RealRancher Heather Hamilton of Double H Photography from Lance Creek, Wyoming shares how doctoring cattle relates to doctors visits for us.

Trying to beat the morning rush

RealRancher Heather Hamilton of Double H Photography from Lance Creek, Wyoming shares how doctoring cattle relates to doctors visits for us.

Long waits at the doctor’s office

As humans, there are times it seems you inevitably pick the busiest day of the year to go to the doctor. From doctors running late to crying youngsters in the waiting room, a trip to the doctor can be exhausting and time consuming. Check out this post to see how one bunch of cows can relate as they go through their annual fall checkups.

Read the story at RealRancher Heather Hamilton’s blog Double H Photography

Also, be sure to check out Heather’s Dad, Tom, and Uncle Monty in our latest YouTube video as they talk about how regulations can affect ranching operations.

With the bite of winter cold in the air, the cowboy steps up on a horse to gather the cattle. The dawn light breaks over the sky and the breath of each animal is visible. All of the neighbors are at the ranch to help with this work, just as all the ranchers will be at another neighbor’s ranch in a few days to help. The ranching community relies on neighbors’ helping with fall cow work. If this circle is broken because a ranch has been sold and the new neighbors do not understand the century-old tradition, it is a burden that ranchers from other circles have to help carry.

Once the cattle are brought to the corrals the work begins. It may be a day to vaccinate calves, wean calves, pregnancy check cows and heifers, or ship the steers and heifers to market. Once the routine of working the cattle starts, the ranchers begin visiting and joking with each other.  The drudgery of work is made fun with all the neighbors.

Ranchers in the Green River Valley of Wyoming work together to perform fall cow work, which includes vaccinations.

Jamie Swain and Albert Sommers vaccinating and Charles Price putting a pour-on parasite control on a calf.

If it is shipping day, the steers and heifers are weighed on site or transported to the neighbor’s scales. The cattle are sold by the pound to a feedlot where they are “finished” on a diet of hay, corn silage, grains and supplements. Care is taken to get the cattle across the scales as stress-free as possible because stress causes weight loss. Once the cattle are across the scales, the semi trucks roll into the ranch yard, the cattle are loaded and a convoy of semis head down the road. A whole year’s worth of work is rolling out the gate.  Ranchers only have one major pay day and this is it. They send cull cattle (cattle no longer suited for the rancher’s herd program) to auction barns too, but the bulk of the income is from the calf or yearling crop.

Semi trucks are used to haul beef cattle to the feedlot

Semi trucks are used to haul beef cattle to the feedlot.

RealRancher Albert Sommers runs the cattle scales that weight the cattle before they are shipped to a feedlot.

RealRancher Albert Sommers runs the cattle scales that weigh the cattle before they are shipped to a feedlot.

If the purpose of the day is to vaccinate calves, the calves are separated from their mother cows and are run through the chute for vaccinations. This is a calf’s second set of childhood vaccination shots for diseases. They are given shots for pneumonia, black leg and brucellosis. In about two weeks, the calves will be weaned from their mothers after the inoculations have had time to increase the calves’ immunity. The cows are separated from the calves. The calves are left in the corral and the cows go back to pasture. Now the rancher hopes the fencing job will hold. Once the cows and calves have been separated for a week, they don’t try to get together any more. The calves are now becoming young adults. This gives the mother cows five months to get ready for their new calf.

Vern Aultmn, DVM, putting on brucellosis tag during fall cow work in the Green River Valley of Wyoming

Vern Aultmn, DVM, attaches a tag that shows the cow has been vaccinated against brucellosis, a disease that causes cows to abort.

