Moving Cows and Bulls From Here to There and Everywhere

Hi I’m Mike and every day on the ranch is
filled with hard work in order to bring food to your plate and as we are now less than
one week from shipping calves off to auction, it’s time to move some cows around in order
to make room for the over 300 cows and calves that will be on their way back to the corrals
in the next few days. We have to move heifers, steers, bulls and
our bottle calves to new pastures today as we play musical cows, on our Wyoming life. When it comes to space here on the ranch we
have plenty of it, but as we get closer to selling calves, which happens next week, well,
that means that all the cows will soon be back here at home on about 7 acres. All 160 of them plus all their calves. It makes for some cramped quarters. At the moment, we have steers, heifers and
bulls all right here at home as well as the bottle calves talking up some corral space
that we are going to need soon too. So, today we get to move a bunch of cows around. It’s kind of like three card monte. Ya move the bottle calves here, ya shuffle
heifers there, steers go over here and bulls go in their winter pasture. Then you move the bottle calves back over
here and the heifers go in a trailer to move to…. well I’m not even sure yet. One thing I do know is that I planned to get
some cool drone shots of me moving cows but because we have a nice gentle wind blowing
out of the west at about 300 miles per hour. That’s not going to happen, the drone hates
the wind and unless you want to see me crash the drone in about 3 seconds, it can stay
in its box. Instead of the drone, I have a few cameras
that I’m going to be moving around and a new go pro that I’m going to wear to give
you that first person perspective. I’ll do my best, but keep in mind it’s
just me out here, no help and no cameraman. Let’s get to it. The easiest place to start is the closest,
our bottle calves, or calves that either lost their moms after birth or their moms wouldn’t
take them or some other goofy thing happened. However, they ended up here, they are orphans,
most of them were hand fed until they were old enough to eat food on their own and rather
than stick them back out with the cows where they could get lost or confused we kept them
close to home. They have been living in this corral for the
last few months but now this corral is needed for the steers, who we will deal with in a
few minutes. The easiest place to move the bottle calves
to, that is out of the way for a while is into the barn, at least until we get done
moving all the other cows around. They are pretty docile, they are used to people
moving them around and move into the barn with little effort, although I don’t think
they are too happy about it. The steers are hanging out just outside of
the bottle calves old corral which will soon become their corral. Steers are bull calves that have been castrated. We don’t do it just for fun, it’s actually
a very vital procedure that makes them easier to deal with than a young and rowdy bull and
it also makes them gain weight faster. That’s important, because these steers are
being raised for their meat. Up until now they have been eating grass and
hay but starting today they will begin getting a daily ration of corn, oats and barley. The amount that they get is carefully figured
based on their average weight and over the next couple of months the ration will be increased
as they gain weight. When they reach about 1200lbs they will be
taken to a USDA inspected processing facility and returned to us as about 500 lbs. of beef
that we sell to our farmers market customers. There are seven steers, so when we butcher
our freezers will be filled with almost 2 tons of hamburger, steaks and roasts, or about
the same weight as the average American car. In the end that works out to almost 30,000
dollars in beef before expenses and if we never sold packages or put it on sale. A lot of work but a huge part of our business. Getting the steers into their new corral and
eating their new feed is a big step to clearing out the corrals and pastures getting ready
for cows to come home but a lot more is needed done as we begin working with the heifers. The heifers are all first-time moms, they
were bred for the first time this summer to a heifer bull, roughly the same age as them
at about 15 months old. After checking them by ultrasound about a
month ago to find out who was and who wasn’t pregnant they were moved into this corral. Where they have anxiously been waiting for
the next step in their lives. After preg checking we found out that 2 of
these heifers are not pregnant. One is our daughter Grace’s, which we will
be keeping to try again next year, the other was found by ultrasound to have under-developed
ovaries and will never be able to get pregnant. She will be sold but before we can get there
we have to sort both of them off of the other heifers. Doing so means that we have to move them into
one corral then make the heifers we don’t want to sort off go back into the other corral. Sometimes it works perfectly. Other times you have a cow like 80, who is
one of our oldest and a pet cow try to help but she usually ends up in the way. But through a bit of moving and shaking you
can get the heifers you need sorted off. We are going to put them in with the steers
for now so that they are out of the way, as we move the rest of the heifers up into the
loading corral and onto a waiting trailer to move them to a new pasture, where they
will spend the winter. Keeping them separate from the other cows
until after they have their calves in the spring. They are due about a month before the other
cows and because heifers are notorious for having complications during the birth process
we like to keep them separate that way we can devote a lot of our time taking care of
them. Once the first batch is loaded into the trailer,
they are taken to their new pasture and dropped off. Then we go back and get the rest, releasing
them as close as possible to their friends, where they go right to work eating the new
grass they have found. Well, we are almost done, but we have saved
what could be the most problematic bovines till the last. The bulls. These guys have been sorted off of the cows
for the last couple of weeks and have been living out on pasture, separated from the
cows by just a few fences. Bulls are stubborn animals. They learned somewhere along the line that
if they don’t want to move, you can’t make them. Each full-grown bull weighs over 2000 lbs.
