Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wild Thing!!!

In the midst of raising cows and calves, it is also very important to us that we take care of the wildlife that calls our area home.  To be perfectly honest, some of the critters are welcome, some are not.  We have deer, coyotes, an occasional Mexican eagle, hawks, ducks, herons, and numerous bird species that we both enjoy watching.  We also have turkey vultures, black vultures, feral hogs, fire ants, and some other species  that are not as appealing, though some do serve a purpose.  The turkey vultures are around and do serve to take care of carcasses, as do the black vultures, but the black vultures quite often are more aggressive and will drive away the turkey vultures.  Blacks have caused the death of at least one calf and forced me to barrel madly through the pasture trying to save another!  Ok - that may be a bit of an exaggeration but when I see them circling any of the pastures, I know we probably have a cow giving birth or a brand new calf and the vultures are harassing one or both!  That does tend to send my blood pressure up and foot down on the gas pedal.  I chased about 3 dozen away from a cow that had just given birth to a calf that they (the vultures) had completely encircled and were moving ever closer to the new baby.  The calf we lost to the blacks, was actually stepped on by its mother as she was trying to drive away the blacks that were agitating her in their attempt to reach the newborn.  Guess they got what they wanted! 

I have also seen feral hogs in the past few weeks and they are most definitely not welcome either.  Their rooting causes holes and places for a cow to step into and break a leg, along with eating up nice, tender, grass!  Their rooting causes destruction to a pasture by destroying the desirable grasses and forbs, allowing undesirable invader species to come into the area.  A landowner trying to maintain pasture for his livestock will have to spend dollars, time, and great effort to bring the pasture back.  The hogs can get through almost any fence, thus destroy fencing, causing the landowner to spend dollars to repair/replace barb wire and posts.  Now admittedly, baby pigs are cute, in their own way, but those boars and sows are just plain ugly and vicious!  Their skins are tough with a thick layer of fat making it difficult to take them down, their tusks and teeth are nasty and if bitten or scratched can cause severe infections, and they will chase a human if startled.  They have very poor eyesight but extremely good hearing.  There are serious environmental and economic repercussions that come with feral hog infestations!

Fire ants are another of those species that are an annoyance and can be detrimental to other species that nest on the ground or even newborn calves.  I have to admit that I don't see any redeeming quality in the fire ants and I would love for them to be totally gone from our pastures.  Their mounds are a pain to deal with, cows will not graze around them, and if you ever inadvertantly step on one and stand there, clothes will be flying trying to get the nasty little things off.  Their bite is vicious and prolific, causing painful, itching sores.  They swarm so rapidly that a calf or some other small animal on a mound could be completely covered by ants in a very short time period.  They don't provide any type of benefit that I can see but they are certainly detrimental.

Black vultures, feral hogs and fire ants are considered invader species.  They utilize food, water, and space that would otherwise be available to the native species, thus often driving out those native species. 

I want to emphasize the good that we do in caring for the wildlife that do call our area home.  In building fences, we make sure that deer have access to grass and forbs in the pasture.  We want to keep our ponds clean and available for herons, ducks, and the occasional Canada geese, as well as provide water for the other species.  We will spread the hay and manure to provide nutrients back to the soil and continue to look for ways to handle weeds without damage to the environment, thus efficiently utilizing the moisture and nutrients in the soil.  By spreading the material around, it actually helps the pasture to grow, providing feed for the cows, seed and insects for birds, forage for deer, and cover for the various species that utilize the taller grass.  It is our desire to be able to spend time enjoying the wildlife and know that we are providing care for them, as well as our cows.  Environmentalists  - many farmers and ranchers were environmentalists long before it was considered "popular".