Driving Part VI

Day 6 – June 22, 2010

We picked up where we left off yesterday at Mickey Adam’s (the end of the driveway).  I should mention that the very tail end didn’t make it to Mickey Adam’s yesterday, the calves got tired at the back and the cows wouldn’t stay with their calves so they ended up stopping a ways back.  That worked out ok though because we were able to make a split in the heard and my crewand I moved them forward, leaving another bunch of riders to pick up the cattle herd behind us.

I liked today’s ride, it is almost always an easy day where the cattle gather decently and go up the trail easily, plus the distance to travel is not that far.  I don’t know the actual distance of today’s ride, but I don’t think it’s more than a few miles.  We moved from Mickey Adam’s to Bloom Springs.  The drive includes going through a highway underpass.  Some years the underpass can cause real big problems if the cows are not strung out and trailing good.  What happens is you have a big wad of cows that aren’t paired with their calves and you come to the underpass and all of the swallows come flying out (they build their nests in the corners of the underpass) and scare the calves who don’t want to go forward anyway and then you get a big run back and the day is pretty much finished and you have to pick up the pieces the next day.  Our cows didn’t do that today though; they moved really well and we finished riding by 9:30 a.m.

Sorry, I forgot to bring my camera today so no pictures. But be sure to check out all the photos on my previous posts!

Driving Part I

Driving Part II

Driving Part III

Photo by Jonita Sommers.

Driving Part IV

Driving Part V

 

 

 

 

 

 

From RealRancher Kent C. Price, Daniel, WY

Driving Part V

Day 5 – June 21, 2010

We pushed from what we call Barlow’s Corrals (the end of the driveway) to a place we call Mickey Adam’s today (It’s common practice for ranchers to name our pastures and other places on our ranches. This makes it easier to communicate when we’re conducting business).

Not a bad drive, but the cattle did not want to stop grazing (feeding on the vegetation) and they took a long time to gather.  It seemed like they only walked as far as you followed them, but as soon as you headed off to gather other cows they would go right back to grazing. Eventually we got them all on the trail and they lined out pretty good.

The cattle rest along the trail while antelope (the fastest animal in North America!) watch in the background. Antelope give birth in the late spring, the same time most cow herds start calving.

I saw a baby antelope jump up about 20 feet ahead of my horse today and go running off for his mother, just bawling.  They are funny when they bawl because they have a pitch black tongue that shoots out of their mouth.  I also saw several baby sage chickens… it seems like they can fly almost as soon as they hatch from the egg.  I know sage grouse can’t fly quite that soon, but I’ve rarely seen one before it could fly.

Now that's a LOT of sagebrush! Wyoming has an abundance of sagebrush which provides habitat for Sage Grouse (we call 'em sage chickens). Wyoming is home to 54% of all sage grouse.

I rode my new horse, Peach, again today, he seems to be doing better on his reining already, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.  He seems to do well off on his own where no other horses are around, although he did find a few large rocks and his own shadow to be a little spooky.  I’m hoping he will continue to improve at a steady rate and turn into a decent horse.

The mountains of Bridger Teton National Park provide a nice view for the week-long cattle drive in Sublette County, Wyo.

After we finished moving cows today, Dad and I went to our lower place to round up a couple bulls (an uncastrated male bovine) that we will use to cover our separate purebred Angus herd.  The bull pasture is kind of a swampy area and much of it you can’t ride through on a horse, but the bulls don’t mind going through it.  So I had to get off on foot and look for a particular bull.  As you might have guessed, he happened to be the farthest bull away.  I wasn’t prepared to go swamp wading since I just had my cowboy boots on, but ended up hopping from stump to stump toward the bull.  Then a bull being a bull, he wouldn’t cooperate and went into an even worse part of the swamp.  So, to make a long story longer, I ended up wading up to my thighs, but in the end got him over to where Dad could chase him with his horse.  However, when we got him near the gate to the next field and I went ahead to open it, the bull started heading back and Dad couldn’t turn him.  By the time I ran back to help the bull was starting to get angry and wanting to fight the horses so we had to let him go… making the whole incident a complete waste of time.

From RealRancher Kent C. Price, Daniel, WY

Driving Part IV

Day 4 – June 20, 2010

Today was an easy day and it provided a nice break after the last few days gathering off the Mesa.  The cattle are contained in a pretty small area at the drift fence, so they can’t wander far unless they go up the river where we want them.

The cattle can't wander too far away at this strech of the cattle drive, making it easier for the ranchers to gather.

So we gathered the drift fence area and the area on the other side of the highway with relative ease and put the cows into the driveway.  The driveway is a trail with fences on both sides and it runs mostly along the highway.  Since the cattle are so closely contained it makes it easy to push them forward, at least until the calves get to tired or hot to travel any further.

