week two: me versus cows

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Summer on a ranch usually has a surprisingly small amount of interactions with cattle. It’s one of my favorite ironies. This past week, however, I was able to take many breaks from driving in circles (or, more precisely, disking the fields) to working with the contrary animals. The job ended with me covered in dust, dung, and deadlifting a four-wheeler out of a ditch. I only managed to wash all of the dirt from my hair this evening. Needless to say, I love working with cattle. 

There are a few stages of working with cows, all of which took place during this week. The first, of course, is driving the cattle. We get onto four-wheelers, round up the cattle, and drive them to the corrals. The animals aren’t fond of this. While our goal is to get them down the road, their hobbies include turning around, charging at the dogs which they feel are threatening their children, and wandering into ditches or through any and all gates or fences that they can get through. Getting them out of the field as a struggle too, especially if you’re riding a tiny four-wheeler which takes joy in getting stuck in the smallest of ditches, forcing you to use your gym training to free it. (Frankly, if this continues, I’ll never need to go to the gym again. I can just drive around fields on that tiny, useless red four-wheeler.)

Once they’re in the corrals, they can be sorted and, if needed, processed. Of course, the cattle aren’t fond of this, either. They don’t get too difficult, though, unless we actually process them, as we did a group of calves at the beginning of the week. They needed to be branded, dehorned, vaccinated, and, in the case of bull calves, join the ranks of the steers–all in all, an unpleasant day for them and for us (the scent of blood and burned flesh lingers). To be able to actually do those things, we had to get them down the chute. This, of course, was my job. Funnily enough, the calves didn’t want to go to the end of the chute and their doom. There was one calf, in particular, that managed, on multiple occasions, to turn around in the chute, climb under the barriers within the chute that were supposed to keep it from backing up, and try to escape. At one point it even laid down in an attempt to crawl out from under the chute. I appreciated the ingenuity the first time he turned around, but by the third attempt at escape, I was tired of the game.

He ended up getting branded, dehorned, neutered, and vaccinated, just like the others.

The last stage is taking them back–and then waiting for one confused mother to return to the corral because she couldn’t find her calf with the others. We had one particularly difficult mom this week. She was very devoted to her child (Yay moms! Happy Mother’s Day!) but also very problematic. After escaping from the field and wandering back up the road, we drove her back to the corral. She proceeded to escape from the corral and wander to another field, settling herself next to another mother-baby pair. We drove her back to the corral again before loading her into a trailer and returning her to her child. She hasn’t returned so it can be assumed that she found her son.

Thus, while the cows succeeded in being difficult and making a mess, I won in the end, because I took on my OK Ranch symbol willingly. (Tattoos are wonderful. Shoutout to Mahayla.) No burning flesh for me.

Libby – 1

Cattle – .5

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