Irish Blessing

Irish Blessing

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

"Do do do
Down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Breaking up is hard to do."

I have a song stuck in my head. If you have the same propensity for "ear worms," you might as well join me in humming that old Neil Sedaka song.

We "broke up" with some of our County Line cattle herd last week. Some of them - like an unusually-marked black and white calf - were harder to say goodbye to than others. I think his mom was the one who got a little riled up as we sorted babies from mamas. I wasn't as sad to see her go.
I'll miss these cute little masked guys, too.  They were among the 11 pair of our first-time mama heifers and their babies that we sold through Central Livestock Sale Barn in South Hutchinson last week. 

"Breaking up is hard to do" when you're sorting, too - at least, sometimes. But it went better than either Randy or I anticipated - even though I have no photographic evidence to prove that! As I've said before, I keep the camera in my pocket while we are actually sorting. It's better to use a sorting stick than a camera shutter while trying to get 1,000-pound-plus animals to move in a particular direction!

Randy had prepared a list of heifer pairs that we were going to keep. It was our first job to get them sorted off into another pen. Reading ear tag numbers on moving targets is always a challenge. But our double-check before we released them into a bigger pen showed that we had successfully completed our mission the first time around.

We then sorted our sell group, too. 
Then it was time to load the babies we were selling into the front of one trailer for their 40-mile trip to the sale barn. We kept the babies separate to prevent them from being inadvertently stepped on by their mamas in the trailer.
The moms weren't fans of the separation - even if it was for their babies' health. Their objections included hearty bellows and longing looks into the next pen.
We loaded the mamas into another trailer. Before we made the trek to Hutch, we picked up two pair at our home corrals. They were the final two to produce babies, so they were still in our calving corral. They rode with their babies in the back of the "bus" - so to speak. A partition inside the trailer separated them from the baby calves.
We were almost to the sale barn when we were blocked by a train. I should have brought a book. (I almost always do. I think we were waiting almost as long as it took to drive from home!) Randy ended up turning off the pickup and our "music" included a chorus of mama cow bawls, punctuated by the percussion of train cars banging together in a switching yard and the intermittent clickety-clack as the train cars rolled back and forth in front of us.
At last, we arrived at the sale barn.
We sold the 11 pair because we didn't have enough pasture to accommodate all the new babies and their mamas this summer. This isn't a sale that we do every year. However, we culled fewer older cows last fall. We had fewer babies die during our fairly mild winter - definitely a good thing. And our pastures are struggling anyway because of the lack of rain, so extra cattle on the acres isn't a profitable option. 
Randy chose the heifers and their babies because they would bring the best price, since the new owners would be able to breed them back for a number of years. Cows typically have 8 to 10 years of producing babies. Selling the younger females gives the new owners more chances to breed them back to increase their own herds.

In addition, we begin numbering our heifers and their calves from the beginning - matching them up from the start. We don't give ear tags to other calves until we work them in the spring. So we had a ready-made list of pairs to work from.
Even though our cattle already have ear tag numbers, the sale barn employees applied a white sticker to each of the animals we brought as they went through the chute.
You can see the sale barn number sticker on this baby's rump.
Those numbers help match the animals with the seller.
The babies were ushered through a different lane than their moms.
But they were paired back up and went to their new homes together.
I had a meeting in Stafford, so I wasn't able to go to the sale itself. My assistant photographer used his cell phone to get some photos of the sale ring.
Randy was pleased with the price - $1,710 a pair.
Maybe I'll replace that "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" song with "We Work Hard for the Money."


  1. Lovely to read that Randy was pleased with the price. I was thinking that given the drought, others might not be buying. My brother has 40 acres and runs cattle on it. He and his son penned a number of cattle overnight to be sent of to the sales, last Thursday. Alas not one was in the pen in the morning. It took awhile, but they did manage to get them back in. One had to be collected from a neighbours field.

    1. We actually had our own cattle roundup this week when the hired man left a gate open. Randy looked out the window to see cows and calves in the yard. We got them rounded back up fairly quickly. It happens!

  2. I think cattle are easier to round up than pigs. I can remember the drama on the farm when they got out.

    1. I don't have much experience with hogs. We had four at a time when the kids were in 4-H.