A Day Working the Cows

| 2/21/2014 8:43:00 AM

Renee-Lucie BenoitLast weekend we brought the cows and their calves in from pasture to vaccinate and to castrate the bull calves. We have 44 pair and that makes us a small operation. My husband is fond of saying ranching is not a money-making proposition, it’s a way of life. And he’s right. We make a few bucks off the calves when they are sold to feeder operations, but we’re really doing it because we like it and most of the time we break even or make a little bit of profit. It’s good to have a side gig that makes money dependably. Of course, we put a beef in the freezer. That’s the best part. And we sell a few sides or wholes to friends.

pushing cows

I’ve often thought that the romantic idea people have about the cowboy way of life is just that: a romantic idea. In reality there’s blood, gore, working out in the rain, wind, freezing temperatures when you’ve rather be sitting warming your heels at the wood stove. Last year we rode in freezing wind and rain to save a premature calf. We did all that, endangered our lives horseback and we were still were unsuccessful in saving it. This happens and you just have to accept it. You work hard and sometimes it’s not fun and it’s a tragedy and you do it anyway. It’s a choice. Fortunately it’s mostly pleasant and relatively easy. Watching the cows graze peacefully on the hillside in the sun is like some perfect commercial on TV.

Last weekend was one of the harder parts of working cows but it has to be done. There are so many levels to it in addition to the actual work. In this little essay I’d like to touch on some of the levels. For instance when we brought all the mommas and babies into the corrals, we were a little concerned with how much water they were drinking. We are in a drought and we knew they could suck down a lot. Our stock ponds are all dry and we’re on well water. I knew we had 3,800 gallons and sure enough by the next day they had sucked down 1,500 gallons. We needed to process them without delay so we could turn them back out to drink water pumped out of the creek.

We band instead of cut. Each method has their proponents. Some people think cutting is safer but one thing is for sure about banding. It is a heck of lot less messy. Banding is wrapping a rubber around the calf’s testicles and eventually they atrophy for lack of blood and fall off. Sound awful? Yes, it is. However, having your testicles cut off without anesthesia is worse. There’s no way around it. Good meat comes from a neutered bull. Also castrating makes the males less dangerous towards other cattle and humans when they are being raised for beef. By the way castrated bulls are called steers.

assembly line

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