My cattle partner, Hugh Leigh (HL), asked me for help in loading some of his calves and one cow to take to market this morning and it turned out to be more of an adventure than the other two-times we have done it this year.
Things started smoothly enough getting all the cows and calves into the pen but for one calf. You draw the cattle in by putting a couple of bags of feed in the pen and once they realize it is for them, in they go. The one calf that didn’t go in kept circling the pen but couldn’t be enticed to join the others so HL finally decided to let that one go for another week.
I have become the inside man while 3 others take care of the gates needed to be tended to when sorting those that are going are ushered out of the pen by yours truly. HL is the director of the action from the side lines.
It took me a while to get going with the sorting as the cows and calves were bunched up in areas that made it hard to start. That meant I was directing (sorting) one out at a time. Then the bull was in the right place for me to guide him out and he went out but was followed by a calf. As there is a small area used to hold them where I have to close a gate behind me, it was possible to urge the calf to leave the area so the bull get be released on his own.
Next I was able to get two out at a time using my back hand pass move which allows me to look at the remaining cattle while the ones I am sorting out can enter the small temporary catch pen.
Then things got hairy. One of the calves in trying to get away from me butted his head into the fence, then lowered his head to butt it again but instead got his head into u-shaped leg at the bottom of the fence and pushed outwards on it. As it is a temporary structure the fence line moved when he pushed it. That started ‘stretching’ the rest of the fence pieces and closing up the pen from a circle into a straight line. All the cattle started to get panicky and pushed the fence in the direction the calf was going. As the calf that was caught in the fence lifted its head, one then other of the remaining cattle went under the fence and were back in the pasture. Only a cow and a calf were left in the pen versus the other 3 calves we were trying to load as well.
Realizing the cattle were spooked, HL decided to wait to try another time to take them to market. It was way too hot and muggy for us to be able to get the job done today with nervous cattle quickly. We all agreed with HL it was a good idea to just go with the ones we had on hand.
Hugh Leigh said now we had seen had tough it can be to load cattle. He said it wasn’t our fault. I chimed in that it was due to “equipment failure” at which HL laughed and said that his friend and oft time partner Jesse Guthrie used the same phrase all the time when things didn’t go as planned. I smiled inwardly as now Jesse and I have something in common; when it isn’t a cowpunchers fault it is often equipment failure.