Thursday, November 4, 2010

Growing Up

Last Saturday, we gathered the cows and calves from the hills.  A herd near our house and a herd approximately 15 miles to the southeast of our house were rounded up and locked in corrals for one last night together.
Sunday morning arrived quickly and Danish Cowboy donned his sexy coveralls, rounded up our posse of horse trailers driven by neighbors and friends and headed off to be at the far herd before sunup.  "The asscrack of dawn" as we sometimes refer to it around here. The animals were sorted in to various groups.  Steers go in this pen, heifers to sell go in that pen, heifers to keep go in that pen.  The livestock trailers are then loaded up with 15-18 calves each depending on the size of the calf/length of the trailer and driven to the proper destination.
Heifers and steers that have been sold are taken to the livestock yards in Brockway, weighed, and sorted by the buyer on to "cattle pots" which could hold 80-90 calves each  We generally sell as a pool with several neighbors who have similar types of cattle, so there are a lot of calves and a lot of bawling from the animals who are experiencing a new phase in their lives.  The whole process happens quickly.  Most of our calves are destined for feedlots in Nebraska and they need to get the animals there as soon as possible to prevent sickness and start the weaning process.
The heifers that we choose to keep for our herd (based on birth size, structure, their mother's milking qualities, and perhaps cuteness if I'm there when we are tagging them) are driven directly to the corrals by our house and dropped off.  In the days' prior to their arrival, preparations were underway (not unlike bringing a new baby home from the hospital) to ensure the corrals were sturdy enough, food was available and hazards were removed.

They are dropped off in the corrals and the chaos begins.  They bawl constantly at first and then as a group seem to settle down.

Then one remembers and they start all over again.  It goes on for days.  They stand by the gate and give us these forlorn looks as we go about our daily duties.  They are curious and skittish all at once.
They do eventually settle in to their new routine as teenager cows.  They'll hang out as a group for the next two years.  A gang of wild fur, hair and hooves.

Everyone says that the weaning process is hard those first few days, but eventually something clicks and they forget.  I watched a show once that suggested that cows don't forget.  That when they are reintroduced to the herd as two year olds they retain a special bond with their mother if she's still in the herd.  I like that idea.  Cows sometimes do dumb things (just like people), but it doesn't make them stupid creatures.  

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