I remember sitting in our living room when we lived in the city and discussing farm life. Even as we itched to escape the bustle around us, we talked about what we each wanted. From the first conversation, it was always a bull for my husband. He wanted a bull. Not a steer. Not a heifer. Had to be a bull. I wasn’t a fan of the idea, but I didn’t even know when we would live in the country, so why shoot him down?
Fast forward to moving to the country and we went hog wild with ALL the animals. Boy have we learned some lessons the hard (and expensive) way. One of those mistakes is a bull. We got him as a bottle baby. He was as cute as could be.
“Don’t head butt with him,” I’d scold the boys.
“Don’t play with his horns,” I’d warn my husband.
While I didn’t have cow experience, I did have goat and sheep experience. You don’t play that way with things designed to headbutt out their battles. You’ll always lose. So it stood to reason that we don’t play that way with the bull, either.
Well, Mom is a dud and her only goal is to ruin all the fun, so despite my warnings, the play continued. It became a problem as that little bottle baby is hit the 500lb mark.
The first major incident happened to me. He charged me twice. In a moment that I thought I was thinking fast and going to stop the collision, I got my shin between me and the oncoming bull. My shin lost. The pain was indescribable.
I hobbled to the couch and started icing the thing, rubbing arnica all over it, and pleading with God to let nothing be broken. The resulting bruise took 3 weeks to heal. It still hurts in spots a couple months later.
The second incident involved my sweet 2-year-old daughter. We call her Wild because, by most accounts, she is just that, wild. But she is kind. She isn’t mean to our animals. She was minding her own when this darn bull went after her. That was it. I listed him and sold him immediately.
We were ready to process him, and I value the safety of my kids and myself first and foremost. We are out here day in and day out working, doing chores, playing. We have to be safe.
It was shortly thereafter that my cousin reached out and let me know that Jersey bulls can be some of the meanest (which is what our guy was). I would have thought a dairy bull to be docile like a dairy cow. Guess I thought wrong.
And that leads me to the point of all of this – I have said to fellow small farmers that sometimes you just have to take the leap, no matter how ready you think you are, you’re never ready enough, so sometimes you just have to do things, try them, gain some experience, sweat a little, pray a lot, work hard, learn to work smarter. But it is often the experience that teaches you what your next step should be – more than a book, blog, vlog, or whatnot.
But sometimes, you have to know your limitations. We should have castrated that bottle calf right away. We should have looked at our fencing, lack in separate and adequate pens, and our experience with a stud purchase or two (don’t let us go to the auction, it’s just bad), to inform our decision about that bottle calf. The bull should have come later, when we built a bullpen, and when we had matured enough to know better than to mess with horns/head of a bullheaded critter.
There is never a bull moment on the farm, and for that, I am quite thankful. I’ve learned a lot this past couple of years. I am looking forward to learning more in the years ahead of me.