and if pushed too hard they will start to push back and that can make for a very bad
day. One of the techniques that I try to practice
on the ranch is low stress cattle handling. Basically, that means that you try to stress
the animals as little as possible, taking your time and being incredibly patient. This is our youngest bull, the heifer bull,
who was turned out with the cows after he was done with the heifers. With him you can definitely tell that he hasn’t
learned the bullish way of only moving when he wants, he’s more skittish and tends to
run and move around more than the older bulls. Call it old age or just being stubborn in
their old age but you will rarely get an older bull moving like this. One trick that I have learned over the years
with the bulls is to find the alpha bull, just like dogs, wolves, or even elephants
the herd mentality is in full effect with the bulls. There is an alpha bull, the one in charge
and occasionally another bull will challenge him and want to move up in the pecking order. Bull fights can be epic and go on for hours
and usually leave a bull injured or even lame, which happened to this black bull. He challenged our red bull, named Bubbles
for supremacy of the herd and ended up going lame on his back leg. He now has a pronounced limp. And because of that he will not be effective
in breeding next year. After allowing him to heal for a few weeks
its evident that it’s a permanent injury and he will need to be sold, more than likely
I will end up taking him to auction with our heifer that can’t get pregnant, so because
of that he will need to be sorted off as well. It looks like Bubbles is still the alpha bull
and after getting him moving in the right direction the rest of the bulls move along
with him, from one pasture to the next and eventually into the corrals and on to the
trailer. Bubbles is not only our alpha bull but he
is also the oldest bull on the ranch and he’s has been through this a few times and he leads
two other bulls, including the heifer bull right onto the trailer. Once inside the trailer, pandemonium breaks
out as a bull fight starts inside the trailer. Bulls do well when out in a bigger area but
the closer they are to each other, the more aggravated they become and it’s imperative
to get them out of the trailer as soon as possible before another bull gets hurt. Getting them to their winter pasture and out
of the trailer, where everything calms down quickly. We still have two more black bulls to get
back to the corral and after some coaxing they begin to move in the right direction
and into the corrals, where I can them split them up, keeping our lame bull back and moving
the other black bull up into the trailer. But it’s not that easy, he doesn’t want
to leave his friend. With some patience though and light nudging
he eventually gets with the program and loads up in the trailer himself where the door is
closed and he is taken to the bull pasture with his other friends. The lame bull is kept back and separated until
it’s time to sell him, he’s fed and the other bulls in the bull pasture also get a
bale of hay to keep them occupied while they get used to their new homes. Back at the barn the bottle calves are let
out after being cooped up in the barn and seem to be happy about being outside once
again. Now we are ready to bring the cows home. Next week we will be sorting off their calves,
loading them on semi-trailers and taking them to auction in south Dakota. I hope you stick with us as we head into the
payoff for the ranch, the one big payday that makes it all worth it, from feeding all winter
long to calving in the middle of spring snow storms, haying and fencing and all the little
projects that come up on the ranch every day. Our goal here is give you an inside look at
how food gets from our ranch to your table, whether is beef, pork or veggies, there is
a story behind every bite, and we are happy to share our story with you. Subscribe and find us on Facebook and Instagram
and make sure you don’t miss a thing. Have some great week and thanks for joining
us in our Wyoming life.

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