Working cattle is always a learning experience, and this year when we worked our herd we learned a lot.
We learned that it pays to be prepared and organized.
As each cow or calf comes through the alley, we have to be prepared with what we are going to do to them. They are all given a fly tag (to ward off flies), treated for lice, grubs and other unwanted parasites, vaccinated against pink eye, and various other infectious viruses, and then weighed. Our calves also get a shot to prevent respiratory problems and blackleg, which can actually wipe out a whole year of calves. Fortunately this disease is preventable with vaccination. So these shots and tags all have to be kept separated and organized.
We learned that sometimes it takes several hands to do one job.
Although the Farmer is very proficient in what he does, he just can’t be in three places at one time. As the cattle go through the alley way someone has to encourage them along, and someone else has to open the sliding gate and shut it behind each cow or calf, and then the Farmer shuts the head chute at just the right moment.
We learned that a 13 year-old farmer’s daughter is not a big enough threat to keep a 1500 lb. cow from going over the fence.
Usually a cow’s moo is worse than their bite, so we had Daughter #5 standing at the top of the gate to ward off any wayward cow that may have gotten a crazy idea of trying an escape while they were in the holding pen. And it worked. Although we had a crazy cow escape (#11), she didn’t go through the gate; she jumped over the fence! Well, she jumped on the fence, it broke, and then she went over. But still the same result. Several years ago we had a similar incident in a sort of make-shift lot that we used to work our cattle in. So when we built our existing lot, we purposefully built it high enough so a cow could not go over (or so we thought until this year). The crazy thing jumped a couple of times and then finally busted through the boards and went right over, like she was a trained horse or something. Whatever…she didn’t get a fly tag so I hope she gets bitten by a great big horse fly!
And the final thing we learned this year is working cattle in the rain is no fun at all!
Although the day started out a little nippy, the sun soon came out and we were plenty warm about a half hour into the process. Unfortunately, the sun was overtaken by some ominous looking rain clouds and it began to pour. It didn’t take long before we were all soaked and covered in mud, which wasn’t too bad because it washed away some of the manure that we were all covered in from working the silly cattle in the first place. They are so uncouth.