Last Day of the Phoenix

On Friday I was delivering my big Clun Forest ram lamb to a local breeder when it began to spit snow. By yesterday morning we had two inches on the ground for the last day on the farm for my sixteen-month-old heifer, Phoenix. Fee had been sold in September to a family in northern New York and was picked up yesterday after lunch.

I am happy for Fee — they seem a very friendly, homeschooling, homesteading family, with lots of kids eager to learn about cows and hand-milking. For the family, too, it is a good deal, with a low price on a healthy heifer very probably in calf. Though Opie, my bull, is only eleven months old, he has been devoted to his manly duty since late summer and in recent weeks I’ve detected no sign of heat.

Here is a photo of Fee in early September.

She is a good girl and seems to have her mother’s strong bone structure. When Katika was a heifer, her legs were such posts that several farmers speculated to me that she was actually from beef lines. Her body shape changed entirely with calving, but she has always had great strong legs and hard black hooves that have never required trimming in ten years.

I had planned that I would have Fee halter-broken before she left, but life has been too hectic.

Though my animals come in and out of the barn every day of the year, my system of moving them doesn’t require individual leading. I open gates and the horse, cattle, and sheep take themselves where they need to go. For passing to and fro from the big south pasture, I stretch cold electric lines between the barn door and the pasture gate.

Phoenix and Opie, in fly masks, turning themselves out in May

I knew it would be traumatic for Fee, unaccustomed to being handled, to be loaded in a trailer, so I had decided ahead of time that I would lead her mother in first. I was pretty confident Fee would bound in next to Katika.

Katika hasn’t been in a trailer in many, many years but she trusts me and stepped right up. The trailer had no rubber safety matting and in the snowstorm its wooden plank floor was wet and slippery. I tried to control this by spreading an entire bag of shavings but still Katika almost went down. She immediately evacuated her bowels with nerves.

I stroked her neck and tied her where she could reach the hay and grain I’d put on the floor. Next I went back for Fee. Fee was spooked and unhappy with all the strangers and commotion, but she indeed thought it looked safest next to her mother, and jumped on board. Then I backed Katika out, slipping and sliding. The metal door swung shut, and Phoenix was loaded.

It is always hard for me to sell animals. I remember their births…

(In Fee’s case, more than a week late and I was so worried about her mother dying of milk fever that I checked Katika around the clock for a fortnight and finally ended up dozing on the floor of her stanchion where I could keep an eye on her. By the time of the calf’s arrival, when I helped pull her into the world, I was so wrecked I named the newborn Phoenix — she was rising from the ashes.)

I remember their babyhood…

and all of their funny little ways as they grow up.

But eventually the barn is too full, the feed bills are too high, and it is time to find new homes. Though I always feel a pang, once the transfer is accomplished I also always feel tremendous relief.

Last night I had an email from Phoenix’s new family. She had made the two-hour drive in fine shape and had settled into her new stall in her new barn. She was already calmer.

I hope she has a wonderful life.

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2 Responses to Last Day of the Phoenix

  1. Kirby says:

    I feel happy and sad at the same time. Thanks for sharing pictures of her life.

  2. tricia says:

    Aw…… how bittersweet. She has huge chance at a wonderful life- especially with such an excellent start with YOU! I hope the family keeps in touch with you on her progress.
    I just love that white on her tail and so wish I could have made room for her here! (there I go again piling up cows in residence ideas!)

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