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Decaffeinating Cows
3 June 2007


Last week's post discussed how the neighbor's cattle are doing their best impressions of bulldozers: knocking down fences and eating their fill of Kona coffee.  I understand their craving for fresh Kona coffee but they have to pay for it just like everyone else.  So with a little diplomacy and a lot of fencing, we hope to soon have the neighbor's cattle caffeine free.

After some effort we finally tracked down the owners of the cattle.  It wasn't too surprising to learn that the owners have nothing to do with the cattle.  They referred everything to their son-in-law who recently quit his construction job to manage the cattle ranch.  After receiving a phone
call from the animal control officer, the son-in-law immediately called us on the phone and said he'd be right up to fix the fence.  It was nice to finally get a response.  I offered to help, partly to be neighborly and partly to meet him and be there while the fence was fixed.

We chased the cattle back across to the ranch then one of the ranch hands discovered a calf that had been left behind.  It was very young with legs that were still quite wobbly.  They carried her over to the ranch side of the fence and said her mother should be able to find her there.  Then they hopped back in their truck and drove off to get some fencing material.  I'm not exactly sure why they didn't bring some fencing in the first place, but whatever.

I set to work fixing a section of my fence that had once again been trampled down by the cattle.  Thirty minutes later and the ranchers still hadn't returned with any fencing.  That's when I noticed that the calf had managed to wander back to where her mother had left her.  I picked her up and carried her to the ranch side of the fence again.  This time I brought her in further and stood there with her for another twenty minutes while waiting for the ranchers.

They didn't show up until almost dinner time.  It was just the two hired hands this time, the son-in-law manager hadn't come back.  I helped the ranch hands string some barbed wire across the main path the cattle had been using.  There were two other sections of fence that had also been knocked down but the ranch hands said they'd fix those sections later.

A little bird told me I should build a cattle trap then sell any cattle that come on my side of the fence.  I'd be within my right to do so and most of these cattle aren't marked.  The little bird was confident that the owner would never miss a few cattle.  I estimate my losses so far at somewhere near a couple thousand dollars, mostly in lost production due to damage caused by the cattle.  It sure would be nice to recuperate some of those losses.

Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it sounds.  I'm a coffee farmer, not a cattle rancher.  I don't have the equipment or know-how to handle cattle properly. Imagine trying to build a corral or trap strong enough to hold a scared cow or angry bull.  I don't have the time or money for that kind of project.

I do own a shotgun.  I've butchered wild pigs but butchering a full grown cow is a different story.  Free range beef isn't always as tasty as you'd think either.  Most beef we're used to comes from cattle that were fattened up on feed lots before butchering.  I wouldn't mind a freezer full of good sirloin but a quarter ton of tough beef jerky doesn't seem worth all the effort.

For the time being I've decided that repeatedly repairing the fence is the best solution.  I can do spot repairs along the rancher's fence but there's too much for me to repair it all and most of the broken areas are on other people's property.  I have electric fencing along most of my property line.  The electric fence works for awhile but caffeine deprived cows can push right through it.  Recently the cattle have decided that night is the best time for covert coffee theft so every evening we take a walk up to our back field, chasing the cattle ahead of us as we go.  Sometimes they won't come back for a day or two, sometimes I'll wake up in the morning to the sounds of mooing.  I'll keep repairing the fence, chasing the cattle and calling the ranch manager.  I'm sure we'll eventually solve the problem.  In the mean time, I wonder if anyone has ever asked McDonald's about the caffeine content of their hamburgers.

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