High Drama with our new calf number 393

From MT – Cattle

Well, yesterday at the cow auction in Bugaba we purchased 7 young calves. William Yanguez delivered them to entrance of the Los Pozos road where we corralled them for the night. Early the next morning Roberto and Carlos left on horse-back at sunrise to round them up and bring them the 9km up the road to Mount Totumas.   They arrived late morning and we immediately held them in our corral to give them some of the initial vaccines and vitamins.  Vampire bats are a nuisance and transmit diseases and most of our cattle suffer from vampire bat bites on their necks. We treat them with a salve repellent that the bats don’t like.  Anyway this post is about the drama that unfolded late in the afternoon after we had released the new calves from the corral. Roberto came up and reported one of them was missing. They had wandered down to the entrance gate and we were afraid the one missing had crossed the river and was heading back down to the main road. We took the truck and the horses and the three of us searched in vain. None of the locals we came across on the road had seen the calf and there were no tracks by the river indicating a single calf print heading back down. So we assumed he was back up somewhere near the house. We searched again and eventually Carlos spotted him on a pasture at the edge of the forest. This calf was a mix between Simental (Swiss Brown) and Brahma,  its gangly ears gave away its Brahma blood. Roberto mentioned to me that these Brahma mixes can be uncooperative and this calf was dead set against cooperating with us when we tried to get him moving through a gate to join the rest of the herd. He just took off across the pasture and entered the forest looking more like a white-tailed deer than a cow! He entered a heavily forested area that has cliffs and waterfalls and is the steepest drop on the land.  We didn’t want to scare the calf so we quietly followed his tracks in the forest and eventually found him quite a ways in.  Failing to coax him back up to the pastures he once again went on a rampage and took off deeper in the forest until we saw the poor little guy drop over the edge of a steep drop off and Roberto looked over at me gravely and said, “Se mato” (he just killed himself). We expected the worst as we peered over the edge into the jungle below. We spotted the 400 lb calf lying still 40 feet below at the bottom of a canyon by the stream in deep tangled vegetation looking very much dead. He still had his tag number 393 from the auction which was visible on his back. We had to work our way around the cliff and eventually scrambled to the bottom and came up to the calf that was surprisingly still alive. We were even more surprised to find that the calf stood up and seemed ok, at least no bones broken. The place he dropped was all soft soils and looking up at the steep embankment it looks like he just rolled down and was somewhat cushioned by the thick underbrush. It was getting on toward nightfall and we were at the base of these cliffs in the middle of a jungle with deadfall and big rocks and in solid undergrowth steep on all sides except the stream cut that continued steeply down. There was no way this calf was moving far tonight. Carlos, Gabriel and I stayed put while Roberto went back for an Axe, flashlight, machetes and rope. Once he returned we were chopping dead fall tree logs and clearing with machetes a path to get the calf out of the predicament he was in. Once we got a path cleared down to the small quebrada we roped the calf and literally had to drag and pull that exhausted animal down to the stream and get it across and to a clearing in the forest we made where we roped him to a tree for the night. It was a moonless night and getting pitch dark at this time and the plan was to get back down here first thing in the morning and clear a trail with machetes down to a pasture where the stream meets the Rio Colorado. We headed back out of the forest with hundreds of fireflies as company. The next morning a path was cleared and the calf was rejoined with his six companions by midday. This was one lucky calf and we all had a good laugh over the whole ordeal and I heartedly thanked both Roberto and Carlos for their fine work in saving this calf.

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