September 29, 2009

We lost one of our bulls

A tragic loss

This week we had to bring in the main herd. Despite our feeding regime, some of them are looking poorly – especially those feeding bigger calves. It’s an opportunity to do a bit of stock take, look over them all and to wean the bigger calves.

We set off reasonably early and checked each paddock, gathering them together. We were about 500 yards from the gate to the laneway when I came upon one of the bulls, Investigator. He was down.  He didn’t look very well. His eyes were bulging a little and his tongue was hanging out inelegantly to one side. His legs stuck out in front of him like four pins. They looked a little stiff and awkward. Our other bull, Injector, was circling him. Injector nudged Investigator’s back, trying to push him to his feet. It was distressing to watch. My throat felt choked up.

I pulled up on the quad and called Chris on the two way radio. We decided to finish mustering the herd into the laneway so we could go back to assist Investigator.

We invest a lot of money in our bulls. You need to put a good bull over your cows if you want to breed prime beef. They are quite majestic beasts weighing in around 600 kilos (or more). They have a presence of their own. You can only really muster them because they want to stick around with the cows. On their own they’ll just stand and look at you and not move no matter how much you beep the horn and yell.

Investigator wasn’t looking very majestic today.

It was probably about 10 minutes later we came back to see what we could do to get him back on this feet.

When we got there, he was stone cold dead. Just like that, gone.

Injector was still circling and nudging his mate. We had to wait for him to move away before we could get a closer look. He hadn’t put up much of a fight. We’ve had cows go down before and they usually thrash about. Investigator hadn’t thrashed about. We went through the possibilities.

Why did he die?

Had he starved? No, he wasn’t looking poorly with his huge gird sticking up from the ground. That couldn’t be it.

Had he been overworked? We are short one bull. You normally have about 1 bull to 30-40 cows. We had two bulls with about 130 cows. But if he had been overworked you would think he would have been looking poorly. That couldn’t be it.

Had he eaten something poisonous? We don’t know of any poisonous feed on our property and he didn’t seem to have gone through a struggle. He had basically just dropped dead. But I guess it’s possible.

Had he been bitten by a snake? The snakes are mean this time of year. This thought freaked me out a bit. If a snake bite can drop a beast this size, what could it do to me? (I’ve been looking out so carefully since then.) I guess a snake bite is possible. But why did it have to bite our bull!

Well I guess we will never know for sure. But it was a very sad day.

An Aside

While Investigator was down on the ground I was able to inspect him closely – more closely than you ever could if he was on his feet. I was intrigued to notice that he had a couple of nipples at the top of his scrotum. Apparently this is normal. I guess guys have nipples that don’t serve any specific purpose, but I hadn’t considered bulls had them as well. They were funny looking things. They didn’t really look like they belonged.

You learn something new everyday on the farm.

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