In a perfect world, my gentle cows would each experience the miracle of virgin birth year after year. But alas, this world is not perfect yet and I have to wrestle with the dilemma of bovine matchmaking.
Even the most citified among us are aware that a bull is not to be messed with. Oh sure, the bull calves are just as cute as the heifers, and lots of times are friendlier and funnier to boot. But, in no time cute becomes precocious,
precocious becomes obnoxious and obnoxious can end in a trip to the emergency room. Super-fast. No way around it, bulls can be dangerous and unpredictable animals.
The first surprise about growing young bulls is that one day, without warning, their voice changes and you find that at feedtime, your barnyard sounds like Jurassic Park. Our Rocco has always loved the sound of his own voice and
really enjoyed this new development. He tried the whole range the first day and continues to be a talker with a huge vocabulary.
They are also pretty fascinating animals. Definitely different from cows. Our first bull Hodil is a pretty quiet one. Not creepy quiet – that worries me in a different way. He’s definitely all bull. Hodil rules the roost; you get clearance from him if you want to meet the ladies
and all is fine as long as he eats first, drinks first and gets the fluffiest bed.
The ladies, not yet hip to Women’s Lib, are on board with this. In fact, they seem to prefer life with the bull to life without. And, he gives me great feedback as to the status of my breeding program.
Our younger bull, Rocco, is one handsome fellow. In fact, I am always going out of my way just to look at him – his beauty really is extraordinary. He was a peppy, friendly, personality packed calf from the first day. And now, he’s a peppy, friendly, personality packed BULL.
Most of the time, he just wants to know what’s going on and if he can play too or if you’re maybe going to scratch his chin? He misses nothing. But yesterday, something new happened. Rocco displayed his full bullness. It was a display for some fast approaching strangers in menacing hoodies. He’s never been this way towards me, but he had my full attention. I got the memo.
Our goal in managing the cattle is to simply stay out of their way as much as possible. The whole point of heritage breed animals is to utilize their innate survival skills making them happier and our lives simpler and less expensive. This all makes beautiful, perfect, logical sense but for one issue: can we do this without a bull?
After considering the alternative, artificial insemination (AI), we decided to brave it with the bull. He is way more convenient, accurate and less expensive. While the cows don’t suffer from AI, and the farmer is safer, the life of a bull devoted to producing the semen needed for all those cows is not one I would want for any of my bulls.
Since Devons are known to have a gentle temperament when kindly handled, we estimated the risk to be manageable. After all, this whole venture is to mimic nature as closely as we can and provide the most humane lives possible for our cows. As such, the bull is the risk we take and the commitment to humane husbandry we make. So far, we have been rewarded with a beautiful, healthy calf from each and every cow.
But one thing is for sure; we love our cows, we respect our bulls and we test our fences twice a day!