Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gathering Bulls

Fall cattle work has started. We took the bulls out of the herd and changed pastures last week. It was perfect weather. God has turned a page. The nights are brisk and the days have lost their sweltering heat. And we had rain, blessed rain! It was wet in the hills and soggy here at home too.

Just like people, cattle habits change with the seasons. The cows are bred, so the bulls with their work done hang out together, the young ones anyway. Mature bulls are more likely to wander off by themselves. And if the bulls were purchased from the same ranch they find each other again after the busy season is over. Cattle know their herdmates and are comfortable in their company. With the bulls congregated, it was easy to get them corralled. Someone repeated the line from Man from Snowy River, where Kirk Douglas said all they needed was a "butterfly net" to gather the strays.  

We moved the main herd into the old dry farm we used in the spring. Once the cattle figured out they were moving to fresh feed, they massed at the watering troughs. As the cowboys took the last of the bulls in, I called the cows into the pasture. “Come on, cows!”

With the herd settled, we loaded the bulls and saddle horses and headed for home. A storm was brewing in the valley. We stopped to watch a great cloud of what turned out to be ash boil over the Three Sisters, a grouping of peaks familiar to everyone traveling along the Blackfoot River. I was reminded of the dust storms with the funny name, haboob. The name comes from the great deserts of the world, so are generally dust or sand, but this was ash from the recent wildfire.

We delivered the bulls to a pasture just north of our home. It has a canal for drinking, trees for shade and good feed - a seemingly safe place to rest and recuperate. But as we drove by the other day, we saw a bull had gotten on his back on a slight incline and died. It's a frustrating accident that takes one or two head per year. Such is the cattle business.

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