Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Exodus

There have been some rowdy protests going on around the globe as the pandemic continues.
We had some protests at The County Line last week, too, but they have nothing to do with the coronavirus. These mamas were a bit upset that they were separated from their babies. They didn't know that it was for their babies' own good.
We sorted them from each other so we could haul them separately to summer pastures. It's better for the babies if we put them in one trailer and haul the much bigger cows separately. We don't want the babies trampled in the trailers as we traverse down the roads from the farmstead to the pastures.
So despite the loud protests, it's really for their own good. Hmmm ... perhaps there's a message there, too. (And that's as political as I'll get here.)
The babies are much less concerned about the separation. Their bellies are full for the moment, so they are more curious about the humans who've invaded their space. (As I was looking through photos I'd taken, I decided these youngsters were trying to count by 2s and got a little out of order. So much for homeschooling, right? There are probably some parents who can relate to that at the moment!)

Anyway, after three days of gathering, sorting and hauling, all the mamas and babies are at summer pasture. (And the pairs were reunited in just a few hours. This anxious baby couldn't wait to get into a more traditional position to begin nursing.)
It sounds so simple - three days of gathering, sorting and hauling in the beautiful days of spring. Idyllic, right? But as with Paul Harvey, there's "the rest of the story." While the transition from April is more traditionally known as "showers to May flowers," at The County Line, it's also the signal for cattle to make the exodus from lots near home to their summer pastures.

Depending on the location, the methods vary.
At a couple of the winter locations, it includes a 4-wheeler ride. That's not necessarily a bad thing on a nice spring morning - as long as the participants cooperate.
The day before this move from the pasture south of our house, Randy had shut the cattle off from water so that they'd be more inclined to come up into the lot. It worked, since the gathering went well. They did need some nudging to get them up into the next corral for sorting. 
It's true love that he drives across the muddiest parts so that I don't have to.
Even with the smelly lots, I couldn't ignore the beautiful blue sky as a backdrop.

There might be even fewer photos than normal of the sorting process. This year, we have some part-time help, but there's a learning curve when it comes to sorting. While our helper hauled a cow who hadn't calved to another lot, Randy and I sorted the mamas from the babies.
As I said earlier, the mamas are a lot more concerned about it than the babies.
There are no photos of getting them loaded into the trailer either. All hands on deck are needed to push them into the trailer, and no camera needs to be crushed or dropped in the process. My leg got a whack from a kicking calf; the camera didn't need to suffer the same fate.
This group went to the Ninnescah pasture. The old cottonwood at the gate is the first witness to the annual spring ritual as Randy swings open the gate.
I wish its branches were as plentiful and strong as they were 30 years ago, but like the rest of us, the cottonwood is showing its age.
We added the double gate a year ago. The old gate got knocked out as we were slipping and sliding because of excessive rain. Even though the reason was an inconvenience, we are enjoying the new, spacious entry into the pasture. (See more about the soggy conditions last year that added 12 miles to the journey with each load in this 2019 blog post.)

We put all the cattle into a holding pen while we haul all the mamas and babies to the pasture. 
Once they've all arrived, it's time to let them out of the holding pens, where the babies find their personal milk machines ...
And they head out into the pasture to explore.
With the Ninnescah Pasture populated for the summer, it's off toward home and resting up for more days of gathering, sorting and hauling to other pastures. 
Sorting and transporting the bulls to the different pastures happened on another day. Below, the bulls take off to find the "ladies" who'd arrived at the Ninnescah a couple of days before.
Last Friday, we moved the pairs from Peace Creek to the corrals about half mile away. We drove them down the road, nudging them along with three 4-wheelers.
The mamas were definitely distracted by the green wheat along the way.
This littlest calf had to work hard to keep up.
We eventually got them into the corral and sorted (though again, there is no photographic evidence of the actual sorting).
But, eventually, they ended up at the Rattlesnake pasture, a place where Randy's family has been taking cattle for more than 100 years.
Even when the circumstances around us seem foreign and incomprehensible, it's a comfort to have these spring rituals continue.
Heifer's arrival at Palmer's pasture


  1. I too love your skyline and the green of the wheat as the cattle are being moved. It is lovely being a 'fly on the wall', so to speak, as this spring transition takes place.

    1. We had some pretty days for moving cattle. Now that all the pairs are where they are supposed to be, let's hope they all stay in! Take care, Helen!