Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Norway - The good bull


Why am I happy?

Well, mostly because Norway just earned his keep a little more again. How did that happen, you ask?

Did he calmly allow me to walk up to him and brush his back? Did he protect Buttercup from a ferocious wild dog?

Those would be good, but no, he didn’t do those things.

Remember how Norway went to visit our farm friend’s cows for a month? Well, my friend called right before lunch to tell me that BOTH her cows are confirmed pregnant by Norway! Yay!

Hey. Why not celebrate the cow pregnancies that keep our family homesteads going!? But I have to admit, it does sound a bit funny as I’m so new to this sort of agricultural excitement. Especially since we are specifically celebrating Norway’s “success”.

The older cow at this family farm had two failed artificial inseminations prior to Norway’s visit. So, they are very excited that their cow doesn’t have to be sent off for meat. Full size dairy cows are way too expensive to be pets for a small homestead.

a good candidate for "cattle prod", but not what we've used so far. ;)
Another great thing is that we’re going back to carrying and using a cattle prod, aka: a stick, and it’s working well. When Norway first came, he tried to create a few bad habits and we would just tap him on the back with a stick. He’s a “herd’ bull, so it did the trick. Since he hasn’t been moved every few days like he was in the summer, he hasn’t been around us much at all. We don’t have a lot to do with him and he was forgetting his training and being too much of a “bull” (boy, that reference has new meaning after watching a real bull).

You can see his damaged shelter in the background. He had an itch.

He has thought that Joel was challenging him a couple times recently, which is a particularly scary place to be with a bull. The key is to never let the bull think he has won, or that you have admitted defeat to him or submitted to his authority. If Joel had run away, backed up at the challenge, or gotten thrown into a fence by Norway – he would have lost his place as top dog on the farm – and Joel and I need to remain as authority here. Thankfully, Joel had the nerve to stand there and sternly tell Norway that he needed to cut it out – which eventually worked so that once Norway backed off and submitted to Joel, Joel could walk away.

My goodness, it is nerve wracking watching that happen. And Joel commented, afterwards, that he was sure he would be thrown into the fence. Norway isn’t a bad guy – he just mistook Joel’s movements when he moved the gate as a challenge. And a bull isn’t supposed to turn down a challenge.

It’s really a fine line between when to get the heck out of dodge and when to know you can be firm and stand your ground and trust that this bull isn’t inherently a bad one. Norway wasn’t charging, he was just trying to intimidate. Running away would be a terrible thing for poor Norway. In the back of our minds will always be this one sad truth:
Once our bull has won a challenge with Joel or me, or thinks he’s intimidated us into submission (i.e. we run away before Norway gives up) – he’s pretty much a ruined bull and would be a terrible bull to keep around.

So with a bull, we have the added responsibility to not be stupid and do something that puts him in a position that he can’t come back from. Because if he wins once, he'll keep trying to boss us around. We can't let it get to that point. He’s a good guy, and he’ll stay behind an electric fence better than our sweet and docile Buttercup – he’d really just like to stay here with his peaceful life and be mostly left alone.

The good news is that he is very receptive to discipline with a stick. He tried to push Buttercup around yesterday because I was giving her attention at the fence and a quick tap on the shoulder had him back up without the slightest challenge on his part.

He was also great for our friend when he visited with her. She had tight quarters with two full Jersey’s and Norway, so she was right next to him and touching him on the back daily. She never had problem and he was fine with that kind of human interaction. Norway came from a great line. The previous owners let us know that they spent time researching Dexter bulls and chose Norway after seeing his father and mother and learning that they bread for friendly bulls.

Norway's new toy. A marine buoy we found at the dump.
Norway’s got a good life here and I hope it lasts a long time. He’s got a lady friend, a rotation of grass in the summer, and very nice mineral supplements (if he’d just stop being a bull and knocking the buckets over). If he gets to be too much for this place, he might try another farm – but he was a synch to rotate towards the end of last summer and I’m happy that he and Buttercup get along so well. I’m also happy that we have something on our farm that can help another farm or homestead out. I’ve milked that old girl at our friend’s homestead, and I’m glad she got to earn her keep too!

Norway loves Buttercup
So, Norway: Thanks for being a good guy, for never breaking out of our fences, for helping our neighbor farmer out, and for understanding our authority even when you think we’re giving you a challenge. Sorry we sent you a mixed signal, boy, and we’ll try really hard not to do it again. Please protect Buttercup and her future calf. We’ll gladly hear your midnight bellowing again if you see another predator in the yard. In those cases – be the bull! And protect your herd!

I've shared this at:

From The Farm Blog Hop

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre


  1. Norway is a handsome bull and obviously likes what he was hired to do ! Good news like this is always welcome, isn't it ? Now if you could only hook him up with a demolition job that pays.

    1. Oh, yes. We need the good news to go along with all the constant learning! Demolition jobs performed by bulls are sparse around here. :)

  2. I've commented this way before but I so admire what you are doing there. What a blessing for you and Joel to be united in these endeavors. It would not be possible otherwise.

    1. Thank you! That is so true about us needing to be united for all of this. We definitely pick and choose what we both feel comfortable with and desire to do. It is better to enjoy it and work at it together.




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