There were a dozen or so cattle in the weaning lot: a couple of acres with a good, tight fence adjoining our corrals down along the river. These were an assorted bunch of cattle from hither and yon that we had been feeding hay for a few days until their destiny was decided.
There was a bull who had crawled a fence to escape the pasture with the other bulls; there were a couple of pairs which the neighbor had cut out from his cattle; there was a crippled cow with a bad bag; there were a half dozen yearling heifers that had been cut out from their bunch as their pregnancy was in question. I didn’t want to waste any more hay or labor on this handful, and the weekly sale was the next day in Billings. We went down to the corrals to deal with them.
These cattle were in a small lot where we could corral them easily enough with the help of our dogs, so there wasn’t any good reason to run horses in from pasture. We loaded up vaccine, syringes, and insecticide pour into the pickup and headed down. Most people do their corral sorting afoot, and so would we.
The corrals aren’t all that big – maybe 100 feet square. But we were accustomed to doing our sorting ahorseback, and we weren’t quick enough to cut off what we wanted while we were afoot – so we ran them down the sorting alley.
Hundreds of thousands of cattle are sorted afoot every year in such an alley, but our cattle were bunched too tight. and we were too slow – one or two got past us. So we had to pen the ones we had sorted, then bring back in the ones that got away. We had worked all the rest of the cattle ahorseback the week before - and hadn’t missed a one – but this time we had to take the dogs out and corral the bunch again.
I commented to Ted somewhere along the line that we were expending way to much effort on such a small bunch – and he didn’t protest.
I had already decided to sell the bull and the old cow, so the object of the sort was to cut the two calves into the sale bunch and run the yearling heifers through the chute for a conformational palpation. We ended up vaccinating and pouring four of the heifers to keep, which left six head to go to town and six head to be put out to pasture.
I would load the sale cattle in the stock trailer for the trip to town, Ted would put the rest out into their respective bunches on the ranch: two were cows to go out with the main herd in the Clayton field, four were heifers to go with the rest of their group in a hayfield over east. As I laid this out to Ted, he quickly realized that it would require a horse to put out both groups.
Why didn’t we just get in the horses in the first place? Ted asked; and I had no coherent response.