Sunday, June 16, 2019

Smooth Move

            We’ve had plenty of moisture, and June in Montana brings long days - the grass is growing quickly.  We try to get the cows out of a field before the grass has grown tall enough for them to take a “second bite” from any plant, so that there is time for it to grow new leaves and replenish its root reserves.  That’s only a week or ten days in June.
It was time to move the cows to the next pasture further up the mountain, and also time to put in the bulls.  We had a lot of country to cover, and I’d invited several people to help, but it ended up to be just Eric and me.  We saddled two of our best horses and we each went a different direction
            We’d just received a new yearling bull who was still in the corral. The yearling heifers were west of the barn.  I set the gates to run him through, and headed to the corrals for the new bull.  Eric headed a mile up west to gather the older bulls.
            I ran my one yearling bull out into the pasture where the yearling heifers were awaiting his services, and changed the gates so that Eric could bring his bulls past the east side of the barn, out through the orchard, and take them up the hill and into the “desert” where the main cowherd was camped.
            Circling back around, I came up on the outside of the fence along which Eric and his dog were bringing his bunch of bulls.  He’d already ridden out a mile and a half to gather those bulls, and was now halfway back.  I told him that the gates were set for him to pass through the yard and out into the south-west corner of the desert.  I had seen cows out in the hayfield, and would pick them up and head up through the south-east corner.

            So while Eric pushed his bulls up the hill on the far left of this picture, I gathered some fence-crawlers in the hayfield and pushed them up through a gate at the far right of the picture.
            I was just breaking out of the coulee on the far right, when Eric's bulls joined us from the hillside on the far left.  So eager were they to resume their duties in breeding all those beautiful brown-eyed girls, that they had quickly climbed up the hill on the far left, and followed the contour trail around to meet us on the bench at the far right.
            The bulk of the cows were on that bench.  I and my dogs gathered them, and started them up the fence which follows the ridgeline at the top of this picture.
            In the meantime, Eric was gathering the basin to the left of center in this picture.  I was about halfway up the fence with some 125 pairs, when Eric’s gather from the basin joined them from the left.
            Just over the top of the ridge is a gate into “the pothole”.  We dropped the cows through, then set off at a long trot on to the west and south, following the trail back down the mountain. 
            Returning through the Elges Creek field, we picked up the yearling heifers and started them back to the east.  With Eric behind the first bunch we gathered, I circled the east side of the field, checking all the timber and blind pockets on the way down, opening the east gate as I passed by.  Then I headed west up Elges Creek on the north side.
            From my eastward circle, I could see that Eric had about half the yearlings in a bunch, and that he had them headed toward another bunch further down.  He would throw them all together and push them on down the road on the south side of the creek, and on toward the gate on the east.
            But as I neared the northwest corner of the field, from my position on the north side of the creek, I could hear bawling - and watched helplessly as Eric’s bunch split up and headed back to the south.
            Then four yearling heifers came toward me on a steep, rock-strewn hillside high on my right.  I waited them out. 
            When they had passed, I got behind them and shoved them on east toward the gate.  More bawling to the south of me – but all of us emerged from the brush and timber simultaneously. We counted the entire bunch of 30 yearlings strung out toward the gate.
            I had to make one run to head off the few that hadn’t found the opening, but we had them quickly shoved out the gate and into a new pasture.
            It hadn’t been that big a ride.  We’d been only a mile and a half, at most, from the barn.  The route covered maybe 8 miles.
            But we’d been up and down and back and forth over steep, rocky, and brushy terrain.  We’d done some trotting, a lot of walking, with a few short bursts to turn various bunch-quitters.  We’d handled the cattle gently, we’d passed our gathers back and forth seamlessly, and we’d covered some 1000 acres without missing a single head. 

            It was a smooth move.

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