Once the calves are weaned, the cows are “preg checked.” Sometimes, ranchers pregnancy check before they wean. The cows are run through the chute and the veterinarian checks to see if the cow will calve within the calving window, which is usually a two-month period. A cow cycles to be bred every three weeks, so this allows for two breeding cycles. If the window is kept at two months, the calves are all a more uniform size when they are ready to be shipped. Some ranchers will remove the bulls from the cow pasture to better regulate the calving window.  This way the rancher does not depend so much upon the vet’s  input as to date of birth.  The cows are also given their yearly vaccinations and a pour-on liquid is used to get rid of lice and worms.  The cows’ eyes, feet and teeth are checked. If the cow passes all the tests, she is good to go for another year. If she doesn’t pass a test, she becomes a “cull” cow and is shipped to a sale barn.

Cattle are pregancy checked to ensure they will have a calf for the ranchers of the Green River Valley in Wyoming.

“Preg checking” determines if the cow is pregnant or “open”. It also helps determine the cow’s due date.

The heifers that are almost two years old are usually tested a different day. The rancher picks the “replacement heifers” which are pregnant with their first calf. These heifers either add to the herd or replace culled cows. The rancher sorts out the best heifers and pregnancy checks them. If they are going to calve in the two-month window, they are kept. After the veterinarian has given the thumbs up, the heifer is given her yearly vaccinations for vibrio and lepto along with the pour-on.

Nikki Marincic tallys heifers, Chuck Bacheller runs the chute, Charles Price vaccinates the cows and Michael Klaren works the alleyway during fall cattle work in the Green River Valley of Wyoming.

Nikki Marincic tallys heifers, Chuck Bacheller runs the chute, Charles Price vaccinates the cows and Michael Klaren works the alleyway.

The bulls have to be “trich tested.”  The veterinarian does this test.  Trichomoniasis is a venereal disease that bulls retain and pass on to the cow causing her to abort her calf. Bulls have to be tested if they run in a common allotment (the same land shared by multiple ranches for grazing) with other ranchers’ cattle or when nonvirgin bulls are sold for breeding purposes.

Ranchers vaccinate their cattle to ensure the cattle are healthy.

Preparing the vaccinating gun for calves.

Once all of this cow work is done, the cows are ready for winter.  Everyone who comes to help the rancher work the cows especially enjoy the end of the work day.  They all go to the house and sit down to a feast which is much like a Thanksgiving dinner.

From RealRancher Jonita Sommers – Pinedale, Wyo.

You’ve all seen Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe on the Discovery Channel, right?

Well Dr. George Harty can relate.

Dr. George Harty "preg-checks" cows and heifers on the TRH Ranch North of Lance Creek, Wyoming.

Dr. Harty, Silver Cliff Vet Clinic, pregnancy checked (ranchers call it "preg checking") more than 100 cows and heifers on the TRH Ranch North of Lance Creek, WY on Monday.

Our thoughts go out to the person that does George’s laundry.

From RealRanchers, the Hamilton Family – Lance Creek, WY

Auctioneers, bulls, ranchers, food and often cold weather are all part of a bull sale. Each year ranchers have to buy new bulls (male cattle who have not been castrated) to put with their cows for breeding the next summer.  Bull sales usually take place in the months of October through March.

Sale-goers look at the bulls and information about the sales in the sale book. The cattle are available to look over before the auctioneer runs them through the sale pen.

Usually on the open range one bull is provided for every 25 cows to get a good calf crop. Sometimes extra bulls are put out with the cows to make sure a high conception rate happens and when the cows are pregnancy tested in the fall there is at least 90 percent of the cows bred.  A rancher can usually use a bull through the bull’s fifth year. Bulls need to be replaced when they are past their prime or if they get hurt and can no longer breed.

Looking at the bulls before the sale and visiting with neighbors and friends.

To buy the replacement bulls, most ranchers go to a bull sale at a purebred breeder’s place where the rancher likes the breeding and performance of the bulls.  The sale is an auction.  There is an auctioneer with ringmen to take the bids.  It is always exciting to go to a sale to see what they have to offer and see if you can afford to buy the bulls you like and want.

Bull buyers sit in the bleachers bidding on bulls to use for breeding female cows on their cattle ranches.

