A little over a year ago we got the news.
“You have a week to apply for your Ag exemption or you will loose it for five years.” the bored voice warned.
Andy stayed up all night researching how to build barbed wire fences and I bought the best selling book for raising beef cattle. Andy rounded up anyone willing to help and started the rigorous task of fencing over 10 1/2 acres. I spent all of my spare time scanning Craig’s List for a rancher who would deliver cattle to our place.
The man I found had pregnant cows…with actual babies inside…
I blogged extensively about our cow woes. Turns out, he dropped off Runaway cows. It’s a new breed. You don’t have to look it up, it’s true…really. I mean there is no way we would loose our cows three times the first year unless they were pros…bred to run.
Where was I? Oh yeah, momma cows, babies, mending fences, hay, then BAM! The sweet baby bulls turned into big’ole bulls. One day while filling the stock tank I began wondering why the fence was always coming loose. A sudden commotion made me spin around as one bull started running full on at the other who met him head on with a resounding crack! Red coats twisted and turned with guttural grunting and flying slobber, slamming into the fence again and again. Eventually the girls ran over and started smacking the boys around until they walked away, no real winner visible.
I went up to the house, still dazed from the knowledge that things had to change…fast. We needed to sell those bulls. But we had no corral to catch them. And no trailer to move them. And even if we did have a corral to catch them, how would we do that…and how do you get a cow to go into a trailer exactly?
Andy had the brilliant idea to call the local livestock sale barn to gather intel on cow removal. The sweet lady on the other line completely understood our predicament.
“You need to get yourself a cowboy.” she offered.
Great, where do I purchase one of those?
She gave Andy the names of a few cattle ranchers who rented out their services to small time ranches, such as ourselves, for extra business. This option had never occurred to us, but it makes perfect sense! When you are sick you call a doctor, when you have a leak you call a plumber, when you have too many cows you call a cowboy!
Our cowboy of choice and his wife came by one afternoon to check over our set-up and meet our cows. They answered thousands of our stupid questions with great patience. They even brought a book filled with pictures of bulls for us to choose from for our females…imagine centerfolds for the bovine community.
Since we have full blood Limousin girls, we were looking for registered Angus bulls to produce Lim-flex offspring, which are all the rage. Our cowboy just so happened to have a gargantuan registered bull named Raven for our girls to “visit”.
A couple of weeks later, the cowboy left word that he was coming for the whole herd. The first truck pulled in with a trailer carrying portable corral panels. The second truck pulled in the drive, towing a livestock trailer with two horses inside. The entourage pulled through our pasture gate and panels were quickly erected in a square corral.
The cowboy walked over to Grant and said, “can you hold these?” as he handed him two ropes. Grant’s eyes became wide with surprise as he followed the ropes to their ends and realized they were attached to two big quarter horses. Grant’s surprise became panic when the horses decided they wanted a drink from our stock tank and they began to tie Grant into a pretzel to reach the cool water. As I looked down at his white knuckles gripping the reins in such a way that refused to allow blood to flow, I assured him that if the horses wanted to go, he would not be able to stop them. The horses must have sensed an amateur because from that point on they held perfectly still.
The cowboy hauled a bag of cattle cubes into the corral and our cows made haste to meet him. They all gathered in the trap and he backed the trailer into the opening of the corral. Andy and I stood on the outside as the professionals, the cowboy and his wife, went about ushering the females into the trailer. This entire process took about 15 minutes.
Next up? The bulls were to be loaded into the trailer.
Only they weren’t really in the mood to go for a ride that day.
They kicked up the biggest fuss, hootin and hollerin, spittin and cussin. Those huge cows fit into spaces they should never have been able to fit into while running from the experts.
See? Runaway cows.
Eventually the electric cattle prod made it’s debut and the tired guys gave in, grudgingly, while clattering into the trailer. The cowboy wiped the sweat from his brow and came to collect the statuesque horses from Grant. The horses loaded easily, apparently enjoying the Sunday drive much more than my cattle.
Elapsed time for this whole ordeal? Thirty minutes.
If Andy and I had managed to build a corral, trap the cows, and find a trailer, we would either still be trying to load those cows or we would be nursing broken bones while the cows happily munched in our pasture.
The next afternoon I drive the mile up the road to the sale barn. I sheepishly enter the office where the sound of the auction caller is falling all around me. I glance up at the walls to see t.v. screens with cattle running through shoots and numbers flying across the screens. It reminded me of the race track booths where you place your bets for the horse of your choice. I walk up to the window that has the word Sellers painted in red above it and offer our last name when prompted. The smiling woman behind the window immediately hands me a check and as I turn to leave I glance down…
No kidding, those words actually ran across my mind as I took in the amount of money those two gangly goobers has just made for the Funny Farm. Of course it’s still not a profit when you consider the amount required to start the whole enterprise, but it’s a good beginning…
I think I like this ranching thing…
I think we need more cows…
Load ’em up, move em’ out!