Reasons to be thankful down on the ranch |

Reasons to be thankful down on the ranch

by Marie Johnson

November, and thankfully weaning is done. Our calves are in the corral on the lane, waiting for the Fallon calf sale. The bull and springer heifers are in the side pasture along with a couple of steers that will make up Christmas dinner. Our cows are roaming in the sagebrush field. And the boarding cattle are scattered all over the ranch, finally quieting down.

The boarding cattle were making quite a fuss. Cattle trucks were hauling off cows or calves to other pastures or feedlots for almost two weeks. The trucks started rolling down the lane after sunrise and cleared off before dinner. The calves, getting sorted, were held over in the corrals and loudly bawled their displeasure at being separated from mom and pasture.

A family friend walking in the desert, miles from the ranch, heard the cattle’s commotion, wondering asked about the noise. A noise that after a few days out here we didn’t notice much.

The first days of cattle weaning were loud, outdoor rock concert loud. Cows in fields calling for calves in corrals. Calves calling back. These are not little baby calves either. Our calves at weaning were on average 8 months old and weighted 750 pounds a piece. The boarder calves must have been near the same. They made big noise.

The cow/calf bawling over the two weeks turned into white noise for us, like the hum of a fan. Then about three days after the last cattle truck left the cows stopped calling. They had turned back to eating.

Our own herd is small and their fuss factor is short. A few of our calves bawl, some ’til they got hoarse, but usually after three days they stop and get busy eating. Same with the cows.

Then everyday after weaning, ’til mid spring for us, begins the chore of feeding. One could go on for a long time, like a complaining cow, describing the cost, trouble and pain involved with feeding. But if you want good cattle you feed. No matter what.

Calves are the commodity cow/calf operators sell. And to be sure cows kept over winter will be productive, worth the money, time and trouble of feeding you preg check them at weaning. Shipping off any open ones.

Out here the husband preg checks. Our cows are large, long, black angus and his arms are longer than mine, though my hands are smaller. This is important because one places a long, liquid dish-soap drizzled, plastic gloved, arm in a cow’s rectum to palpate for her calf, or signs of pregnancy like a thick pumping uterus vein or cotyledons. If your arm is too short, with your face near a cow’s tail end, things get messy in a squirt. Small hands are helpful because you enter the cow through a tight opening. But if one has to choose between small hands or long arms; go with the long arms.

In weaning, preg checking, inoculating, and worming my job is to catch the cow’s head in the squeeze chute. Then give inoculations after the husband checks out his end. He gets messier, but he gets that first mysterious touch of the calf.

This year all our cows and heifers are pregnant. Knowing all the chores and trouble that brings the cow/calf operator is still thankful.

Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.