Monday, March 28, 2011


I’ll be the first to admit that I am lazy – I’m always looking for the easiest way to get things done.  And in a recent post I explained that it saves me time and effort in the long run to spend the time and effort every few days to sort heavies into the calving field and sort the pairs out.  And of course the easiest way to do those jobs is ahorseback.

But like most other ranchers I have incorporated a 4-wheeler into the operation.  It takes only minutes to step out the door and onto the machine to take a quick tour through the heavies to check on anything that may be calving.  And the 4-wheeler is the transportation of choice to do the tagging:  it carries the tags and marking pens handily, and it stands quietly while I catch and tag a calf.  It even works well enough to run a cow into the shed or to pull the sled with a new calf.

When I fed the cows on Sunday afternoon I noticed two calves lying along by themselves along one fenceline, and another in the corner of the stackyard.  They weren’t bawling, and didn’t seem in any distress – their mothers were simply off eating hay.

This morning, however, those calves were still laying there by the fence with no cows around.  I watched for their mothers as I tagged other calves in the field.  Later in the morning I saw two of those calves poking around a cow that had just given birth to her own new baby.  Where were their mothers?

Still on the 4-wheeler I ran in the horses.  Ahorseback now, I headed back into the calving field - and things began to sort out.

I cut off one of the lone calves and started him for the calving shed.  Soon there was a cow across the fence bawling for a calf.  It took only minutes to determine that this calf was hers and to push him through the fence to join her.

Another cow came bawling to see what the commotion was about, and quickly paired up with the calf lying by himself in the stackyard.

Riding back through the rest of the cattle I found a 3-year-old heifer that had calved, but was standing in a group of cows and showing no interest in locating her own baby.  I got behind her and took her to the shed.

There was still one calf not paired up so I hog-tied him and threw him into the sled for a trip to the shed, where I put him in a jug with the 3-year-old.  She recognized her baby and began to talk to him.

I had been watching those three calves for nearly 24 hours - making a half dozen trips past them with the pickup and with the 4-wheeler - without ever seeing them pair up.  And every trip across the field was tracking up the snow and cutting deeper into the mud-holes in the gates. 

But as soon as I got among the cattle ahorseback it took only half an hour to shape everything up.  I wasn’t burning gas, tracking up the field, or violating the peace and quiet, and my boots were staying clean.  All the work to run in a horse, catch it, throw on a saddle, and ride out to the field was certainly well worth the effort!

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