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Irons in the fire: Nelores and demon pigeons

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 22 December 2017

Harold A.I.s a lot of cows. As a matter of fact, in my view, he’s kind of a rock star in the world of big Western herd A.I. Every spring he has big breeding projects lined up all over the Great Basin and Intermountain West.

He has a stellar reputation for setting up breeding protocols, customer service and achieving high conception rates. I’ve had the privilege of working with him on a few big projects in Nevada and Idaho, so I’ve witnessed his magic firsthand.

His breeding prowess notwithstanding, that talent may, in fact, be surpassed by his abilities as a camp cook and most certainly by his knack for spinning a yarn, especially at the end of a long day around a campfire after he’s downed a cold one or two.

Harold can enthrall his audience with tales of colonoscopies, Bigfoot sightings in Oregon or his younger buckaroo days where he wrangled buffalo and Wagyu heifers in the high desert and off the California coast. One of my favorite stories is Harold’s retelling of the time he worked on a breeding project in Florida, where he was tasked with A.I.ing several hundred Nelore heifers.

Nelore (pronounced: Nuh Lor Ay) is a Bos indicus breed, similar to Brahman, but really an entirely different critter. Nelore is the prominent breed in Brazil. The cattle are known for their ability to adapt, survive and thrive in hot, humid, tropical conditions.

Obviously, they are cattle that may have a place at the table in Florida. According to Harold, they are as wily and cunning as their ears are long.

As Harold tells it, the heifers he was breeding were in the 450- to 550-pound range, and were none too happy as they individually shot their way into the breeding barn. They were small enough that they could turn around in the breeding chute, if they had half a chance.

You had to be quick with a gloved hand and a breeding gun or else you wound up underfoot or eyeball to eyeball with a maniacal, long-eared, revenge-seeking ball of Nelore fury.

Harold tried his best Dr. Doolittle impersonation in his mostly vain efforts to calm the savage beasts. But the only perceptible communication he could discern from his patients was a vibe of wild hatred.

He swears that one particular heifer, apparently acting as the spokes-critter for all of the heifers that preceded or followed her through the chute, turned her head as Harold grabbed her tail and, through telepathy or some other form of bovine speak, gave him a clear message that if they ever met again she would stomp him into the ground and strangle him with his plastic breeding glove. Harold took her at her word and has not attempted to A.I. a Nelore since that day.

I was reminded of Harold and his Nelore heifer friends the other day when I became ensnared in a life or death struggle with a pack of renegade pigeons.

I’ve had trouble for quite some time now with all of the pigeons who have taken up nightly residence in our garage, chicken coop, tack shed and just about any other standing structure that might have a hole or crevice large enough for a skanky pigeon to squeeze through.

My 15-year-old neighbor thinned them out a little bit with nightly raids during the summer. But once school started, he was forced to spend his evenings in more scholarly pursuits.

The other day, I opened the door of the old outbuilding that we turned into a chicken coop to water the chickens. Not surprisingly, I startled three pigeons sitting in the rafters about 12 feet above my head. The idiot birds began flying around my head in a panic, looking for a way out.

I dropped my water bucket and reached for a 6-foot piece of an old, half-rotten one-by-six that was on the floor of my unkempt chicken house. Two of the flying vermin escaped through the half-open door, but one of them was not as crafty as his companions. In a profanity-laced battle, I swung wildly at the feathered rodent until I finally landed a lucky blow that winged him. He was far from mortally wounded, though.

As I tried to get my bearings (I was kind of dizzy from dancing around in circles as I battled the ferocious avian), the pigeon jumped up and continued flying circles around my head. I took a mighty swing and out of nowhere, it seemed, took a crashing blow to my face. It literally knocked me to the ground.

Now, fresh out of a Daffy Duck cartoon, there were stars circling my head, instead of the pigeon. My nose was bloodied, and I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I vaguely remember hearing the sinister, piercing laugh of the pigeon as he made his escape through the broken boards above the door.

Now, it’s possible that I smacked the rafters above my head as I battled the demon pigeon, causing my weapon to ricochet back into my face. My bloody nose and the dandy shiner on my eye would be evidence to suggest such a scenario.

However, just like the warnings from Bigfoot or deranged heifers of South American descent would have you believe, I could be convinced to believe that some animals may be working their way up the food chain.  end mark

Paul Marchant
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