There are many things to look at when buying a bull. The conformation of the bull and also many of the genetic traits are important.  Conformation traits most people look for are: the muscle in the rear end of the bull, the length of the bull, the shape of the bull’s shoulders for calving ease, the depth of the bull’s body and the width of the bull. When cattle are grazed on the large grazing allotments with many acres the bull has to travel over, the condition of the bull’s feet and legs are very important.  The bull’s soundness has to be so a bull can travel the long distances and still breed the cows.

The different breeds have set up Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) on the cattle.  Some of the EPDs to look at are the birth weight of the bull as a calf, the weaning and yearling weights and ratios, milk the cow would produce, and growth.  In the high altitudes of the Green River Valley PAP tests are used to see if the heart of the bull can handle the high altitude. That is a genetic trait that will be passed on to the offspring.  Cattle producers are always looking for improvements in how we breed our animals so other traits are starting to be looked at as well.

The ringmen, auctioneer and secretary work while a bull is being sold in the ring. The ringmen watch the crowd for bids (usually placed by a slight nod or lift of the hand) and alert the auctioneer. The auctioneer keeps the price moving with his constant chants sounding from the microphone. The secretary records all the winning bids and collects the money at the end of the sale.

Each rancher has his own idea of what traits best fits this cow herd.  The bull sale is just another part of the rancher’s gamble.  Ranchers gamble on the weather for water, heat to grow crops, snow depths, calving conditions, etc.  After eating a delicious meal served at the auction, the rancher buys his bulls for the next year’s calf crop.

Eating lunch before the sale begins. At this and many sales, the local 4-H group will serve the meal as a fundraiser for their club.

From RealRancher Jonita Sommers –Pinedale, Wyo

I know, I know. Sometimes it sounds like we ranchers are speaking a different language. But don’t fret! We’re about ready to explain what “weaning,” “shipping,” and “preg checking” are…

Weaning day is also shipping day for us. That means the calves that were sold last summer on a video sale and the females we keep (called replacement heifers), have been separated from their mothers and moved to another pasture. The steers (castrated males) have a new home in Nebraska, some of the heifers (females who haven’t given birth) in Montana, and the replacements are home in Lander for the winter.

Timmery Hellyer works the gate during sorting and shipping time on their family ranch near Lander, Wyo.

Our steer calves are sold on a video sale. The video is a basic form of forward contracting. It is a really good way for a rancher to show and offer the animals for sale without having to physically move them to a place where they can be seen. A video sale is broadcast live on satellite TV and generally happens on the internet as well.

Shipping day begins with the neighbors arriving to help and everyone rides through the pasture to gather the cattle and start the weaning. Sometimes it gets a little noisy as the calves start hollering for their moms. Once inside the corral the cattle are sorted into groups of cows and groups of calves. The cows are then penned by themselves and the calves are then sorted into steers and heifers. This is called sexing.

After the sexing comes shipping. At shipping the steer and heifer calves that make the grade for size and shape, called the “sellers,” are loaded onto trucks and their journey to a new home begins. The replacements and everything else also get a ride to a new home.

The day after weaning we start pregnancy testing. Testing takes the neighbors’ help as well. Testing reveals whether the animal is bred (pregnant) or open (not pregnant). The entire herd is worked through a chute and sorted two ways when they exit the test. The bred cows are let back onto pasture and the culls (cows that are either bred late, are open, or are old) are moved to a place where then can’t mix back into the herd. Sometime later this fall or winter the culls will be sold to someone else.

Cattle are worked through a hydraulic chute while the veterinarian checks whether they are bred or not. These livestock handling systems are efficient and safe for both the cattle and the operators.

With shipping and testing over at our place it is now our neighbors turn and we will soon begin returning the help to everyone who helps us. Just like at branding, if we didn’t have our neighbors, life would be a lot more work.

From RealRancher Jim Hellyer – Lander, Wyo.


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