Thursday, November 29, 2012

Working Cows

We worked cows yesterday – another major event for the year.

It began on Tuesday afternoon with gathering them all to the weaning lot for an overnight stand without feed.  In the morning we corralled them and began running them up the chute to the squeeze, where we pregnancy-tested, vaccinated, poured, bled, and tagged them.

Pregnancy testing is done by rectal palpation.  Although I have done that myself in the past, this year we used the veterinarian.  He donned a long plastic sleeve to accomplish the task of inserting his arm in the rectum and feeling the uterus through the rectal wall. ( For those of you who are interested, there is a YouTube of that too:           

His next action was to bleed each animal.  Because there is a disease called brucellosis that is common among the elk and bison in Yellowstone Park, we must bleed our entire herd every third year and send the sample off to a lab to check for the disease in our cattle.  That entails taking a 2cc sample from each animal – drawn from a vein in the underside of the tail.

Each of those blood samples is keyed into a handheld computer, along with the herd tag number, a small metal tag, and an Electronic Identification Device button, which are all affixed to the ears.

Along with that are the administration of an anti-parasitic – poured along the pack – and a vaccination for Leptospirosis Pomona  - another reproductive disease.

This contraption is called a squeeze. The front closes on the neck; there is a tailgate behind; and the sides close in to immobilize the animal while we perform all the various operations.

Note that my side is a bit dirty.  I had been helping load the chute, and was kicked by one cow and knocked down in the “mud” by another.

Most of the work of pushing cows up into the chute is done ahorseback by my son Ted.  But the cows were more resistant than usual on this day, and I went in afoot to help him a couple of times.

 Here I am applying the EID button.

Today we were ahorseback all morning sorting all the cattle in different directions:  First we sorted off the cows that had not conceived – the “drys” – and put them in the corral.  Next we sorted off the yearling heifers, to throw in a hayfield with the heifer calves that we had kept for replacements.  Then we cut out a group of 11 and 12 year-old cows that were getting too old to keep on a mountain ranch.  These will be sold at auction next week as “short term” cows, to someone who has better feed and flatter country on which to run them next summer.  The balance of the cows are the main herd, which went back out to pasture.

And thus finishes up the cow work for this year.


  1. You have a great blog here. I really enjoyed reading it.

  2. Kent, We didn't keep any heifers back this year...not enough hay...and we live in Michigan! Had 5 open cows out of 40 head. Was it the hot summer,
    Lazy bulls or cows to hot to cycle. We don't know but we aren't real happy considering we use two bulls. We sell Powder River equipment at our business in town. Thanks for using the "best" squeeze chute on the market!!! Daryn