Monday, March 26, 2012

Just Your Typical Day on the Ranch ~2

It all begins when you wake up slightly later than you intended. This, of course, throws your whole day out of whack.  Well, maybe not totally out of whack, but most of it.  As you take your first sip of nice, hot coffee and feel the warm liquid going down your throat and spreading throughout the rest of your body, one of you family members comes in (bounces in, more like) and tells you that you're working cows today.  No problem. Let me just wake up a moment, read my Bible, and we'll get to work on them bovine.

After breakfast, Mama and the boys headed out to round up the cattle. Becs and I stayed inside to clean up after breakfast and get a bit of lunch prep done. Then, I worked on a few other things (school, cleaning, etc) until we saw Mama and the boys arrive with a bunch of cows following them.  Well, the cows weren't just following the humans. That would be... weird. They were following the feed truck, which held the humans. There, that makes better sense! :-) Our cows LOVE the feed truck because it dispenses this wonderful, tasty meal for them called, you guess it, feed.  Boy those cows love it!

Well, I headed out to work the cows. The wind was blowing about 60mph, the sandy dirt blowing ever'where!  As I walk out to the barn to get into the corrals, I can feel the dirt hitting my legs like a ton of tiny little darts. I begin to feel the grit in my shoes as I walk.
(Yes, our dogs were getting in the way... course, in the picture, those dogs are doing what they're supposed to be doing... not getting in the way!)

Once out in the corrals, it's time to push the cows from the 'trap' (a large pen that leads directly into the pasture) into the smaller pen. From the smaller pen, we push them into the alley way. Now, there is a mix of cows and heifers that we'll be sorting. Cows are older mommas, and heifers are female cattle that haven't had a calf yet.  We're sorting the heifers off so that we can put them on some feed and fatten them up a bit so that they'll breed.

Cows won't breed if they're too skinny. Just a work of nature. If they can't care for the calf because they can't produce enough milk, their body automatically shuts down to any breeding. Quite frankly I think it's pretty ingenious. Now, I wonder Who could have come up with something as wonderful as that? ;-) Ok, sorry for the sarcasm.

The heifers aren't used to being sorted and pushed into pens, so they take a while to calm down and just go where they're supposed to. If you ever need to learn patience (Or learn how to laugh), come work with a bunch of cows. Don't know if I said that before, but it's worth saying again! ;-)

Any how, we finally got them all into the alley way.  This is a long narrow 'pen', if you will. Kind of like a hall way, and the gates to all the other pens are like doorways in this 'hall'.  So, we use this to sort the cattle.  One person sorts a cow or two off from the larger group at the top of the alleyway. He then pushes them down to the next person who pushes them to the 'gatekeepers'.  Those of us who get stuck with the gate job are running the gates either open up a gate to let the cow in, or close it and step aside so that the cow will run by us into the next person's gate, etc.

Quite an interesting process, especially when several cows bolt from the big group, but only one needs to go in my gate, while the others have to go the gate behind me.  It's up to me, then, to stop them and try to sort off the one (while I'm still holding onto the gate and keeping the other cows who have already been sorted off from going BACK to the group), or I can send 'em back to Dad (who usually does the sorting) and he'll take care of it.

Well, this time we just have one gate we're sorting with. The cows go into it, while the heifers go by to the back of the alley.  Now, the heifers like to stay with the big group with their mommas, so they don't take too keenly to us putting them in a pen by themselves.

The wind was blowing dirt, the cows were kicking up dirt, and by this point, I can barely see.  Any time I bite down I feel grit in my teeth.  Oh, and it doesn't help that I've got a runny nose, either.  So, trying to open my eyes so I can see where the cows are, but also trying to keep the dirt out, is one of my main focuses. I sort for a bit while Mama runs the gate and Caleb pushes the cows I sort off down to her (we have the extra 'pusher' more for getting them down to the gate quickly than anything.

The older cows, and heifers who want to sniff at everything between the sorter and gatekeeper, tend to be REALLY SLOW and that means that the sort can't sort off any thing else...yeah)

Ok, so picture this going on for a while (or probably 30-45 minutes from getting them into the pens, to the alleyway and then sorting them).  All while the wind blows the dirt up in our faces. Not fun.

Well, after we sorted them, we decided that we'd had enough of the wind. We put the heifers out to the pens and trap, where they could get to feed and water, and then headed inside.

The next morning you wake up, your sipping that wonderful coffee again, try to blink away the grogginess and dirt leftover from yesterday out of your eyes when your sibling comes and informs you that all the heifers somehow got out and are back out in pasture. Now, did they just get out into an empty pasture? No, of course they went back with the cows. So, the process began all over again. Rounding up, pushing, sorting.  Thankfully, the weather was much more favorable. No wind, just a little breeze every once in a while.

After all that was done again, we had to run them through the chute and re-tag them with their own numbers (remember how when they're born we give them a tag with their momma's number written on it?). After that, we weigh them. Once everything's done, we turn them back out to their pen again (making sure all the gates are properly shut this time!) and voila. There you have a wonderful idea of what it's like working cows! ;-)

So, uh, we're hiring... if anyone's interested... ;-) haha!

Oh, just in case your curious where your meat comes from....

And one last word from my sponsor...

In Christ's Service,


Morgan J said...

I had one question, how do you tell the heifers from the mamma's?

Lilac Bud Gal said...

Thanks for stopping by the blog! I appreciate your comment. Very good question. :)
Well, there are a couple of ways we can tell them apart. One is that the heifers are much smaller than their mommas. Plus, since they have the same number as their mom before we retag them, we can tell that one of them must be the younger, and can judge by size.
However, probably the 'real' way that we tell them apart is by their tags. The older cows get two large tags (one in each ear). The heifers only have one, smaller (calf sized) tag. So, that's how we tell them apart. Then, when we retag the heifers, they get their own new number, and two larger tags. :)
Thanks again for your comment! :)

Prairie Momma said...

Ahhh, Dear Daughter. Life seems so funny when you read it here. Out there, I don't remember it being so humorous. I love you!!!!