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Confessions of a cattlewoman

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Christine Tailer

By Christine Tailer
HCP columnist

Well, it is said that a cattlewoman is a person of female gender who looks after or owns cattle. I am certainly a female, and if you happen to stop by the creek valley, you will see two cattle contentedly grazing in the middle pasture, so I suppose that I might be considered a cattlewoman, though I truly have my doubts. 

Over the years, I have tended cattle by the names of T Bone, Chuck and Porter, but in time I realized that naming these bovine creatures was rather awkward. They were destined for the freezers of friends and family, and I accordingly took to calling them by number. Nine and Ten now roam our middle field.

I must let you know, however, that even though referred to by numbers, I still come to know these animals as they grow to weight. I imagine that folks who raise larger numbers of cattle might not come to know them as individuals, but perhaps they do come to know a few who stand out from the crowd. 

A friend of mine told me about a bull who took great delight in running her across the pasture, even teaching her how to jump the fence, and one of our neighbors told me about a mother cow who gladly nursed not only her own twins, but an orphan calf as well. One thing that I know for sure, is that our cattle have taught me the meaning of grace, in every sense of the word.

No doubt you by now know that first thing after coffee, Greg and I set out to do the animal chores. I gather the chicken eggs, feed and water the rabbits, and tend to the horses and cattle. Greg feeds and waters the chickens, the homing pigeons, the hair sheep and the goats. It usually works out that we are both finished with our rounds at just about the same time.

After I tend to the rabbits and chicken eggs, I head down the hill to the pasture. There, I turn on the frost-free spigot and fill the cattle trough. Then I call the cattle over for a treat as the water flows. Sometimes they are waiting for me by the trough, and I do not need to call, but other times they are contentedly enjoying the morning on the far side of the field. 

The call that I use is one that I learned from my Aunt Laura, when I visited her farm as a child. I well remember walking her fields, her pack of dogs running thither and yon, and how she would call them to her side in a singing, almost yodeling, kind of way. Her voice easily carried across the land, and this is the call that I use. At the sound of my song, the cattle raise their heads and come running and dancing across the field right to me. The little horses have taught them well.

Once the cattle are happily enjoying their treat, I enter the horses’ paddock, brush their coats, check their hooves and fill their water trough. By the time I have finished with the horses, the cattle have finished their treat, and I can let the horses out of the paddock to enjoy the pasture. I dare not let the horses out any sooner. They are quite fat enough, and if I didn’t wait, they would shove the cattle out of the way at the trough and get even fatter.

This is a perfect routine, but the other day, I decided to enter the pasture first thing, to see how close I could get to the cattle. I handed Ten a treat, and she ate it right out of my hand. Nine was a bit more stand-offish, so I left her treat in the trough. Ten beat her to it.

After chores, Greg and I set to reinforcing the chicken run. The raccoons have been wreaking havoc on the plastic mesh roofing, so we decided to replace it with wire roofing material. With that task completed, we decided to go for a walk along the creek. As we neared the pasture, my heart sank. The pasture gate was wide open, and the cattle were no where in sight. I called. Nothing.

We traced their footprints though the soft garden soil down to the creek’s edge. There, the prints turned and headed headed back across the garden to the hillside. I sent messages to our neighbors, asking them to keep their eyes out for our wandering bovine, and then Greg and I proceeded to walk our now thick under storied hillsides. We made three passes through the thick woods. As I clambered across dead fall and through briars, I called my cattle call. No response. I was heartbroken. I obviously had not latched the pasture gate securely.

I prepared our dinner, and as we ate, Greg tried to cheer me up. I was worried not only for our cattle, but for the havoc or injury they might cause to others. I well knew that I had only myself to blame. I tidied up inside the house while Greg headed back out to check on the chickens. Through the open window I heard him quietly call “Christine, they’re back.”

I ran downstairs, tears just behind my eyes, and dashed out the basement door. There they were, standing beside Greg in the gravel drive. I called and both came right up to me. I continued calling, and they followed me, even dancing, all the way down the hill and into their pasture. Of course, I gave them a treat. They readily ate it, occasionally looking up from their trough with a flick of their tails, as if to let me know that yes, they’d had a wonderful day in the woods, but it was good to be back.

And so it seems that my cattle have taught me another lesson. All I had to do was wait until the cows came home.   

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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