Last Monday, right before our Primary Day experience, it was time to take our calves to market as their weight was just right and the price for cattle is very high. It begins with sorting the cattle. This is the process where the cows (the moms) and the bull are separated from the calves. It facilitate this all the cows are called to be fed in a pen which can have the open section closed to pen them in. Then the fun begins.
Last year I took a course in ‘gentle cow handling techniques’ which honed my skills from taking calves to market last May but which my wife, Pat, was unable to attend. While I have been sharing my knowledge with her about the use of the ‘sorter stick’, she has not really had the chance to put that to practical application. This time she decided she wanted to help with the cattle ‘drive’ as Rusty was in need of extra hands as we were trying to take 12 calves in all to market.
Pat was a little skittish but game as the process started. We assistants enter and get up close to the gates furtherest away from the penned animals. Rusty stood by the fence section which acts as a gate while his wife, April, went in to move the bull out first. Our job was to move forward slowly toward the cows and calves as that makes the cattle back up so that the animals you want to weed out can have a clear path towards the opening. The sorting sticks are used as an extension of your arm to maneuver the cattle better.
Here’s a picture before we really got started of me at the pen.
When Rusty wanted Pat to tend the opening at one point I could see in her eyes she wasn’t quite ready for the task and I swapped places with her.
Once all the adults were out, we then herded the calves toward a chute, fencing that goes from the pen to the truck where the fencing is parallel to itself for about 30 feet that is normally 32 inches wide so the cattle can’t go through more than one at a time. Rusty decided to make his chute 36 inches wide, I think for his comfort to get thru which once we done he realizes might have to be narrowed as 2 calves can try to occupy the same chute which makes things a little tricky.
This is now where the term ‘cow puncher’ becomes self evident as they need to be prodded from behind, which Rusty and I were doing, and from the side as necessary by the helpers, which were Pat and April. I never played tackle football, but got a sense of what lineman do as I had to put a shoulder to the rear of the calves at times, or punch them with the butt end of the sorter to motivate them forward at other times.
The whole job went fairly smoothly and quickly. We got all 12 calves on board the trailer as we were off to market!
She did great for her first time. Both April and Rusty were very complimentary and April was surprised to hear that it was Pat’s first time as she did so well.
Pat wasn’t able to join us on the trip to market this week, but here is a picture she took the previous week when she did get a chance to go to market when we took calves that were only Rusty’s to market.
Rusty is ecstatic with the price for cattle, which is over $2.00 per pound as he has never sold calves before at that price level. It was a good pay day for all, as I sold my 4 bull calves too.