Yesterday I sat down and started a story aiming to answer the question I had been asked a lot in the last couple days..."How do you ship calves and preg cows in the same day??" I was attempting that answer when I decided to take a break and go attend to the task I'd been given from the day before.
"Let those cows back out into the River Field and get a count on them. Don't let them rush the gate." Husbeast left instructions that were pretty simple to carry out before he had to head back to the mountain. I headed down with Weebeast to get hay for the bull in the corral, and let the cows out. They saw the truck headed for their gate and started filtering down. The days after calves leave are always a little tricky with cows. They will follow you before the will be driven. They follow the truck because they are thinking it will lead them back to where their calves last were. You can't get around them to push them because they circle you up as fast as you circle around. It's funny and frustrating.
I opened the gate and swung it back. Two cows stepped forward but no one was in a rush. It was at that moment that I noticed a bred cow in the pen with the culls. I counted and came up with too many for that bunch.
Hmmmmm. Okay that would be easy enough. Peel two cows out of the cull pen. "One, two, three..." I stepped inside the meadow to drive the cows out the gate as I counted. They went out but didn't go far at all and stopped to look at me. I had just got to 12 when I recognized one that had been marked as open.
"Crap." I stopped and processed. This was a new spin. Harder to pull cows out of the main herd than it is to put them back.
"Hey, Little Dude, jump out and circle around these cows. We need to put them back."
Luckily, they knew they'd last seen their calves in the corral so they were easy to convince that I had changed my mind.
We finished the hay fetching project while I pondered the newest plan. It was just me and Weebeast and we needed to resort both bunches of cows. Normally, not a big deal. But, they had just been weaned and then pregged and vaccinated in the chute so they were not "normal" conditions. As I drove back to the corral, the cows followed the truck again. I went to the main gate and swung it around and then walked for the back corral to see if they'd follow me that far. About half of the cows came in and went to the back. When the flow stopped, I closed the gate behind those and tried to circle around the second half with the quad and a dog. They followed me until I went in the corral. They didn't want back in there. I tried to push and use the dog. No. Not just no, but hell no. Those cows were having nothing to do with my plans. Plus, the pasture next to them still had the cull mix up and they kept running that direction.
"We have to go get horses." Which I said to Weebeast with much more volume and a few cuss words. At that point I was fearing we had a losing battle in front of us. I was afraid we were not going to get these cows in and still have time to sort things off before dark. It was already past 2 when we started the project at hand. In my heart and head and gut I knew that we HAD to get those cows back in the corral for the simple fact that we had to be smarter than them and it would spoil them if they "won." We took the quad out to the mares and caught two of them. My first plan was to bring the cull bunch in and secure them and then get the rest.
Also. No. The culls beat us and out ran us back to hang with the second half of cows at the farthest corner from the corral.
This had become a battle of wills and a matter than HAD to be resolved this day....this moment. These cows absolutely could NOT get away with not going where I wanted them to go. I had to take a moment. We sat looking at the cows and I may have choked up a little with the frustration of needing one more human horseback and not having a soul.
"Little Dude, you are going to have to stay in here and bring the cull bunch while I use Jip and try to bring the main bunch. "
He didn't hesitate, but he looked a little concerned about the frustration he could sense. I loped back up to the top and set a new gate while he headed for the bottom to get around the cows.
I caught up with him and sicked the dog on the cows. She quickly proved that I didn't need a third man. Jip alone worked her side while I worked the middle and my half. Weebeast kept his bunch coming and hustled them out the top gate so that they hit the main gate at the same time. They didn't like my new plan so I sent Weebeast through the corral to reset gates. Jip and I held them until he had the gate tied back and we all three pushed and held and held and pushed until all the cows were back in the corral.
Once the gate was secure, I breathed a little easier. The worst part was done. They didn't get away with dodging the corrals. Yes, every mother loving one of them was mixed again, but they were all in and didn't get away with, well, getting away.
At preg, the vet had marked an O for open or a month number for production culls in orange chalk on their right hips. So finding the mixes was not a difficult process. I set Weebeast up in the gate and brought him one cow at a time until we had about 10 of the culls sorted back off. The last few were tougher to bring so we regrouped and put all the cows in the back pen. I had Weebeast flow the bred cows to me one at a time so I could make sure they were right.
It took us about an hour, and we reset gates a few times to duck culls up the alley. We got them all sorted and never had one get by us. I was pretty proud of Weebeast and his horse working the gate and sorting cows. He saved my bacon with the whole project and I could not have done it without his help.
Once we had the mess cleared up and the culls secured again our next step was letting them back out of the corral without them mashing out the gate. Plus, I still needed to count. We set up our game plan and I sat in the gate while Weebeast fed cows or filtered back to help me stop the flow. One at a time. They went single file out the gate as I counted and he held. It was a thing of beauty...
The last step was sending them out of the lower meadow as originally planned. In the meantime, our friend Tim had come back from his afternoon hunt and offered to help. He's a fencer by trade so I asked him about patching the spot I found that explained the mix up. One or two or ten of the cows had mashed top wires on the fence in the middle of the night and they had mixed on both sides. He set to work on that and Weebeast and I brought the cows down the meadow. I went ahead to the gate and we had to convince them to head out.
The last step was to put the cull bunch back where they belonged. We counted them out too, for practice, and took them back to the pen they will occupy for a while. We shut the gate, I thanked Weebeast for his hard work, apologized for the things I said while we worked cows and he replied with "I knew you weren't yelling at me." Thank goodness he's picked up on that aspect of cow work!
We finished, once again, before daylight disappeared, and he turned the mares back out with a belly full of grain as a thank you.
I still haven't counted cows in the cull pen this morning...I am a little afraid to. I had enough of their business yesterday to last me a while. I haven't come up with Plan D yet so I'm going to sit here with my coffee and hope I don't need to.