Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A New Day at the Ranch.

Last month I enjoyed several days at the neighbors' ranch just south of us.  We two, that Spouse o' Mine and I, are non-farming, non-ranching folks, in a state of cattle-ranching, soybean-growing residents.  If someone owns acreage here, they are no doubt farmer or rancher.

Except us.  We have a small property which we purchased upon moving to Kansas because we had three kids and three horses, all six of whom wanted to move into the country.

I wrote in the last few posts about my experiences in the ranching world.  Go back to the beginning 
if you want to start from the uh...beginning.

A week or two went by, and I received a phone call from neighbor Rancher Joe: They would be gathering heifers up in the morning...

This is where my City Mouse lingo does not translate the Rancher lingo, here goes...

A huge ranch operation like theirs utilizes AI (artificial insemination).  In order for the ranch's  calving season to work like a well-oiled machine, they manipulate the heifers' hormones (synchronizing) into cycling at the same time - they will come into heat at the same time, be bred at the same time, and calve at somewhat the same time next January.

That said, his request to me was to go back to the Bunkhouse (more on this towards the end...) and help with the heifer biz, to get them cycling/into heat at the same time.

I could do that, I replied.

So the next morning, again a cool and muddy day, I headed to the Bunkhouse.  At this point in my cattle ranching experience, I had no idea, no idea atall, what to anticipate.  I went there with my china cup and thermos of coffee.  I was met by the herdsman, Brock.  He asked me to go down to the gate by the bunks...blah blah blah.  I frowned.  My mind had stopped at "bunks".

Bunks.  Whoa! What the heck did Brock mean?  What are "bunks"and where are they?  And so I asked him.  He looked at me as if I were making a joke. Two serious looks, facing each other.  He pointed to some cement (OK, concrete, for those of you who do not live like the Beverly Hillbillies and their "cement ponds"...) structures which, to me, looked like half-cylinders.

Nope. Those were feed "bunks".  Cows ate feed out of them.  I actually saw cows eating out of "bunks".  And, the house by the bunks, where Brock resides?  The Bunkhouse.  I don't get it.  But there is so much about ranching lingo that I do not get.  It's like talking to computer people and their vocabulary.  Sheesh.  Let's all speak English. No dialects allowed.

When everyone involve had arrived to the Bunkhouse, we commenced the day's deal:

Bring in each heifer (a female cow which had never had a calf...a virgin? Except she would only enjoy AI and not the fun of it all...).  My job was to write down her tag number (each cow, bull, calf, steer has a tagged ear which has all sorts of numbers to tell its hereditary information.), and then take a curry comb (a comb used to clean off all dirt and shedding hair {primarily used on horses...and that's how I have ever used it.)}.  I would take the curry comb and scritch-scratch the tail-end of the heifer, loosening dirt and hair off t tail end of the cow.  Then I would smack a sticker on to their tail side, which would provide heat detection in the very near future.  I made the joke "Moo-ed swings!!"  and all around me smiled a benign cheerio.  I suppose they have all heard it, said it, shared it, before.  But I was NEW to this ranching life!  Ha ha ha ha ha!  It was a funny (to me).

So that day, recording heifer numbers and scritch-scratching heifer hineys, was such a delightfully calm day...I left feeling that I had learned so much this past month.  I know part of the bull-cow-calf-heifer-beef- scenario that, once again, that Spouse o' Mine said, "People PAY to do what you did this week."

And there you have it: Kansas Cattle.


Kansas Lavender

Monday, June 08, 2015

Back at the Ranch

Chapter Two of Ranch Work:

The morning following the sorting of sixty cow-calf pairs, only to be interrupted by a call to a fire, held a gloriously cool morning, after a night-long session of rain and thunderstorms.  What did this mean to me, the new kid on the rancher's block?  Well, instead of capris, linen shirt, and leather horse boots, I donned long pants, sweatshirt, and lovely knee-high rubber boots.  (Wellies, if I were the Queen of England.)  It also meant several large, muddy, manure-filled pens which would soon hold the cow-calf pairs again.

I headed back to the Bunkhouse early the next morning, coffee thermos and china cup in hand.  From our house to the "Bunkhouse" is about four miles of beautiful Flint Hills, rolling green grass and vistas to miles and miles away. It really is beautiful.  So, I had one mile to go to arrive to this day's workplace, and as I was enjoying God's green earth, I saw commotion out of my left eye - to the south.  Yes...there were a whole lot of black cows running pell-mell down a hill.  Sort of willy-nilly.  Upon closer attention, I saw a pickup, a four-wheeler, two dogs running, and someone on foot, striding much longer and quicker than one might observe on a regular bucolic morning.

When I got to the Bunkhouse, no one was there.  And no cows.  Or calves, either.  I poured myself a cup of coffee, turned on some Vivaldi, and sat in the car doing a crossword puzzle.  Shortly, a pickup truck came into the drive, and the patriarch of the ranching family climbed out of his truck.  He is a large man, and his countenance is both kind and one which calls for respect.

"Good morning!" I called out from my station wagon.  I climbed out.  "Was that you all I saw down the way?", I asked.

He nodded. Or sort of nodded and shrugged.  "Now THAT was a rodeo." he replied.

I laughed.  Maybe I shouldn't have, but I thought he was funny.  As we chatted in the morning cool, the others brought the cows and calves into the pens, the pens that they were re-visiting from the day before.  But there was a catch to this morning's work...

Instead of 60 cow-calf pairs, we would be sorting and vaccinating 100 cow-calf pairs.  I don't know how rancher math works.  I don't think cows can reproduce overnight, but there ya go: many more bovine creatures to sort and assess.

We went into the pens and sorted.  This time I felt a little more at ease with the situation.  In part, I think, because there was no hot dusty WIND making my head spin.  Mud and manure, yes, and I had to make sure I was in balance in my Queen's Wellies in the muck, - if the mud suction wins the contest, one will either fall face-first into the mud/manure, or (at best) pull one's leg out of the Wellie and immediately plop a socked foot into the mud.  Keen balance is the best defense.  As for the mud: I will take that over Saharan conditions any day.

After sorting the cows and their babies, we got to the part where I walked into the barn with rancher Joe, and he said, "Trish, after lunch we will come back here and vaccinate calves and cows.  Your job will be to write down the calf number, its cow number, and while I vaccinate, you will replace the used needles with new ones, and here's how you do that (visual aid given), and put the used ones here (as he points to a bucket).  Then, make sure which pasture the calf is to go into, move the gate where that calf should go, (visual aid), and then you will open the chute (as he motions WAYyyy upwards, over my head) and let that calf out."

What was daunting about this?  Well...some things.  But the main thing, and I think Joe caught my hesitation about the "chute-opening" thing, because after lunch when we met up again, he was carrying a step-stool over for 5'2" me to use to open the cattle chute.  Ha ha!  Bravo, Joe.

The afternoon proceeded without too much noteworthy description.

Calves in, calves out.

Cows in...WHOA!  Much larger animals!  I was a little unsettled by these big old mamas.

But, hey: I am a small-town/city girl.  I did have some fun.  I learned an awful lot.  The learning biz was what was most appreciated. As that Spouse o' Mine mentioned, "People PAY to do what you did this week."  True, that.  But I appreciate that our neighbors might trust that I can come in and do a job, maybe well, maybe iffy, but do it.

And guess what!  There is yet another chapter of TWebsterArmstrong on the Ranch!  Haha !  Stay tuned.      

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...