Thursday, January 31, 2013


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Each year we check our cows to see if they are pregnant or not. I would love to say that all we do is have them tinkle on a stick…but that is so not the case.  Yes, my friends it is ANOTHER process.   We are in the business of growing beef so if a cow is not pregnant she is not working.  When we check them and they are not pregnant for the first time they will get another chance to re-breed.  We will put a yellow tag in her left ear so we know what year she was open (not pregnant) and we put an initial on the tag to let us know which herd she is from. She will then go with the other open cows to another pen and we will put a bull with these cows to see if we can get the desired result.

If the cow is checked, is not pregnant and already has a yellow tag we have to decide if she is young enough to get one more chance  (three strikes and you are out) or in bad health, she is not given another chance. We have seen cows come through who are up to 18 years old and always had a calf every year of her life.  Cannot ask more of her than that.  They do not always reproduce for that long but we have had our fair share.  Our rule is…if she is still healthy herself and having healthy calves…she gets to stay.  We don’t cull a cow just because of her age…if she is doing her job and doing it well, she stays.  We take really good care of our cows and that is why they reproduce even in their "golden years".

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Adam runs the squeeze chute.  It is a hydraulic system.  These long hoses run from the chute to the back of a tractor.  That is where we get the power.  The oil in these hoses is what runs the chute and makes the doors and sides open and close.  Adam has the hard task of catching the cow just right so her head is caught in the opening of the front doors all the while closing the back doors soon enough to keep the next cow from coming in the chute too soon.  He is really good at it…you have to be a patient person…he does an awesome job. And Remi is always there to give his moral support. :)

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We try to park the tractor far off to the side to cut down on the noise.  These hoses have to be rolled back up after each use and put back on the trailer to go to the next field. They are heavy, bulky, and not easy to roll up…not a fun job. Another not-fun job is when the hose gets a split in it.  Hydraulic oil starts shooting everywhere. We have to shut everything down and fix the hose before we can work the chute again. It is also haard to work the chute on really cold days because the oil gets really cold and turns thick.  Takes a while to get it heated up and flowing right. 

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Van is our "medicine man".  He gets the oral and topical parasite control meds, the injectable meds, the tags, guns, needles, syringes, table, note pad, pen, gloves, …the list goes on and on.  I still don’t know how he remembers everything!!!!  He gives the oral parasite control meds with this gun and hose. This medicine is for worms and flukes that can get in the cows stomach.   The long silver tube actually goes in the cows mouth and shoots the medicine right into the back of the throat. They don’t seem to mind too much.  But like me, Van is appalled by cow slobber. Not sure why it is but I can tolerate blood, poop, and even pee-pee better than slobber.  He usually gets a face or shirt full of slobber before the day is done. He also has to remember to bring paper towels.

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Van is really good at coming up with great ideas to make our job easier.  He fixed this “holster” for the syringe gun to give the shots to the cows.  Sometimes we just don’t have any room to put stuff and have it still be easy to get to.  He is great at getting us a quick remedy for these situations.  The cows get one vaccination with this kind of gun syringe.  It is a 5-way viral with Leptospirosis and Vibrio vaccine.   Sometimes I give it and sometimes Van does it.  Just depends on the room we have to put all our stuff.

Van also does the ear tagging.  We use yellow tags in the left ears to signify if a cow has been open before and the year she was open and orange tags in the right ear to give the cow an ID number.  Sometimes the ID tags either fall out or get so faded we cannot read them.  They are supposed to be able to be seen from a pretty good distance in case we have to locate a certain cow in a herd.  So many times we have to replace the orange tag.  We have also been known to have a bucket of soapy water and a sponge to clean the dirty tags to make them readable from a distance.

 It is my job to load the tagging guns, keep the tags in order, mix the vaccine, document the cows info and number & initial the yellow tags. I am kind of like Van’s assistant. I pretty much do whatever he asks me to do.  I do believe we could perform a very delicate surgery with very accurate precision if we are ever needed to.  Van is VERY patient therefore we work very well together.  And I am very thankful for his patience, he has taught me everything I know about this part of “cow work”.  And I am still learning.  My whole “old dog…no new tricks” attitude…does not apply here.  (as long as Van is the one teaching).  :)

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This is Adams’s station…he runs the chute and puts the topical parasite meds on the cows back. This medicine is to get rid of flies and lice.  The flies can be really bad in the summer and this stuff is a must.  The cows get a squirt.  We try to time it just right so if I am giving the shots we synchronize our squirts and pokes so I don’t get a squirt on the arm or in the face. It has only happened a few times but who doesn’t need a good de-licing every now and then :)

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This is my work station.  I write down the cows  I.D. number which is on the orange tag in her right ear. I keep them in order and number the page so we know our pregnancy rate when we are finished with each herd and then it gives us a total percentage at the end of the preg. checking season.  I also write P for pregnant and O for open. If the cow is open and not getting another try we cut out all tags so we know she will be sold at the market. She gets a line through her number and I write SELL by it.

