I noticed a heifer had a loop of electric fence wire tightly wrapped around her foot. It was old galvanized wire, a light gauge wire that remains partially buried here and there. The wire is probably twenty or more years old. It was strung all over the farm on rebar posts, then abandoned. It is particularly hard to eradicate because long sections have been absorbed into the ground and bushes have overgrown the fence lines, so we often don’t find wire until we trip over an exposed section.
My first attempt to untangle this heifer’s wire was not wisely executed. I caught the loose end as she walked by me, took a wrap around my glove, and hauled the heifer to a stop. She outweighs me by 650 pounds, but I surprised her so she didn’t realize what I was doing until I had her leg hitched up in the air and pinned under my arm. She stopped long enough to let me unwrap part of the loop, only giving a few noncommittal kicks. But I found that the wire was wrapped around several times. By that point she’d had enough of me and kicked her way free. I held on, and almost had her reeled back in when the tail of the wire broke free.
For my second attempt I used better judgement and did what I should have done from the beginning. I went back to the house and got a wire cutter. Then I moved the cattle to new hay bales. She and the rest of the herd crowded around the bales, enthusiastically eating and jostling each other. I was able to sneak in with my wire cutters and clip her leg free before she realized that I was back. I was concerned that the wire might have cut off circulation, but she seems to be walking well.
There are always better ways to work with livestock, ways that suit their dispositions and that don’t create unnecessary stress for them or for me. Cowboying has its place I suppose, but all that hooting, roping, and tackling rarely are appropriate. I need to remind myself of this periodically, because it is too easy to slip into the good old bad ways of trying to outmuscle and outcuss the cattle, rather than outthinking them. I can’t compete with them in muscle or cussedness, so I’d better sharpen my thinking. Getting outsmarted by a bovine doesn’t reflect too well on me.