With the cold spring we had this year, we were late in moving our momma cows to our other farm. Normally during grazing season, we separate the moms/babies and the cows we are raising to eat. The eating cows stay here and are intensively managed, moving to fresh grass every day, and handled and inspected multiple times per day.
The momma cows, who are smarter than the average cow, are left to go to another farm where they have the ability to roam freely. They have ponds, trees, and grass aplenty. It is the cow equivalent of going to the spa.
Step one of taking the cows to another farm is to get everyone into our corral. Miguel and Vicente took care of this for us. Then we back the truck and trailer up to the loading ramp and Miguel goes into the corral to begin sorting out who is who. Little calves are easy enough. Big beef cows are easy enough. But what about that 6 month old calf? Is that a male or female? Male? Ok, let’s cut him out and he stays here. There are a lot of decisions that have to be made on the fly, all while 1000 lb cows are pushing and shoving going in circles in the sorting pen.
As we are sorting out cows in the corral lane to walk through our corral, we are again sorting out who is going on the trailer and who is staying. We try to send groups of cows who match. If a batch of moms and calves get sent together, good, just open the cut gate and the trailer gate, and let them walk onto the trailer. But then a beef cow gets into a group of moms, or that 6 month old calf mentioned earlier. Now we have to cut them out again as they walk, trying to hold the beef cow up while we get the moms to walk forward. Except now they don’t want to walk so everyone bunches up. Heaven help you if a calf gets in the mix because they get beside or under larger cows and are next to impossible to get untangled. This doesn’t count for the fact that you get 5 cows on the trailer, then have a pause while another group gets sorted, or a cow who doesn’t want to walk stops. The cows on the trailer are like ripples in a pond. They walk onto the trailer, walk all the way to the front, then bounce off the front and walk all the way to the back where they hang out. That is fine, except there is a six foot gap at the front and the cows now finally walking onto the trailer are met with a wall of cows who don’t want to move. It takes some pushing and cursing to get enough cows on the trailer to call it a load.
Of course this doesn’t take into account the little calves, just born. They can get hurt jammed into to trailer with big cows. So we try to load them on their own load with just a few moms so there is plenty of room for everyone.
It takes three of us to do the job. Miguel doing the cutting and sorting in the sorting pen, Vicente encouraging the cows to keep walking forward through the corral lane, and myself controlling the trailer gate and the head gate, which is our final safety stop for the cattle should the wrong cow get to the wrong section. This is where if the wrong cow goes the wrong direction I can run and slam the head gate closed and keep them in the corral until we can get everyone sorted out where they need to be.
It isn’t anyone’s first time doing this job (except for some of the cows) and it only takes a few hours to get everyone moved. All the moms and babies are at their remote home for the grazing season, already lounging and enjoying their freedom. With the now warmer weather, and this weeks rain, we finally have enough grass on our farm. We also now have half the mouths chowing down on said grass. This means we can finally get ahead on grass and not be running on the ragged edge like we’ve been all spring. That is important because summer is coming.
Grass growth will slow, drought could hit us, any number of grazing issues could crop up. It is important that we have a good stand of grass in place to be ready to weather whatever comes. Now we can finally start growing some grass.