I have been following a thread on another e-mail list comparing the mothering rating of the cow that tries to attack anyone who gets close to their new-born calf as opposed to the cow that is OK with this. The consensus seems to be that the mellow cow is not as good mother as the cow that will try to eat you. I disagree with this.
Bud and I found that when you work livestock properly – that is, by using pressure/release methods instead of force and fear, the cows learn to respect but not fear you. Since they don’t feel you are a threat to them, they also don’t think you are a threat to their calf so they don’t “get on the fight” when you need to handle their new baby.
When we lived in Canada we were involved with a Beef Booster cow herd. In case you aren’t familiar, this is a composite breed. Some of the herds were rated “Maternal.” Their main function was to produce heifers to go into the cow herd, another raised “Terminal bulls” to use on the herds that would market all of their calves, etc. The man we worked for had about 100 head of cows that were designed to raise “Terminal bulls.” He wanted to change over to a “Maternal” herd so he swapped his herd with a neighbor. When these cows were delivered the neighbor also delivered a list of ear-tag numbers of cows that would kill you if you tried to handle their baby calf. The only way they could weigh and tag the calf was with a bucket loader on a tractor. A man in the bucket would get the calf, then the tractor operator would try to raise the bucket before the cow could climb in, too. We received these cows in October. We handled them quite a lot. If the feedlot shipped a pen of cattle and there was still feed in the bunks, we’d put these cows in the pen for a while to let them clean the bunk. Through the winter we tried to move their straw bed every few days to make it easier when they farmed the ground in the spring. This usually meant we had to drive the cows to the new bed a couple of times to discourage them from going back to the old one, etc. When spring came the owner was able to weigh and tag every calf with no aggression from any of the cows.
The first year we worked on the elk ranch In Texas, we didn’t see an elk calf until it was a couple of weeks old. The following year, the cow elk would bring their newborn calves with them when we drove through the pasture, scattering hay. We even had one calf born in the corral.