Passed the Grazing Test

Cow just outside the second gate.

One of the ladies came for a visit inside the enclosure that separates our house and yard from the rest of the ranch. David and I do this to protect our vehicles, equipment and, frankly, prevent all the flies due to cow pies from being too close to the house. I often will leave the enclosure gate open when I am home to facilitate easier ingress and egress in our daily life. My thinking is…I will know the cows are around before there can be any trouble. I have dogs after all! Well, that plan is not always accurate.

Yesterday, this lovely lady entered the enclosure. We have lots of tall yummy grass that popped up from the summer moisture and rain while we were gone. My garden is often a draw as well. Whatever the enticement, she was inside the enclosure. Yet again, my dogs were useless in alerting me. I looked up from my computer, and there she was – peacefully eating the grass on the east side of the house in plain view outside my slider.

Now that I had my eye on her, I let her eat for a little while. As dusk began to fall, I gently herded her out with the help of my lab Beatrix (Yes, she sometimes can be useful!). After shutting the gate, to a low groaning sound, which is “cow talk” for disappointment, I checked on the milkweed. She did not touch the South Plot. She did impact the North Plot, which was closer to her entry point. Fortunately, she did not trample the entire plot. The cow did try to graze one of the milkweeds. I know this because one was torn out – a real healthy one too! The plant lay in its entirety near where it was pulled. It was clearly unpalatable to her!! It took just the one taste evidently to keep her from pulling out the rest.

There appeared to be some roots left on the plant. I quickly replanted it and gave it some more water. I hope that the roots will take, and it will grow again. I looked today, and the plant had gone from healthy, full and green, to wilted and sad. It was still firm in the ground, but that could just be from my recent packing of the soil. I would hate to lose another one.

Overall, this happening is beneficial. I needed to know if the cows would leave them alone. Milkweed is toxic to sheep and not good for other livestock. On a cattle ranch, to do this work, the plants need to be unpalatable to the animals so they do not get sick, and so the butterflies will have intact habitat. I am very excited that the plants will be left alone!

The cow and her friends beginning to aggregate, hoping for the gate to be open.
The dogs getting water after they perceived a job well done.

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