December 11th, 2007

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Country life: penning the calf

Sir Loin the Luckless, designated meat animal for this year, has an appointment at the abbatoir tomorrow.  Which meant today was the designated day to get Sir Loin into the right holding pen to be loaded on the trailer in the morning.   Sir Loin, like all his herdmates, has spent his entire life on our friends' ranch, hanging out with his mom and her friends, eating whatever was there to eat, splashing in the stock tanks and through the seasonal creek (which this year ran all year), playing with the other calves in wild games of chase and buck and (for the boys) "butting heads".   This year was a wet year, with lots of grass and tasty forbs; it didn't dry off until October.  So, unlike the little Mr. T (bone), the previous holder of the honor to which Sir Loin didn't know he was aspiring, who hadn't reached 600 pounds when older than this, Sir Loin the Luckless  is a fine, stout, well-muscled fellow with a bit too much adolescence-coming-on about him (those of you who know cattle know whereof I speak.)   The friend on whose ranch he has lived thinks he's pushing 900 pounds.  

This is a small ranch, and the cattle are used to being handled skillfully and quietly, so once we got the truck to start (it tried to pretend it had every truck disease known, but finally consented to run)  we went down to the old barn (near where the old house was, across the little creek, not up near the new house) and put range cubes in the feed troughs of two of the three pens.   Then we took the other bucket of range cubes in the truck and set out to circle the  They know that if the truck is wandering through the pasture, there might be range cubes...and so we got more than half the herd--including Sir Loin--into the pens.  Then it was a matter of quietly walking into each pen with a length of PVC pipe (white, lightweight) and quietly and slowly moving where it was more comfortable for the critter to go where you wanted it to.  No yelling, no chasing, no running, no sudden moves at all.  John told Michael and me where to move and when; we moved quietly and smoothly, no jerkiness.  Cows quietly moved through gates...stopped...moved through other gates.  Even the big (and I do mean BIG) herd bull ambled quietly here and there, not that any sane person would try to hurry him.   Finally we had Sir Loin and two cows in the third pen, the loading pen. 

One of the tricks appears to be not ever being in a hurry, even if you have an eye on the sky, the angle of the sun, and how far away those rain clouds are.   You convey to the cattle that you are of one mind with them--you have all day every day, you're just going to amble along here and maybe turn...and they accept this, for the most part.

Then--because the pipes at the barn well are broken--we drove back up to the house to fill containers (like, but smaller than, big trash cans) with water at the house well, and drove back down (water sloshing around wildly) to the barn to put it in the trough that serves the loading pen.   Gently and quietly eased the other cattle out of the pens where they were now loitering, closed the gates that needed closing.   Sir Loin and the two cows (One Horn and Blondie)  will spend the night together, which will keep Sir Loin from fretting.   In the morning, John and his friend James will get Sir Loin in the truck--where I live is between the ranch and the abbatoir, so they'll pick me up on the way there and drop me off on the way back. 

Hopefully in time to rush in, shower, change, and head for choir practice.  But you never know, with cattle, an old truck, cold fronts and rain, just how things will work out.  Today was easy.  Tomorrow....?