Yesterday I was able to put my gentle cow handling techniques to use when helping Hugh Leigh take some of his cattle to the sale barn in Jackson. HL had Fred Pepper and I as his helpers, along with his grand-daughter Kimberly (who you may remember from an earlier post is almost 10).
HL leases pasture from someone on Breakwater Lane, so that property is referred to as Breakwater vs Deer Camp where the main portion of his and my herd are located. I have helped him at Breakwater many times just feeding and putting out minerals as well as simply counting and seeing how they are doing, but this was my first time helping round them up and load them up for market.
As HL is having some trouble with his legs and hands so he just directed us in separating the calves from their mammas and getting the bull out of the pen, literally and figuratively. I was the inside man (the pen) and Fred was the outside man, or the muscle as strength is sometimes needed to hold the gate closed and to load them onto the trailer through the chute.
The sorter stick is used as an extension of the arm to help the cattle be directed towards different areas of the pen, a 40 foot diameter ‘circle’ of metal pre-formed fencing sections. All the cattle are tempted in by the use of feed simply dumped on the ground. Then a portion of the fence which is the end of the circle that can be opened and closed, is opened enough to allow cattle to be led / coaxed / gently prodded through it into another area of the pen that allows them to be close and to see those still inside the pen so as to keep all concerned calmer.
I felt a bit like a circus trainer crossed with a matador as the sorter was used to make the cattle be swept along the edge of the pen and through the gate all the while keeping an eye out for all ‘doggies’ from trying to sneak by that aren’t wanted or the bull from doing something you don’t want him to do. It does sort of get the heart going, as you try not to slip in the mud and more under your boots as you high step in the pen orchestrating it all.
At one point I used one of the matador all young boys practice should we ever have a chance to get in the ring with a bull with our cape to star in a bull-fight. I was a focusing on where the bull was as sweeping a cow towards the left with the cattle sorter in my left hand when HL called out, “Nice back hand cut!” I mumbled thanks as a calf was trying to sneak through to his momma on my right.
There were 10 calves in all being taken to market but they had to be loaded 5 at a time. This is where Fred was really needed. I found it easier to take the calves out one at a time. The way the pen was put up, HL was able to back right up to a section of the fence where the gates of the trailer could be attached to the fence by chains and a small ‘v’ shaped corral was formed in front of it. This allowed the calf to be funneled towards the trailer and with a minimum of fuss loaded up and on the trailer. The trailer is set up such that 5 cattle can be in one section and then a gate can be closed to keep them separated from the next bunch, otherwise they would possibly get hurt in transit to market.
The entire operation took about 45 minutes. The calves were loaded and the rest were back in the pasture. Then it was off to market.