Yesterday was a glorious day! Did you hear me say it? Glorious. The weather was perfectly fall. None of this nasty Old Man Winter stuff we’ve been getting. And to make the day even better, I felt almost 100% yesterday after struggling with this cold/bronchitis thing I’ve been dealing with.
I did not take the camera on the gather- I just can’t bring myself to pack Guth’s expensive camera (Guth is one of Zach’s 3 younger brothers-photos upcoming!)while I’m horseback- so that part you won’t get to see. But there’s plenty more action, I promise.
To do fall work you need the following: Good neighbors, friends, family (read this as: lots of help!), saddle horses, a four-wheeler or two, cows, calves and good weather. Okay. I lied, good weather is optional. Sort of.
Regardless, once the cattle are gathered and going towards the corrals, (our cattle herd consisted of the mama cows, the calves and the bulls that we hadn’t got a chance to pull from the herd yet), your job is pretty simple. Keep them relatively close together, and keep them going forward into the corral. You usually have one or two folks horseback that will push the cattle further into the corral, and the rest will close the corral gates or panels behind you.
Now the fun begins! Sorting off mamas from babies, and bulls from the mamas. For those of you unfamiliar with cattle, you should know, while they aren’t at the top of the list for being God’s brightest creatures, they’re pretty smart- in that they, they like a horse, will move away from pressure, so you just give them some place to go and they can be sorted off simply by movement. When we ship, if we’re not short-handed and I can film the sorting, I will do so. But here’s what else you should keep in mind when reading this: the sounds. You have mama cows calling to their babies, and babies calling to their mamas. It can really be loud. So loud in fact, that on occasion you may have to yell at someone next to you for them to hear you. And when there is a lull, which occasionally happens, it’s like the world sort of hums, because well, you get used to the cacophony of mooing.
Here’s part of the herd corralled:
Once you have them corralled, you sort off the mama cows and bulls from the babies.
In the above photos, are Zach’s cousin, Jim- in the vest; our neighbor and friend, Bob- in the jacket, and Bud, the youngest of Zach’s family, wearing John Deere Green.
Notice in the photo that this heifer calf in the front is saying, “mama!”, but so is one I managed to capture in the background. Two heifers poised in the same way; crying to mama to save them from whatever uncertain fate awaits them. You’re probably wondering how I know what’s a heifer and what’s not a heifer- well it’s simple. We cheat. The heifers have tags in their left ears. The steer calves don’t have a number tag.
And she’s still not done yowling around:
Some friends join in:
What are the mama cows doing while the babies are bawling? They’re eating of course. That’s what cows do. Oh, sure there are some worried mamas but most of them have been through this before. They know their babies are coming back to them. So why waste time fretting when there’s grass to be eaten?
In the meantime, there are shots to be mixed.
From Left to right: Zach, and his brothers Wayne and Guthrie.
They get a shot of this (whatever *this* is):
And a shot of that (whatever *that* is):
Both shots go under the skin of the calf’s neck. Or as we say in the business, sub-q; short for sub-cutaneous. Neither are antibiotics, as our cattle are antibiotic free. Yessir, that’s right! Au natural beef is raised ’round these parts!
But before we can give the shots, we have to get the cattle into the working chute. I suppose if we really wanted to be handy and do things the really old fashioned way, we could rope each calf and doctor it that way- which is how things are done at brandings and lots of other rances. But today, we’re just gonna load em’ in the working chute.
Yes that’s right, Miss 9-83. You’re going here:
And when you get here, you’re going to get two shots, and we’ll pour you with an anti-parasitic to keep the bad bugs outta your system. It just makes you healthier.
Once we repeat the above process through about 250 calves we head to the house to have lunch, and send the help home. Yesterday we had to take a small break to watch the Vikings and Brett Favre pull off a win against the Baltimore Ravens. The Cowboys had a bye. I had to insert that. I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve defected to the Vikings. Though I do love me some Favre. Yes. Yum. He’s one talented and handsome man.
Time to move on and wipe up the drool.
After we have given all the mamas and babies time to find each other again, we put them back out to their pasture. This is where they will live for the next two weeks- at which time we’ll gather them again, and *ship* the babies off to their new home for the winter.
I mentioned that it was gorgeous yesterday, right? Zach and Wayne put the herd back to pasture. I got to take pictures of the whole thing, while I followed them with the trailer, so that Zach’s pretty stallion, Chachi (Poco Tivio Pep) could ride home after his exhausting day.
Riding home after a fun-filled day’s work is the man who steals my heart on a daily basis:
He’s literally almost riding into the sunset:
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, Cowgirls and Cowboys, Boys and Girls, is a glimpse into a day in the life of your South Dakota Cowgirl.
Ps. I’m sorry the photos seem to be cut off- I just started using Flickr to upload photos and I can’t seem to get the format right.