Friday, November 15, 2013

Hit Rewind

Sometimes, it feels like we're hitting the rewind button.

It doesn't seem all that long ago that we took cattle to summer pastures. We've spent the past month or so bringing them back home, where we'll feed them during the cold winter months. Such is life in the Great Plains.
As the leaves turn yellow and the days grow shorter, the grass on Kansas pastures will no longer sustain cattle. I know some consumers would like their beef roaming the open prairie all year 'round. But Old Man Winter has different ideas in Kansas. We bring the cattle back closer to home, where we feed them hay and silage each day.

But even though there's a familiar pattern to the fall cattle round-up, the process is never exactly the same. This fall, I was promoted to 4-wheeler driver, when Jake ended up with a cracked right wrist sustained during the first phase of the cattle round-up on the Rattlesnake Creek. It's a little hard to operate the 4-wheeler with a right wrist that's out of commission.

I'm definitely not complaining. I'm usually left in the corral, frantically honking the horn and throwing hay up in the air in an effort to entice the cattle to "come on down," so to speak. I can't complain about two days of riding 4-wheelers and rounding up cattle at the Ninnescah Pasture. There are less aesthetically-pleasing workplaces, that's for sure.
Still, I'm a Type A personality who likes to have a plan. When you're working with cattle in a 320-acre pasture, the plan often goes out the window. Or into the river, as the case may be.
Let's just say the October 19 round-up did not go according to the blueprint. We were attempting to gather all the cow-calf pairs at the pasture. We planned to drive them into the corral, then sort the baby calves from the mamas for weaning.

We had one group in one place. We had another group in another. About the time we'd get one group where we wanted, another would take off for points unknown.
I did my best to do what our fearless leader directed. But it wasn't always discernible when said leader is halfway across the pasture and your cell phone doesn't work in the remote area. My motto? Watch for hand signals and hope for the best.
And maybe take a few photos while waiting.
The cattle sometimes went where no 4-wheeler could go.
But eventually, we got most of them gathered and headed in the right direction. We never did three pairs gathered that day.
But the rest, we got into the corral, where we sorted off the babies and loaded them into trailers to take them back home.
We sent the mamas back into the pasture for two weeks.
The mamas weren't so sure about the trailers taking their babies away.
We made a quick stop at the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op to weigh the trailers. The calves weighed an average of 613 pounds each. Randy was pleased with the rate of gain with grass in good supply this summer,
The calves arrived at the old homestead ...
... where they will dine on hay and silage for the winter until we sell them this spring at the sale barn.
We went back a couple of weeks later for their mamas (and for the three calf stragglers that didn't cooperate the first time.)
This time it didn't take us 2 1/2 hours to round 'em up.
We loaded them up and took them home for their appointment with the veterinarian. (More on that next week.)
Rewind complete.


  1. Kim,
    You make me laugh! The miles between us are very little when sharing Farm/Ranch Wife stories.

    We are feeding the weaned calves. So, starts the long winter of daily chores. One good thing about chores is a routine. I like a plan for the day too.

    You are right we have specific seasonal tasks, but the exact event will vary from year to year. With J's folks more retired than active on the Ranch we are figuring out how to do things with 2-4 people vs 4-6.

    "Watch for hand signals and hope for the best," I love it! After being home and working with J for an entire year, I am getting better at hand signals and knowing what he is thinking. At the same time ... I am NOT a mind reader!

    I like Food Network challenges too. Art in a tasteful form. Before I got my Kindle, I read food magazines and cookbooks while on the treadmill. It's all good!

    1. I'm not a mind reader either, as Randy will be glad to point out. When we got married, I campaigned for adding business band radios to equipment. I knew from experience that I am better at following instructions when I can hear them instead of just trying to decipher hand signals! Now, we mostly use cell phones to communicate, but that doesn't always work either.