Wednesday, August 01, 2007

That Wasn't Really My First Cattle Drive

I thought it was...but after what I did later that afternoon and the next day, the events described in my previous post were nothing but child's play.

After lunch and a nap to calm me down, we went back to the corral where all the cows were. We had several tasks:

1. Sort out the calves that didn't have an ear tag. These calves had been born recently and needed to be tagged, vaccinated and castrated if they were males. More on that later.

2. Separate the cows that didn't have the brand of The Ranch on them. These were cows that didn't belong to TM's family, but had probably tagged along during a previous cattle drive. They needed to be returned to their owner.

3. Separate the steers (boy cows without balls) from the bulls (boy calves with balls), so that they wouldn't fight during this process.

We actually did all these things. I helped sort the cows from the calves by waving my arms around, chasing them, and saying "HAAH!" a lot. We got the ten untagged calves separated and put them in a chute one-by-one ...see left. Once they were there, TM's cousin tied a rope around their outside back leg and pulled that we would have access to the calves' balls. Then, TM's dad poked and prodded until he was sure both balls were dangling. Then I held them down as TM's dad put a very strong rubber band around their base. Blood flow will stop and in a couple of weeks, their balls will shrivel up and drop off. TM tells me that you often see calf balls strewn around a pasture where they've been grazing. Crazy!

I also gave a couple of them ear tags with numbers and stuck a very big needle under their skin to give them their vaccinations. They have very thick skin, by the way. It was a bizarre experience, unlike anything I've ever done. I was exhausted at the end of the day. wasn't over. The next morning, we all woke up at 6am to do a real cattle drive. All those cows we sorted and worked with the day before got moved to a pasture 4 miles away. We walked in "rattlesnake country"...luckily I didn't see any, passed by carcasses of elk and cows and deer, even walked in the highway! It took about an hour and a half to move about 200 cows. I tell you...cows are dumb! You have to really simplify your logic to get them to do what you want.

Once they were in the new pasture, TM and I spent the rest of the afternoon fixing barbed wire fences so the cows wouldn't get off the land. I've never slept so hard in my life. The 5K run, the hikes, the 11,000 feet cabin...nothing was as tiring on my body as the work I did with the cows.

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