I hope you experience the same vicarious joy that I do when watching the cows race to their spring pastures each year.
Who is your favorite chewer from the video? And why is it that non-humans animals chewing is charming, but hearing the same from our own species drives some of us up the wall?
A friend of me recently told me that they find observing cattle to be emotionally grounding. For sure, a serenely grazing cow radiates peace.
It’s difficult to tell when cattle are truly happy since they express their emotions in a way that seems alien to most humans. Still, there is a notable contrast between a calm bovine and an excited or anxious one. We who work with these creatures learn to differentiate between these various behavioral states and use this wisdom to safely provide optimal care.
In a more spiritual sense, I also love to watch the Moo Crew peacefully munch on a bale of grass hay, browse through the willows along the creek, or mow down an overgrown pasture like a band of professional landscapers. They bring me joy.
Today, we’re sharing the Jerseys and their zen-like bliss with you all. Please feel free to hop in your Gator, grab a bale of your own, and join in.
With the exception of the occasional snow flurries, we’re welcoming the arrival of spring here at the sanctuary.
For the small herd of rescued Jersey cattle that resides here, the onset of spring corresponds with green pastures for grazing and warm sunshine for sunbathing. They’re already nibbling at the carpet of new growth that has emerged from the muddy winter paddock and we’ve begun to catch them delving into the creek to eat the vegetation. Soon, we’ll open the path to the summer pastures so they can roam the hillsides on either side of the chimpanzee enclosures, grazing and napping the long days away until next winter.
The cattle may require less attention than the chimps, but they’re not entirely independent. In fact, they require a bit of maintenance, especially in the spring and fall. Each year, there are a few things that need to happen before the cattle can go on summer vacation.
First, we need to make sure the pasture grass is ready for cattle. Domestic cattle aren’t native here and turning the herd out to pasture too soon can damage the vegetation and terrain (and can also be harm their sensitive guts).
We also need to check the pasture fences and make sure nothing was damaged during the winter storms and freezes.
Then, we have to wean them off of the supplemental hay that we provision through the colder months.
Finally, we prefer to have their annual veterinary exams completed while they’re still hanging out in the winter paddock.
We’re gradually working our way down that checklist. Even though the pastures aren’t quite ready yet and we’re still giving the bovines a bale of hay each morning, we were able to do their annual exams last week.
To facilitate these procedures, we closed the cattle in the Bud Box and then did a quick exam on each individual before letting them back out into the larger paddock. Dr. Erin led the exams as J.B. and I took notes and provided a little extra muscle (although even the two of us are relatively useless when the rowdy patient weighs over a thousand pounds).
The routine exams consisted of full body check-ups, hoof inspections, annual vaccinations, and follow-up diagnostics related to any minor health issues that caregivers had previously documented (e.g. Meredith’s brief “ain’t doin’ right” in January). As usual, Dr. Erin worked quickly; even the tamest of domestic cattle don’t particularly enjoy being confined and restrained for very long, which can cause them to grow fractious in a hurry.
Fortunately, we successfully completed the essential tasks and the cattle resumed their normal routine almost immediately. In addition to our meticulous documentation of the exam procedures and findings, we also managed to take some quick snapshots to share with you all.
We’re happy to report that everyone looked great and seems to be in prime physical condition. (Nutmeg, especially, is the epitome of health and oozes masculine confidence. If you’re not yet convinced, check out some of our past blogs about him. You’ll be in awe of this majestic lad.)
Now, the cattle only need their annual hoof trims and a little more growth in the pastures before they can resume their summer landscaping duties!
Those of you who follow CSNW on Instagram may have noticed that we regularly feature images of the four rescued Jersey cattle who graze the pastures around the sanctuary. Since these herbivorous creatures are so different from their chimpanzee neighbors, focusing on the cattle can be a welcome change of pace for the sanctuary staff and social media followers alike.
In the recent “Bovine Break” post from a couple days ago, we shared a photograph of the four Jersey cattle resting together in their winter paddock. They have formed a tightly-knit herd and are rarely seen apart, which is justified given their history and family bonds. Still, they each have their own colorful personality and quirky tendencies, and the image highlighted one of these characteristic traits.
While Betsy, Honey and Nutmeg were all aligned so they could view the hills and forests to the north of the sanctuary, Meredith was turned completely around and facing the other direction, chewing her cud without any indication that she wanted to conform with the others. We always joke that she has idiosyncratic tendencies, but it was nice to capture it visually for all to see. Standing while the others lay down, laying down while the others stand, facing the opposite direction, lagging behind the group… such is Meredith’s nature.
