Friday, March 23, 2012

Pairing Them Out

Calving is a busy time of the year as - you might surmise from my dearth of recent postings.  I don’t do night duty, but I do check the cows at first light and last light and there is feeding and plenty else to fill in between.

As I explained in my last posting, we leave the main herd in outlying fields, and make a weekly cut into the calving field of the cows that are showing to be closest to calving.  That minimizes the clutter of cows and manure in the calving field which is much smaller, and within full view of the kitchen window.

As the cows calve, we ear-tag the calves, and work the new cow/calf pairs out the gate and into an adjoining field.  As that field fills up we cut the older pairs out the gate and back into a larger outside field where they have plenty of room with only scattered mud and manure.  The calves are much healthier back out where they  scattered some on fresh clean sod.

That near pair field was getting pretty cluttered, so today we paired a bunch out across the river.  The first step was to hold them up in the “trap” next to the corrals.  This lot is about the size of a residential lot in town and is just the right size for a number of horseback sorting jobs.  Cattle can be cut into the corrals from the trap, or turned out to pasture across the bridge.

The first step is to gather all the cattle from the field.  That’s always a challenge with young calves.  They haven’t all learned yet to move away from horses and stick with mom.  And the new mothers can be quite protective, often challenging horses and dogs.  After the cattle are in the trap-lot, we can begin the pairing process.

Allowing the cows to line out and drift toward the open gate, we can see if they have their calves with them, and turn back any that aren’t paired up.  We absolutely want each of the cows to go out together with their calves so we know that there are no orphans and no mix-ups.  It also give us the chance to look at each individual calve to see that they are ready to go out into the wide world.

Today we had two major impediments: one was a poor calf that kept hanging in the way near the gate, and the other was a cow that was just plain mean.

Every time we got near that ornery old rip of a cow she would charge.  Her calf kept hanging up in the fence corner, and there was no way to get close enough to push it out the gate.  I certainly needed a bullwhip!!

I usually keep my dog back from these cows with young calves, as I do want them to be reasonably protective.  But I finally had enough, and sent Max in.  He went around and around with her, and it took most of a half an hour to finally work that pair out of our way so we could get on with the sorting.

There were a handful of pairs that we left back, as they weren’t healthy and traveling.  These we turned back into the near field to mature for another week before we send them out to the world.

And I wrote down the number of that fighting cow.  She will get a one-way ride to town this fall.

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