When round balers first arrived on the scene, the least little obstruction would cause them to clog at the entrance to the bale chamber. As designs improved and most manufacturers went to the open-throat design, the tendency to jam almost disappeared, resulting in balers that will now bale almost anything. This advancement is great while you’re making hay, but at this time of year when ones daily routine is spent unrolling those bales, there are often surprises.
Over the past several years, I have unrolled hay bales that have contained glass bottles, tin cans, pieces of tires, the remains of dead animals (even though snakes are the most common, I unrolled a raccoon last winter), tree limbs, old license plates, missing parts off the tractor and even the cell phone that went missing 3 years ago. But never, until last week, had I unrolled a cow.
I was at the north place during the first winter blast of the season; there was enough snow on the ground to cover what little remaining grass I had. It was bitterly cold and since that was my last stop of the day, the cows were more than a little hungry. I have an old, black, Chi-cross cow at that place who is always the first to the truck to annoy the heck out of me while I cut off the net wrap and prepare to unroll a bale from the hydraulic arms of my bale-bed. As soon as I removed the net wrap, it being a little more difficult than normal with the bale covered with frozen precipitation, the old cow began to viciously butt the bale. I hollered at the old gal and quickly jumped into the cab and lowered the bale onto the ground. She continued to charge at the bale and wallow her head and chest against the now turning bale. As I sped up, I looked in the rear view mirror to make sure everything was working as it should be, but to my astonishment, I saw the black cow coming over the top of the bale and wedging herself between the bale and my truck. Her two front legs were reaching the ground, while one rear leg was halfway over the bale and the other one draped over the arm of the bale unroller. Her head was on the flatbed of my truck while she let out blood-curdling sounds from a mouth that was wide open and excreting foamy liquids like a punctured can of shaving cream. Her eyes seemed as big as baseballs as I exited the truck to survey the situation.
I quickly surmised that any attempt to dislodge the cow from outside the cab would put both her and me in grave danger – especially me! I got back in the truck and grabbed the controls to the hydraulic arms. Slowly, only because the extremely cold temperature caused the hydraulics to operate slowly, I opened the arms until the bale was free of the little red spinners. The weight of the 1,600 lb. cow caused the bale to roll backwards giving the beast some free space for her head and front feet. She continued to writhe and buck until both her rear legs were free of their obstacles and she had all four feet on the snow-covered ground. She still remained in a small pen created by the truck bed, two bale arms and the unrolled bale of hay, and stood teetering from side to side as if she had just exited a tilt-a-whirl at the county fair. After a minute, she seemed to regain both her balance and wits. Gently, I eased the truck forward until she could see that she was free. When she realized that she was no longer constrained, she took off for the nearest wooded area at a speed that made me know she wasn’t injured.
As Forrest Gump, the rancher, would say, “Life is like a round bale of hay… you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry about his books, or to arrange speaking engagements, you may contact him by calling 1-866-532-1960 or visiting www.ozarksfn.com and clicking on ‘Contact Us.’


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