Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I am asked quite often what does it mean when you say you have to “work cows”? That is a good question with a long answer. Anything that has to do with cows falls under this category. Everything from spraying, tagging, pregnancy checking, vaccinating, parasite control, putting bulls in, taking bulls out, moving cows from one place to another, calf processing, feeding… the list goes on and on.
If you had asked Kelsey when she was young what in means she would just say it is when we “chase cows”. She had to get up early before school to help and that is all we did… “chase” the cows to the cow pen and then she went to school not knowing we did anything else. Believe me, she now knows exactly what it means to “work cows”.
It all starts really early. I am quite spoiled and my horse is usually saddled when I get to work at 6:45 a.m. (But they don’t complain too much because I am the one who usually brings the donuts or little debbie snack cakes and drinks for breakfast.) Which means they start way before 6:45 to get the horses into the pen and then saddled. For the record I DO know how to saddle my horse and I usually always unsaddle my own horse and have been known to unsaddle for others. (I’m just sayin’). The moon was really pretty the morning this picture was taken. This picture does not do it justice. This is the men talking “business”… I stay out of that conversation.
The first thing we do is round up the cows. That is where we go out with the horses, the dog, and trucks to push the cows to a certain pen or pasture to get them to the chute.
Like I said we do start really early. Sometimes before the sun is up and it is very foggy. This is where we have to walk through some pine trees. Luckily I have never had a horse that was scared of the woods, but we have been spooked by darting deer many times. The crew mows between the trees so we have a nice path to walk down but there was a time when it was not mowed and was quite grown up and hard to walk through. I just remember doing the horse and rider limbo thing when going under a huge spider web. Only thing worse than hitting the web was hitting the web and NOT seeing the spider. :(
We have professional riders/cowboys who can definitely get the job done. We travel over all kinds of terrain. Mostly pasture but there are lots of ditches and ponds in some of the places we have to gather cows.
This particular field is where we had peanuts last year, has been plowed and is some deep soft dirt. Not fun to walk in at all. Sassy was giving me the old stink eye meaning she was not going to walk there. I was happy to do as she “asked” and we watched the other riders walk on without us.
Speaking of Sassy, this was one of our last rides together. She is now retired. She has been put out to pasture to eat bon bons and watch soap operas for the rest of her life. She was a great horse and I will miss her but she has earned and deserves her rest.
This is my new ride. He is a Red Roan. His butt looks kind of like it has been sprinkled with white powder. It is a really cool color. He is a great horse and I think we will be happy together.
When I got him I was told he was being called “Roanie”. I liked the name but the cow crew made fun of me saying they had never seen a red roan that was NOT named Roanie. So Mickey said he always wanted to name a red roan, Ron. Ron the roan. So that is it. When it is all business it will be “Mr. Ron” and when it is just me and him it will be “Ronnie”. So far so good. He does not stumble and likes to walk fast. And when he needs to get up and go… I hang on. I think we will make a great team.
Here is one herd going into the pens. We have already gathered them up from the prairie and put them into this pen to go to the squeeze chute.
This is Remi the wonder cow dog doing his job. He has gotten very good at it. He has learned how to keep the cows in a group. He will get out around any that try to break from the herd. He is also good at helping us push them. He finally learned that his position is "behind". For a while he wanted to get ahead of them and it just confused the cows. He has come a long way and is doing great.
Another important part of cow work is setting up portable pens. We only need these when we are separating cows to keep from the cows to sell. This is mainly when we are pregnancy checking cows. Some of the pens are not set up to separate and hold two sets of cows going to different places. For example when we preg. check cows we keep the preg. cows, open cows, and sell cows separate because they need to go to three different places. The portable pens give us another way to cut the cows and load them directly onto the trailer.
Putting them together is no small task. They are brought in on a large trailer pulled by a tractor. And then assembled by hand.
Adam is our expert forklift operator. He is a “smooth operator”. This is him getting the squeeze chute. It is way harder than it looks. He makes it look so simple. Not a job I will have any time soon. You know what they say about women drivers.
This is another helpful piece of equipment. It is a holding chute to hold the cows in right before they go into the squeeze chute. Saves time and we are all about the correct use of time around here. The cows are sometimes hard to get to come through the squeeze chute, this holding chute allows either one or two cows to be waiting to come in. A real time saver. Time is money and sometimes minutes can make a difference.
Each and every time the portable pens have to be put up and taken down the same day because sometimes we may use them multiple times in a day at different places.
This is what is looks like finished.
This herd and set of cow pens is called Sand Pond. One of my favorites because of all the beautiful oak trees. But the pens have seen better days and are in need of some major overhauling.
The “cow whisperer” at work. Pug does A LOT of the “bringing up” of the cows. There is a right way and a wrong way. He wants it done right, every time.
We are lucky to have a good set of horses. They are hard to come by because nobody wants to get rid of a good horse. All cowboys don’t ride horses. Van and Greg drive the trucks. They can cover more ground and check the far back corners of the fields and get to gates and gaps quicker than the horses can. Sometimes just making sure the right gates are either opened or closed can make or break a “cow work” day.
Sometimes it is so foggy that it is hard to see exactly what we are doing. This is a picture of the crew pushing some cows. You can barely see the truck, horses & riders, and the cows in the distance.
Remi finds him a hiding place in the bushes so he can jump out and bark at the cows without getting his head kicked in. He is learning all the tricks. But these lessons learned sometimes come with some harsh consequences. This “Nie-Nie” sometimes has a hard time watching him learn things the “hard way”. I have to remind myself that he is part of the “cow work “ crew too and not just my grand-dog. :)
You can see the remnants of our breakfast of champions. A morning without diet coke is a morning that this cowgirl does not want to work. The crew always makes sure I get one first so they don’t risk having to work with me…without one :)
I actually got a picture of Remi siting still…does not happen often and this was after about 10 tries. He is always moving. He did stop long enough to cool off in a puddle and I got him again. But these moments are few and far between.
Remi was showing the buffalo who the boss is on this farm.
“Cow work” does cover a lot. There are no unimportant jobs. The guys in the back pushing up the cows are just as important as the guys up front working the chutes and processing the cows. They have to deal with these sometimes stubborn and angry (we don’t use the term, MAD) cows. Some are easy going and just saunter into to chute…get their business done and are off to enjoy their good life on this farm. Then there are those cows who want to see just how many cowboys they can put on or through the fence. It is just yet another process. It all boils down to having good people to watch your back and of course to laugh their butts off at you if you get put on or through the fence…as long as you are not hurt. I still don’t see the funny in that part of it. Maybe it is just the mama in me. But I do see the honesty and loyalty in a good crew. I LOVE farmers!!! Especially the ones who grow cows!
at 9:19 PM