I have another very important job.  No, I do not have to preg. check the cow but I do get a glove.  I get to hold the tail for the Doc.  I hold it out of the way so his job is easier.  But even more important than that I hold that “poop slinger” still so Doc doesn’t get a face full of poop or pee pee.  He tells us that he doesn’t get this kind of special treatment at all the farms he goes to.  He really appreciates it and that is enough for me.  Never been afraid of poop…but as I have said before slobber is a whole ‘nuther story.  I would like to think Doc is just happy to see me because of my sparkling personality but it is really just because of my tail holding ability.  If this job falls through I can always be a snake wrangler because that is what it feels like sometimes when I am trying to grab ahold of that swinging tail.

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Here is a front view of the squeeze chute inside the portable pens.  You may or may not know… or even want to know exactly how the Doc checks the cows. But I am going to tell you anyway. You can imagine where he has to stick his arm.  Lots of poop.  It really doesn’t seem to hurt the cow but I am sure it is uncomfortable just a bit. It is actually called palpating the cow. He is feeling for 1 of 3 things. 1. He sometimes can feel the calf itself. 2. He feels for a large artery that when the cow is pregnant he can actually feel a “whooshing” motion going on in the artery (blood flow).  3. There are these  knobby things called cotyledons that show up when the mama is 4 months pregnant. These knobs get bigger each month and help gage exactly what stage of pregnancy the cow is in.  Now don't I sound like I know what I am talking about.  I got my info from our Doc and hopefully I got it right. :)

Now I don’t mean to brag…but I will !!  We have a great Doc who is really quick and efficient.  Now his being quick is not all on him.  We as a crew are quite awesome at our jobs. So much so that if there is ever a contest or a competition where a cow crew is timed in the palpating and processing of a cow…we are in it AND we will win it.  We are just that AWESOME. Just ask anyone…our reputation precedes us.

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When we can’t put up the portable pens because of space issues we have to keep backing up the trailer and loading up the open and sell cows.  It is very time consuming and we just sometimes don’t have those extra minutes we need in a day. The preg. cows just get let out and back into the herd but the open and sell cows have to be loaded up and hauled off.  And of course sometimes it is open, preg, open, preg, sell, preg.  Yes, that means back up, load, pull up, back up, load, pull up.  We don’t even have enough time to go into the fact that when we are loading cows on a trailer that already has cows on it…we have to keep them from coming back off.  It is a process… methodical and tedious at times. That is why the portable pens are so important and beneficial.

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Here is another example of space issues.  We got a trailer full of cows.  The other truck and trailer is too long to get turned around in the pen to back up to the chute to load the last of the cows. So what do we do…we take cows from the shorter trailer and put them on the long trailer leaving us the shorter trailer to use and  be able to get turned around in the pen and back up to the chute. Okay it is not brain science or rocket surgery but it dang sure works for us and gets the job done with a few minutes to spare. We have a great group of drivers who can get all these fancy “back-up” jobs done. I am NOT among those drivers.  My talents lie elsewhere like “poopy” tail wranglerin’.

Right now we have about 1400 cows.  This can be quite a chore.  Our smallest herd has about 60 cows.  That kind of a day goes by fast and we will usually do two small herds in a day anywhere between 60 and 125 cows.  Our biggest herd has around 375 cows.  That is a full days work.  Each and every cow has to be brought up to the chute, get palpated, vaccinated, wormed, parasite controlled, tagged, and documented. That makes for a very long day. But when you see all those numbers on those pages you can really tell you have done something.  And when you see pages filled with P's it makes even the roughest of days worth the effort.

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It is hard work. It is sometimes unrewarded. But it is our job just the same. We are so fortunate to get to work God’s beautiful land and His animals.  Lots of times we find our only reward in the beautiful  morning moons, sun rises and sunsets of each day.

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A hard days work in these places is still way better than any other job I can think of. The beauty of this land is breathtaking.  I am both blessed and humbled by it.

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Who, as a child, did not want to be a cowboy/cowgirl when they "growed up".  I know I did because I grew up watching John Wayne with my Dad.  My questions before we watched the movies were always "Daddy, are there any cowgirls in this movie, do any of the horses get hurt, and does the dog die?????  He was always honest with me...and I still watched with him no matter what the answers were.  I am living that dream.  I am one lucky girl.

I am so happy to be able to do what I do… and do it with the absolute great people I get to do it with. I do a lot of questionable jobs for and with this crew.  I cannot think of any other people I would do this for or with. These guys are awesome.  It is work and it is sometimes just a bit on the rough side but I would have it no other way. I LOVE farmers... especially mine !!!!

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