Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gathering and Moving the Cows and Calves

Hello again from the Laceys. Well here in the high desert we have had a wild ride from a weather standpoint it’s been cool, dry, and windy all spring. We said we would discuss our calendar of operations. I’m going to lump all our second quarter activities together since June is almost over. The second quarter is probably our most active quarter.

We began the first week of April gathering and moving cattle into different pastures so they would be staged and more efficient to bring to the corrals for branding.

Branding is a general term for all the husbandry practices that must be performed on all the adult and juvenile cattle in the spring. The cows will be given vaccinations for redwater, copper, and anthrax. In our region redwater and antrax are naturally occurring and can be lethal to the livestock. The copper vaccination is merely a supplement because copper is deficient in our area and it is an essential mineral for cattle health. As far as the juvenile livestock, or “calves” as they are generally referred, to they will receive numerous calfhood inoculations including 8-way which covers the clostridal complex, a 5- way for bovine respiratory and viral complex, pasturella for pneumonia, and copper which is given orally. Also, the male or “bull” calves are castrated, and all the calves are given both permanent and non-permanent identification for origin and ownership. The calves’ age is 90 days or less, the earlier the intervention the more benefit and protection the calves get from the vaccinations. Also, there is less stress involved with younger animals. This is a key subject because we handle our cattle as a group in corrals four times a year, and the main goals are 1) The safety of our employees 2) The safety and welfare of the livestock. To that end we have spent a great deal of time and money on facilities that are both efficient and safe for people and animals. 3) Minimizing stress by employing proper handling techniques, age at intervention, dust control, and proper husbandry practices.

The second major activity of the second quarter is moving the cattle to summer pasture. This takes place two to three weeks after spring processing is over. The timing is mostly determined by the readiness of the summer pastures that are at 6500 ft. elevation. This activity entails gathering all the cows and calves that are spread out over approximately 45,000 acres. We gather the animals to our working facilities and then begin separating each cow with her calf (which is called pairing).

We separate about 40 pairs for each load. There are about 8 large pastures and 7 working facilities so every few days when we have cleaned out a pasture we move to the next one. The whole process takes about three weeks if we stay at it every day, which is what we normally do. A typical day during this activity which we call “shipping” would start by getting up at 3:30am and having breakfast and then saddling our horses about 4:00am and then try to get to our working area by 5:00am some days we have a 40 minute commute. We generally work until about 6:00 pm, but sometimes the cattle don’t cooperate and we have to improvise. Generally heat would be the problem if the cattle don’t cooperate. The temperatures in late May and June can be up to 105o F and that doesn’t help the disposition of the cows or the cowboys. If this happens we will just call it a day or find some other work that needs to be done that doesn’t require the livestock to cooperate. The whole process is somewhat of a marathon and usually everyone is glad when it is over. You see, even though we love to be horseback after three weeks of 12 hour days we are glad when we can do something else for a few days. Even after we finish moving the cows then we have to go back and reride all the pastures because there are always a few wiley old cows that hide out.

Once all the cows are finally moved we then start taking care of them on the summer pastures. The pastures are mostly all irrigated which translates into quite a bit of work. We will cover summer pasture and discuss the cowherd and type of cattle we raise in the next installment. Until next time….

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