Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fresh Bulls

The rain we had in May means a spectacular grass crop in the mountains. Gary says in his 60 plus years of ranching he’s never seen anything like it. We spent two days this week in the hills and I’d like to spend every day there, soaking in the abundance of it, stowing it in my memory bank for dry years to come. 

It was time to change out some bulls. The cows come into heat and are receptive to breeding all at the same time which requires a healthy bull battery. Seems pursuing the females is hard work, and from time to time we give a few haggard bulls a respite in the valley before going back at it. We had five fresh bulls to put out and five to bring in, three that would take a final ride to the local auction and two that needed a rest. Mark hauled the bulls and I brought the horses along in another outfit.
We dumped the bulls out, had lunch and rode through the herd to gather up Mark’s picks to come home. Loading animals in a stock trailer usually means walking them to a corral or at least backing against a fence to encourage them to walk inside. That said, we’ve had fun figuring out how to save time by loading cattle out in the open.  

Mark knew from experience that the first bull we tried would be a challenge. The bull is what we call “high headed,” wary and ready to move away quickly. He has a large flight zone, that bubble of distance around an animal which they would prefer we not penetrate. We had to trail him across the valley, so we took the opportunity to reassure him that we would respect his flight zone and release pressure if he moved in the direction we wanted him to go. You can’t “shove” an animal on the way to the trailer and then expect it to load when you get there. The same principle applies to handling people if you think about it.

When we got to the open trailer door, the bull made a couple of laps around it, then stopped and looked in – and we stopped and waited. He is typical for our ranch, weighing close to a ton and can move quickly and do exactly as he wants if prompted. He thought about the interior space for a couple of minutes and then stepped calmly inside. Once the first bull got in, the pump was primed and the next four loaded easily.

Mark and I have had our battles working cattle together. There’s a variety of methods that work, and often we’re at odds about how to tackle a particular job - but not today. We worked together just like we’d been at it for 25 years. And this November it will be just that.    

a gorgeous grass year

after scratching in the sagebrush, he calls to the herd

not exactly eager to be back with the ladies

one captured, four to go

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