It is that time again…time to process the baby calves. Just another kind of “cow work”. All cow work starts out the same way…we saddle the horses and go after the cows. We push them and their babies to the nearest cow pen.
This part involves horses, trucks, and dogs. We get the cows and babies there with any means possible. Next part is separating the babies from the mamas. We have many different cow pens to do this and we have a variety of ways we do it. Some pens are bigger…some are smaller…depends on the herd.
This is Adam and Van separating the cows. We catch the babies in a side pen and let the mamas back out into the pasture.
Usually after separating we take a small break for breakfast. Something to drink and a snack to give us a little extra energy to get through the day. Thank you Jesus that Little Debbie did not go out of business!!
This is what we call the breakfast of champions.
Next Van and I usually get the meds, tags, and implants set up. We have to mix the meds for the vaccines, get the pour on meds ready and working, load the “guns”, and get the tags in order.
This is our work table. We keep the tag guns, tags, and vaccine guns on this table. Sometimes Van keeps his implant gun on this table or on the other side on his truck tailgate…depends on how much room we have in the cow pen. Just a side note…these little white plastic pieces are what the tags come connected to. They are kind of a pain to pull off anyway…but when it is cold it is almost impossible. You really need to be able to feel your fingers to make them function properly. And when it is cold I have to wear rubber gloves just to prevent frostbite…:) okay so it is not that cold but it sure feels like it and I am a whimp!!!! The gloves do help but they make it way harder to get the buttons and tags off the plastic pieces….just another one of my tedious jobs.
While we are getting the stuff ready the chute is being set up. Sometimes it even takes some of the heavy equipment to get it just right. It is hard enough to push calves into the chute…if the chute is tilted up or down it is even harder…Adam used the front end loader to level the ground under the chute…now it will work just right!!
The portable calf chute makes it easy to work the calves at their own cow pen. The crew has gotten really good at putting it up and taking it down really fast.
Here it is all ready for us to get started.
Now we are ready. This is where it gets interesting. There is a lane that leads from the pen full of calves to the calf chute. This is the area that leads to the little boys becoming grown men, the boy calves becoming steers, and the women……well there is only one woman…me and I just holler when I am hurt or scared and constantly turn my head when I don’t want to watch. What we have to do to the calves does not bother me…it is watching them bring the calves that makes me a nervous wreck. It is usually hard and fast and loud and rough. But that is the person bringing the calf…the calf actually does okay. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it. I have seen all my boys, my brothers, my friends, and kids of my friends go through this initiation. I have seen green horns, rookies, professionals and “the elite” do this. The crew (not me) love it when it gets crazy and the “pusher” gets kicked, slammed, falls, has to climb the fence. As I have said before…I do not see the humor in it but if it keeps the moral up…I just deal with it.
I got a few pictures of David pushing the calves…when I wasn’t turning my head. I have heard the crew say that David HAS GOT THIS…he learned from the best and learned the right way. He does it really well and keeps the same look on his face the whole time…he does not get mad, or excited, or even frustrated….or if he does he keeps it hidden.
Here David is waiting for the next few calves to come in the lane. I did not get pictures of the guys in the "back back". These guys keep the whole system running. They get the calves from the big holding pen to the lane that leads to the chute. This can sometimes be a real chore. Trying to herd calves is sometimes like trying to herd cats. They go every which way except the right way. These guys are really tired by the end of the day. It takes everybody doing their job right to have a successful cow work day. We have all that and then some!!!!!
The calves really don’t beller as much as you think they would. I think it is more of a fear of the unknown. I am not saying what we do to them doesn’t hurt but they are tough (God made them that way) and we are as easy as possible and as quick as possible to get it done as painless as possible. This hole in the side of the chute was a GENIUS (one of many) idea. It makes it so much easier for me to give the two shots to the calf. Sometimes there is no neck room to give it on the outside and it is not so safe to give it on the inside of the chute.
Once the calf is pushed into the chute both heifers and soon to be steers get treatment for external parasites, two shots, an implant and a tag (blue for boys and pink for girls) in one ear and an EID tag in the other ear. The boys then get turned into steers. I don’t feel the need to give you the exact details of this procedure. But I will say that Adam is very very quick and his knife is very very sharp. And Greg, who holds the steers to keep them still has arms like tree trunks. So there are times I worry about the guys pushing the calves because the calves come in the chute so fast the “pusher” almost comes in too. That would not be good because if Greg gets ahold of them just right and Adam is so quick…it would be all over but the crying :(
Speaking of quick, I have mentioned before how fast we can work a mama cow through the chute but I think we are even faster with the babies. And if Adam helps us tag we are even quicker…so quick that I sometimes cannot keep the tag guns loaded.
We are really a helpful crew. Sometimes we have to help do other jobs as well as our own. Especially Van. He has been known to help Adam with surgery, help Greg with the holding, takes over my job if I need a minute, and anything else that happens to come up.
Remi the wonder dog is ALWAYS around to help. He literally LOVES his job.
We all pitch in helping when it is needed. That is just how we roll!!
You know the good mamas by the fact that they hang around the cow pen waiting for their calves to be done and returned to them. The only mamas that leave are the new mamas and by next year they will be hanging around too.
MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA!!!!!
This is the home herd pen. Instead of being in a smaller pen we are on the outside which means the mamas can come up really close while we are working. It can sometimes be kind of scary because these mamas are trying to get to their babies. Remi likes to help us keep the cows back and sometimes does a good job…but other times he retreats and ends up either between our legs or under our table…with a cow on his heels. So this time we had to tie him in the truck. He was still on the job and let us know if they were getting too close. It really keeps me on my toes watching out for the mamas and watching as the calves come out of the chute hoping they don’t come straight at me or my organized table. Adam keeps telling me to be still and quiet…that is so hard for me…I always want to holler HEY! HEY! HEY! and dance out of their way. I am working on the still and quiet thing…needs lots more work. :)
This is by far the best thing we grow on our farm. Beautiful, healthy, beef cows.
This is definitely one of the best parts of my job. This little guy could not stay up with the herd so Mickey put him in the floor board of his truck and brought him to the pen. He was too small to stay in the chute so we worked him in the grass. He was so sweet and Remi took a liking to him too. The calf walked away but not very far. So Remi kept on going and checking on the calf and then coming back to help us.
My favorite picture from this photo shoot. This is one of my favorite places on our farm. We walk out through these trees and onto the huge beautiful prairie. The moon had been full and was still up when we started working and then we got to see the gorgeous sunrise. There are many perks to this kind of work and seeing God’s masterpieces up close and personal top that list.
We have worked in such extreme heat that it feels like we will just pass out from heat exhaustion. Those are the days we pray for shade on the cow pens, cloudy skies, and an occasional cool breeze to help us catch our breath. We have worked in such extreme cold that I literally could not feel my feet or fingers and the oil in the hoses and the medicines were thick from being almost frozen solid. Those are the days we pray for time to build a fire, hot chocolate, and nice warm sunshine.
Unless you have done it…you have no idea how hard this work is or how rewarding it can be or how much fun we sometimes have. There are many emotions in the cow pen. It goes from anger, ticked off, annoyed, frustrated, and overwhelmed to confident, humorous, relieved, successful, and “okay”. The emotions are as different as each person. We make a great team and I am still very proud and honored to work with this unique bunch of guys. I still love farmers...epsecially when they are also cowboys! Yeehaw!!