The Day My Cattle Escaped

The day…okay, I have to be honest…the days my cattle escaped. I wish had only been once that they decided to take a hike outside the pasture. I wish I had learned all there was to learn about fencing in cattle in that one brief escapade. But, alas, cattle are great teachers and ensure that the lesson is repeated so the student never fails to remember each and every aspect and continues to grow in knowledge and wisdom.

The first time my cattle walked away, they were young and didn’t go far. I walked them back and figured out how they escaped, fixed the issue and sighed with mild frustration. I was still knew to electric fences and cattle. I hadn’t yet realized their natural inclination to get bored and curious about what was beyond their fence. The continued to teach me about every week spot in my fence throughout that summer until the inevitable happened.

I got out of work to find that in the two hours since my last break, Charlie and Gwen had taken a walk to the neighbors and scared them by walking towards the road, so the neighbors had called the police. By the time I arrived, the police were gone and the two calves were relaxing in the shade of a large tree back on my property. I shook the grain bucket and they followed me back to the pasture once more. I knew I had to do something to stop these run aways!

Luckily, it was only a few months before I found a new place to farm with fenced pastures and real gates. The cattle were moved, along with the sheep and chickens, to their new home. I spent that winter shoring up old fencing, repairing and replacing it where I could, and using copious amounts of baling twine. I started putting up electric on warm days when I could get posts into the ground and hoping to beat the cattle to boredom.

It didn’t matter though, they always found a way. I’d find my steer munching away at weeds in the neighbors field and have to haul him back home with the help of a friend and two halters so we could pull him from either side, eventually succeeding in pulling the 800lb beast back to the pasture. I was late to work that day, of course. But then, he and his sister found another weak spot in the fence and bulldozed their way through to visit the other neighbor. My friend spent three hours attempting to coerce, convince, and compel those two ornery creatures back through the hole in the fence, but to no avail. I finally arrived, having to leave work early, and the two cattle instantly following me with the grain bucket.

I took a break from cattle for a year, but decided after I moved again, that it was time for two more cattle. I had brand new fence, four feet tall and considered it solid. These new calves, at only 300lbs, showed me how wrong I was. I found them wandering around under the trees or in the neighbors field more times than I care to remember. They finally showed me that I was the silliest farmer of all when they jumped my four foot fence once they reached about 750lbs.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when my heifer simply jumped back into the pasture. Had she not jumped over the fence right in front of me, I may not have ever believed it. Who knew cattle could jump like that? She was graceful even! These two girls taught me once more, that cattle will find a way out. I did the best I could to keep them in with the supplies I had and then hoped it was enough to keep them contained for a few days.

That very night, I ordered a stronger electric fence charger, new electric rope, and insulators so that I could add a line of electric rope that was very visible to the top of the fence and be sure that it would keep them in. Once it was installed, I watched one heifer approach the rope with her nose. She came close, but she knew what it was, she could feel that electricity without needing to be shocked.

Since I’ve turned the pasture into Fort Knox, the cattle have stayed put. But I know they will continue to look for ways to escape. Cattle, just like anyone else, get bored. During the winter, it can be especially hard since they don’t have access to the whole pasture and have to make due leaping around the smaller paddock. Unfortunately, they don’t make many toys for cattle, so until spring, I hope they can find safer ways to entertain each other aside from checking out the neighbors’ houses.


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