There's always a maverick in every herd - the wily ones who manages to do what they want, when they want, regardless of any measure you put in place to keep them in line. The last few weeks we've been playing a losing game of fence chess with a young steer that really, really wants the feast on the grass in the broiler chicken pasture - and who can blame him? This pasture is enriched with the fertilizer our meat birds leave behind as their shelters are moved across it throughout the weeks they are on pasture, and it sports lush, green juicy grass.
Normally, the herd is rotated to this pasture when we are between broiler rotations, but right now there are two chicken tractors in that area, and the cows can be rough on the structures meant to protect the chickens. They use them as scratching posts or simply bump into them repeatedly, causing damage. Their grazing also tends to disrupt the water lines that supply the chicken tractors as well. None of this mattered to the maverick, though, and he was smart enough to figure out how to get through the fences keeping him from the bounty.
We're still not sure exactly where he's coming through the fence, but we've spotted him smugly grazing with the broilers repeatedly over the last week or so. John's first thought was to move the steer in with some others that were in a smaller pen, waiting to go to the butcher. It's a more secure locating. We tried to herd him in that direction, but this old boy would have none of that. Every time he saw us coming for him, he'd run to the gate leading him back into the area he came from. He was on to us, he didn't want to go somewhere he wouldn't be able to escape from. So for now we are keeping the front gate to the ranch closed, but John hasn't given up just yet. His next move is to get a bigger charger for the eclectic fence - maybe a stronger zap will keep the maverick in his place.
Our guest guardian dogs, Bonita & Princess, are doing a great job keeping the livestock safe all night when the threat to our animals is greatest, but they need their rest during the day. Rocky the rooster and some hens hang close by their new buddies for security in the photos above. Bonita is nosing the camera while Princess lounges towards the back.
It's interesting watching the dynamic between these two Anatolian Shepherds and their charges. They'll share their food with the chickens and turkeys, but not with Harley, our Border Collie. They use the divide and conquer approach to patrolling at night - Princess stays in the acre around the house while Bonita's warning barks emanate from all parts of the ranch throughout the night. Bonita tends to relax in the sun, Princess snoozes in the shade. They are a great team and we are grateful to have them.