Breeding on the Farm: A Bull's Tale

We started our breeding season for the cattle just after Christmas. When the boys were home for Thanksgiving we separated the breeding age females into two breeding groups and placed them in different paddocks. This included the cows with calves to rebreed and heifers who would breed for the first time. We normally have a fall calving operation, but this year we will have some spring calves Next year we will have more spring calves as we have a late set of heifers to breed this spring.

Everything went fine until we introduced two different bulls to the ladies. Then all hell broke lose. The two paddocks were next to each other and had only a high woven wire fence between them. I never gave it a thought, but we were setting ourselves for problems. However girls being girls and boys being boys, the problems started soon. As an example, this link is video of excited Hereford bulls.

This is how hot cows and heifers excite bulls.

They come into heat and just stand next to the fence where the bull can be teased and excited. Once ready to breed, they are in standing heat and do not move about.

If you do not believe me that cows are teasers, check out these two great California Cheese videos on youtube: video1 and video2.

We have a young bull that is in his second season. His name is Bruno. Being young and agile, he tore through the electric fence around the hay barn and jumped the fence to get to the other side. Never mind he was immediately met by an older and much bigger bull as soon as he got there and therefore did not have any fun. When Eva and I went to put out hay that day she said the bull was missing. Sure enough, Bruno was standing near the cows looking rather sad. No one was paying any attention to him except the other bull.

I gave Eva a wood club and had her stand ready to open the gate as soon as I had Bruno headed her way. As luck would have it, one of the girls wanted to tease him and run along. I think she was just taunting him. Eventually, I was able to separate her and send her back to the herd and Bruno made a bee line for the gate. He wanted to be back with his own girls. I thought that would be the end of our problems.

A week or so later Eva and I were back to feed and she pointed out that Riddler, the older, larger herd bull was hanging over the fence gate steel brace. Sure enough, one ton of bull was half over the brace; suspended and not able to go froward for backward. A cow in standing heat was about six feet from his nose. His brass nose ring was totally erect and he was very agitated if you know what I mean.

Moving a 2,000 pound bull that is mad is not an easy task. Luckily the tractor was there with hay forks on it, so I eased up, with Eva's guidance, and placed the fork under Riddler's front legs and raised him up. He slipped back into his paddock. That was not the end of our problems. The lady in waiting was still standing there and moved her rear end closer to the fence. Since Bruno had already learned he was no match for Riddler, he was no where to be seen. Riddler surveyed the situation and took a run at the fence and almost knocked it down. I had a stick and Eva a club so we got him to back off. I knew we needed to do something.

I thought that maybe I could put some wood pallets on the ground with rolled hay bales on top of them to make a barrier. After moving many pallets and a few rolls of hay Eva pointed out all the cattle were coming to eat the hay. If I did not move the bales, in a few days my barrier would be eaten and gone.

Karl had strung electric wire on the northeast fence a few years ago and it was still there. I decided to go and get it and place it so it would deter Riddler. I left Eva with her club to swat the bull when he approached the fence and retrieved the wire. I then realized I had no charger and the bull was again very agitated.

We decided to move all the females in that breeding group to another pasture that was not common to the other breeding group. Using alfalfa hay as a treat and bait, we got everyone to move except the bull. After some encouragement (screaming, waving arms, throwing hat and chasing him,) he too moved to the new paddock. I shut the gate on the circle where we move from one paddock to another and thought that was all we needed to do.

Wrong! Before I had time to collect myself Eva pointed out the bull was not in his paddock, but was in the circle trying to get to the cow in heat that had moved down to where Riddler was. She was not helping our situation at all and Bruno was still being a wimp. I did not see any fence or gates mashed, so could not figure out how he got into the circle. We moved him back and when we turned around he was back. Eva, being more observant that me, saw that one of the fence panels on the circle had never been tied to the post. It was not obvious. This acted like a saloon door and Riddler just pushed through and it sprung back and you did not notice it had moved.

I did not have any wire to bind it, so I used bale twine that was in the truck. It was now approaching dark, getting cold and we had to do something. I told Eva to stay there with her club and gently persuade Riddler to stay on his side of the fence every time he came near. I would go back to the farm (10 miles) and get everything needed to build a piece of electric fence. She was already cold and had no coat. She found a beach towel the dog had been laying on in the truck and wrapped up in it.

By the time I got back, it was dark. The lights of the truck did not indicate Eva was still there and Riddler was standing just by the fence. I then saw a huddled little bundle of beach towel on the ground and my first thought was he has stomped her into a little pile. Not so, she moved and had just bundled up to get away from the wind. I brought her a warm field coat and we both had head lamps. It was really getting cold with the north wind blowing.

It took perhaps an hour or more to get 200 feet of fence by the circle installed with a wire gate and solar charger. By the time we had finished, Riddler has lost interest and moved on to be with the herd. I am not sure if it is the electric fence or what, but that has been over six weeks ago and he has shown no desire to get back into the other paddock. He is now a contented bull. Perhaps it's because he has found true love.