After a few irrigations, our grass is really starting to green up, and it was finally time to start moving cows onto it. So yesterday morning we gathered a load of pairs to move to summer pasture.
I have to confess that moving pairs isn't one of my favorite things to do, and I usually don't sleep well the night before we gather. I've been doing this long enough to know the wrecks that can ensue. It would be nice if we could just do it the old fashioned way on horseback at a leisurely pace from one end of a gigantic ranch to another. But alas, we don't have one. Therefore, we must trailer them an hour away from their winter lease.
Ahhhhh....to have a giant spread some day would be so nice......(OK, I'm ripping myself back to reality now.)
Where were we?
Oh yes, gathering pairs.....
[For my non-cow-savvy readers: Gathering cows with young calves is a bit like trying to herd cats. You can't put too much pressure on the calves or they'll go right through the fence.That can be a real headache. It's a delicate procedure, one that is best done quietly and systematically so as not to stress the animals. Once the pairs are in the corral, everything must be sorted. Dry cows and heifers get kicked back out to pasture, calves get sorted off into one pen, and mamas into another area. All the while, the calves are bawling and the mamas are looking for their young ones. Doesn't this sound fun?!? Anyone, anyone? Bueller?
Sorting cows in the alleyway is like a dance, and one that my kids are getting pretty good at doing. They're starting to become great little hands. After everything is sorted, we load cows first. Then we shut the middle gate in the trailer and load the calves in the back. This is where herding cats comes to mind again. The calves occasionally try to bolt in all directions with no leader, and sometimes try to even go under the trailer. The littlest fellers have to be lifted up into the trailer because they'll just stand there all day without jumping in. Young calves can't ride mixed in with their moms or they'll get squished or hurt during the ride over....that's why we separate them. Safety first!]
The whole process went so smoothly this time that my husband and I just looked at each other and chuckled in amazement. No calves escaped through the fence, no wrecks, and it didn't even get a little "western". It was a flawless procedure! I don't know whether to credit this to sheer luck, years of experience, upgrades to the corral, or God shining down on us, but we had them loaded in record time!
After hauling them over to the summer pasture, we first unload all of the calves into the corral.
We held back a little bull calf that needed to be castrated, and used the elastrator to do the job right in the back of the trailer. Some folks prefer castrating with a knife, and we've done it both ways, but in our area, the risk of infection is much higher with the traditional method so we try to use bloodless castration when we can. If you get them done while they're still small, they don't seem to mind the band, and the area goes numb after a few minutes.
I know, I know....the traditionalists are gasping right now! But hey, we do what we have to do to keep the herd healthy. :)
The downside to this.....no mountain oysters to cook on the fire during branding.
After letting the cows out of the trailer, I waited for them to all find their babies and mother-up really good before letting them out of the pen to graze.
Meanwhile, the rest of the family drove to the back of the pasture to fill the stock tank up. Everything had gone so smoothly up until this point, and then the dang generator wouldn't start so we could pump water.
It's always something, I'm telling ya...always something. If it's not cows, it's equipment.
Fast forward an hour and we finally had the wet stuff flowing through the hose. And by "we" I mostly mean my husband. I was just there for moral support while he tinkered with the generator.
After the stock tanks were full and everyone was paired up, I opened up the gates, and the whole bunch frolicked in the green grass the same way I do at the Chinese Food Buffet. There's so much to eat that they don't know where to start. I know the feeling.
Just another productive day on the mountain!