Looking across the rickety “Michigan gate” into the eyes of Endeavor the Guernsey bull, I started asking myself a few questions.
“How serious is he about his bully threats? Do I dare bluff him?”
“Why the heck do we still have a bull??”
“How fast can I still run?”
Frank and I walked the long way around the adjoining field to avoid getting too close again when we noticed he’d defeated a different rickety Michigan gate and was intently watching us, having followed us a short way into the next field along the fence. It was more than a little unnerving. We made sure we closed all the gates between him and the house that we could as he continued to follow us around from within the confines of his pasture.
When Mark and I went back down later to shore up the gates, Endeavor was right back with his peculiar hoarse moo, grimacing face, and threatening head shakes. We no sooner got the gate wired than he proceeded to partially push through while we took a drive back a bit to reassess. A round from Mark’s rifle just in front of his face put an end to that, but we still needed to fix the fence. It took us an hour, help from Jim and Frank, and a few more back and forth bluffs between Mark and the bull to ensure that most likely Endeavor and his pals wouldn’t be in the back yard in the morning.
That was our night last night. Farming is NOT a 9 to 5 job. It is the fabled lifestyle job people seek where you can set your own hours and take Monday afternoon off if you want, but you may also put in late nights doctoring animals or covering plants, or have long days at harvest time.
Certain things complicate the process, and bulls are definitely one of them.
Why do we even have a bull?
Well, for one thing, you need calves to have milk. Cows get pregnant by one thing, and a bull is one way to do that. AI (Artificial Insemmination) is another way, but we have had difficulty finding a consistent person to come do that for one or two cows at a time for a small operation like ours.
For another thing, you don’t have milk for herd share customers without calves to cause milk production.
Wait…I mentioned that already. Yeah, so there’s only one reason to have a bull. Babies. Calves provide renewed milk production and provide beef in upcoming years. And who doesn’t love grass fed raw milk and grass fed beef burgers??
So we have Endeavor the bull. But not for much longer. And only because it was easier to get him than find an AI person. And he did a great job, he’s just gotten a little big for his britches, as bulls are wont to do. So, his days at Baker’s Green Acres on the fields are numbered. (Stay tuned for fresh beef burger back in stock soon.)
Do we recommend a bull for your homestead?
NO. Bulls are a gamble with poor odds. You may win. You may win for a while. But we’ve personally known several people who’ve been injured by bulls have witnessed the destructive capabilities of each of our bulls. They aren’t to be taken for granted, even more so than other breeding males, because of their size and power. Most homesteads, including our own, aren’t really fenced and equipped to handle that much testosterone and power if it goes sideways.
Management for an intact male includes quality fencing, keeping him busy, never keeping known aggressive bloodlines, space to exercise and be the best whatever he is (cow, pig, goat, etc.), and good feed so he’s not crazy with malnourishment. And, even with all that, it sometimes doesn’t work out. Especially with dairy breed bulls. This interesting article explains some of the reasons for that.
And last night it felt like it might go sideways. It didn’t. But we’re hedging our bets, stacking the deck, and building some new fences until we can create a new option.
Life’s too good to risk things with an animal. No animal is more valuable to the homestead than a human life or well being.
And that was the answer to all my questions as I stood there eye to eye with Endeavor the bull.