooing as she came over. I walked ahead, hoping to encourage them and get my unsteady cow to come drink or eat. Thankfully it was a cool and overcast day. I’m not sure how long a black cow could have lasted in any sort of heat in that position.

The two cows ambled slowly back to the group and I went to fill up their hay feeder. When I returned, the sister was cleaning up the muddy, cast cow. I came back to them and took her head in my heads, petting her dewlap and her neck. She had mud across her forehead and still had some foam around her mouth. But once she saw the hay, she and her sister trotted right to the feeder, no longer looking as though she had accepted that death had been right around the bend.


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