I used her peculiarity to my advantage when I went out to photograph the cattle this afternoon. The other three acted inconvenienced and trotted away, but Merry quietly waddled alongside me at her own pace. She’s not always in an affectionate mood, but she occasionally paused to suspiciously sniff my muck boots and gently lick my hands. We stopped at the paddock gate where she stood and watched the others (who had nonchalantly strolled through together). Eventually, I left them to their own endeavors. Apart from the satisfaction of capturing some nice portraits, I was also content to share a peaceful moment with this odd individual.
This period between Christmas and New Year’s Day is always a bit odd.
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the days between the solstice and end of the year must still have a unique feeling. For one thing, unless you work in the health or service industries, you’re probably spending most or all of this time on vacation. Maybe you’re using the holidays as an opportunity to chip away at your reading list, reach out to friends and family, or partake in winter sports. Perhaps you’re sleeping in, binge-watching crime documentaries, or cuddling with your nonhuman companions.
Regardless of your interests, you’re likely reflecting on the events of the past twelve months and recharging your emotional batteries for the challenges of another year. After the rollercoaster ride that 2020 just gave us, it seems more important than ever that we all take a deep breath, recite our personal mantras, and engage in the activities that bring us fulfillment.
One thing that I’ve been doing during this week-between-the-holidays is playing a wide variety of games with my friends and family. The ongoing pandemic makes meeting up with loved ones more difficult for all of us, but we still find ways to compete virtually because we think it’s important. For humans and other creatures, play challenges cognitive abilities and yields valuable insight about the world and how it works. When done socially, it can reaffirm social relationships and hone crucial skills like empathy, adaptability, and resilience. Of course, I don’t usually think about these benefits while I’m getting torched in a game of Cribbage (unlike some cool scientists who actually research the adaptive value of play behavior), but I still appreciate the opportunity to engage with others in lighthearted competition.
Lately, my playlist has included card games like Rummy and Cribbage, online multiplayer games like Among Us, and turn-based board games like Settlers of Catan. (By the way, does anyone have ore or wheat to trade? I’ve got a ton of sheep.) My friends and I have also carried on with our fantasy football league, giving us each a small stake in the weekend contests.
On top of all that, I am greeted by ten playful chimps upon arriving at the sanctuary each morning. The chimps and staff jointly create arbitrary rituals that, over time, become woven into the fabric of our relationships. The games that the chimps play, like ours, have understood rules and require a certain amount of trust. When Jamie nods, we start walking. When we rev up the Gator, Missy starts running. When Burrito stomps and pivots, we stomp and pivot.
When I see the chimps creating these odd rituals, it reminds me of the contests that we conceive among ourselves. Therefore, today, I’m giving you all a new game to play. It’s similar to ones that we have hosted in the past (Saw references and all).
Today’s version challenges you to guess which one of the sanctuary’s four rescued cattle is pictured in each of the following images. Each member of the Moo Crew is included at least twice. I’ll post the answers in a separate comment tomorrow evening. “Let the games begin!”
Hint: One pair of related cattle shares a similar hair-do. The other related pair does not!
Good luck, everybody!
Sundays are usually quiet around here but today was unusually busy and a bit chaotic.
We experienced some of those bright moments that we expect when working around happy and healthy chimps, but we also encountered a few unexpected hang-ups that ensured this day would not go as smoothly as we initially hoped.
These days happen from time to time. Such is the life of a sanctuary caregiver.
Today’s minor obstacles included staff car troubles, sheets of ice on our vehicles and sidewalks, and mechanical issues around the building that required substantial effort to fix. I even hit snooze too many times and missed out on my usual dose of coffee. We’ll be fine (especially since I keep emergency coffee grounds in the Chimp House), but I would have been happier if everyone made it through the day without further setbacks.
To add some sour frosting to this moldy cake, Chad noticed that Meredith was acting strangely (even for a Jersey cow) and we gave her a preliminary diagnosis of A.D.R. (the common but dreaded condition of simply “ain’t doin’ right”). Of course, this condition warrants a follow-up exam by a veterinarian, so we called in Dr. Erin.
We love seeing Dr. Erin at the sanctuary, but we definitely prefer when she’s hanging with the chimps or delivering supplies for the vet clinic. Having to do an unexpected physical exam on a curiously-behaving bovine is not ideal, and it was difficult to get the suspicious cattle isolated as the sun rapidly set and plunged the pasture into darkness. We eventually secured Meredith and her companions into the winter paddock for what we hope is a quick check-up tomorrow morning. Hopefully, this is just some temporary discomfort and the cattle will be back to their usual activities soon.
With all this stuff to do, I didn’t have time to take many photos or type out any additional thoughts. Therefore, today’s blog will center around this portrait series of Burrito, the Most Charismatic Chimpanzee in the World. I happened to capture this moment as he ventured out onto the Hill this morning (before everything else unraveled).
As with most of the unusual events that transpire around here, it’s much easier to get through if you maintain a wry sense of humor and a little optimism. Of course, as with any life situation, there’s also a Simpsons bit that encapsulates my feelings perfectly.