November means working among the cows
November 2, 2007
November means weaning around here. With the few animals carrying our brand it is a pretty simple process. But not uneventful.
Beef cattle can get a Tina Turner attitude faster than you can punch a radio station. They might do things nice and easy in a “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” kind of way. Or they might select a more upbeat tune like Ike and Tina’s “Proud Mary,” and roll you on down the river, rough.
Our cattle are usually gentle. Not tame, but settled enough when walking out among them while irrigating they’ll barely raise their heads to investigate.
Sometimes they will watch with more interest the antics of someone pouring out a 50-pound bag of mineral mix when that someone is also trying to keep the Sierra zephyrs from blowing the concentrated salt mix in her face and eyes. The salt mixture is very caustic. The cows become mildly interested.
Weaning gives an opportunity to thoroughly check up on our animals after a summer of casual care. It is then we also preg check, vaccinate, check for foot rot and do close-up eyes, ears, nose and behind inspections. For this you want the cattle calm, gentle, not too tense, or on the fight, jumping around excited in the corral. On the flip side you don’t want them so comfortable with you they think you are a cute little chewy toy to play with.
Dairy cows are different than beef animals. Most are the big-boned, black and white Holsteins, a thin looking, to a beef rancher, type of cow. They are more docile by breed and are use to being handled. Dairymen usually milk their animals at least twice a day, a very personal activity. Dairymen learn individual animals’ dispositions. They get very close to their animals. They name their cows. Beef operators usually don’t.
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A family friend who used to operate a dairy here in the Valley, retired, moved a 5-hour drive away and got a hold of a leppy, black, baby beef calf. And was allowed by the laws in this county to raise the thing.
When he needed to brand and cut the animal instead of pushing it to the corral or roping it like cowboys he let his wife lead it to the catch chute with a bucket of grain. It also has a name, Louie and is probably loved more than a toddler’s first blanket. He is wintering over at our place right now.
Louie’s owner informed me that a cane would be good to have while out in the field with Louie.
Louie may come running over to see me because I look like his mom (not his birth mother, his foster dairywife mom). And a 700-pound, excited, black Angus puppy running at you from across the field is a pretty chilling experience.
If he gets close enough he will want to rub against you like a cat.
We were advised to “bop” Louie on the nose so he won’t get too friendly.
I don’t think a cane will do. But we’ll know soon enough. November is weaning time. Time to go and gather the cattle.
— Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.