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“The Sick Cows are Crazy”

Day 1 of the Feedyard: I show up to what I think is the main hospital. I’m not sure though, because my directions for where to check in were kind of vague, and when I walk in, everyone sort of nods my direction but doesn’t seem alarmed or interested in asking if I know what I’m doing there (which I don’t, of course). I finally see the head doctor who hired me and get assigned to the east side of the yard with 2 other guys. I have no clue what is going on because we’re talking about “catches” and so many pen numbers that I can’t keep up. But we finally arrive at a “catch” 3, which turns out to mean one area of the yard.

There are 7 catches: each of the 500+ pens are assigned to one of these area numbers. At each catch there is a hospital, which is a very small room with a heater, counter, minifridge, drugs & doctoring supplies. Just outside the door to each hospital is a snake and chute to run the sick cattle through, and surrounding the hospital and chute are a number of hospital pens.

Anyhow, we arrive at the catch and I’m asked to go run the one steer in a pen through the snake and into the chute. Easy enough. I walk back to the pen and place a hand on the gate latch. The Hereford inside starts running around madly. Now, I know all cattle have different sized flight zones. But I have never met any cattle that can’t handle a human within 100 ft of it. I step inside the pen but stay in the corner diagonally from the steer. He turns and charges me, which is also something new in my experience. He calls off the attack early, so I stay quietly where I am to let him calm down to my presence. He circles around crazily for a few minutes until he runs himself directly into the metal fence post. I swear, I did not even take a step towards the fellow. I watch him and he watches me (looking severely dazed) for a very long minute. He stands directly in front of the fence until, very very slowly, he tips over completely. “Oh My God, I killed it!”

I called for help, and one of the other guys ran over and tried gently shaking it up. The steer was now incredibly cross-eyed and bleeding from its nose/mouth. He took a few staggering steps while trying to attack us, but soon fell back over. His jaw hung broken from his face. I started apologizing and trying to explain that I hadn’t even pressured it. I was told, “It’s okay, I watched. You didn’t do anything wrong, really. Some cattle just aren’t comfortable with people”.

Awesome. My first day, and I nearly kill an animal completely unintentionally, and nearly get taken out myself. I wanted to cry for hurting an animal, and I wanted to yell at him for trying to hurt me. Maybe this job will be harder than I thought.