Here's the driveway. Looks a little different than the one on your street, right? This driveway is a trail with fences on both sides, which pushes the cattle easily toward summer pasture.

I had a lot of fun today practicing my roping along with some of the other cowboys (mainly Shawn and Tanner Butner, also Nikki Marincic and Albert Sommers).  There were quite a few sick calves and we had to rope them and give them medicine.

The ranchers had to rope a few sick calves on the trip to give them medicine.

We were supposed to make it to the end of the driveway today, but the day got hot and the calves got tired so we had to stop a little short.  Making sure the cattle are healthy is a big priority. The cows will normally go ahead for water and then come back for their calves afterward and may even head up the trail later in the day or evening.

The drive takes the ranchers past the tiny town of Cora, Wyoming. Pop 300.

Cora, Wyoming, one of the spots along the way.

From RealRancher Kent C. Price, Daniel, WY

Driving Part III

Day 3 – June 19, 2010

Things went fairly smooth today.  We were a little short on help for such a large area to gather, but things came together in the end.  The cows didn’t bother to move forward from where we left them yesterday, they just spread out, so there was a lot of territory to cover in order to get them gathered.  However, as difficult as they were to get started, once we got them on the trail they stayed there pretty good and traveled forward.

Cow dog Chance heads across the sagebrush prairie of the Messa allotment to gather stray cows.

I was on a new colt (refers to either a male baby horse, or a horse still in training) today that I named Peach, he’s a palomino, and he did pretty good for his first day out moving cattle.  I found that I need spurs on to keep his attention and he is a little difficult to steer, but he was willing to work and didn’t pull any tricks and most important he didn’t try to buck on me.  I’ll give him a day’s rest and then ride him again.

Fellow rancher Jonita Sommers photographs the cattle drifting down the trail. Jonita is a member of the Upper Green River Cattlemen’s Association. She and her brother Albert own the Sommers’ Ranch.

Since the cattle came off of the Mesa yesterday, today we mostly just put them on the gravel road that follows along the Green River.  We end up at the Drift Fence when we finish out the day.  The Drift Fence is so named because in the fall the cattle drift back down from the mountain, mostly on their own, and we catch them at this fence, separate them, and take them home to our respective ranches.

The cattle rest at the Drift Fence after a long day of trailing down to summer pasture. Photo by Jonita Sommers.

From RealRancher Kent C. Price, Daniel, WY

Driving Part II

Day 2 – June 18, 2010

The cattle are starting to come together into one large heard now as we near the end of the gathering process on the Mesa.  This year the grass has been good on the Mesa, so the cattle don’t want to leave, but we had plenty of cowboys and cowgirls out riding, so the cattle had no choice!  Last year on the same day we had more difficulty because we lacked people and the cows (female who’s had a calf) wouldn’t stay with their calves (babies) and just wanted to graze (feed on the vegetation).

On Day 2 of the cattle drive, the ranchers finish gathering the cattle to move to summer pasture.

Generally, if you wake the cows and calves up early in the morning, the calves will get up and suck and then the pair starts heading up the trail.  It is important to gather in the sides of the herd and give them a chance to string out on the trail.  If you simply start pushing them from the back and do nothing else, then it will be a difficult day of cattle driving.

We came off the Mesa today and the place where the cows trail down makes for a very scenic picture.  The dudes (visitors to a guest ranch) from Lozier’s dude ranch always take pictures at this point on the drive because you can see the cattle stringing down with the Green River Valley and the Wyoming Range Mountains in the background.  I stopped to get a scenic picture of my own specifically for this blog.

The ranchers trail their cattle in an easy-to-move line of livestock as they move down the Mesa.

We ended the day’s drive about Noon at the bottom of the valley and will now start pushing up the Green River.  The cows and calves stayed pretty well paired through the end of the drive and very few ran back.  Those that did run back will go to the last place where they saw each other and then come back up the trail.  Some riders will go back tomorrow to make sure they do come, while the rest of us push on ahead.

From RealRancher Kent C. Price, Daniel, WY

Driving (Hint: This has nothing to do with cars)

Upper Green River Cattle Drive

Day 1 – June 17, 2010

Today we began our yearly cattle drive up the Green River Valley onto U.S. Forest land for summer grazing.  Our ranch is part of an association called the Upper Green River Cattlemen’s Association.  Last year approximately 5,700 head (head=number) of cattle from the UGRCA were pushed to U.S. Forest land for summer grazing.

The ranchers with the Upper Green River Cattlemen's Association drive their cattle each year to summer pasture. Here they are working across the Mesa.

Today being the first day of the drive, we gathered cattle from the far corners of the Mesa, a large plateau of BLM land where the cattle have been grazing since the middle of May when we brought them from our fields.  The Mesa is approximately 55,000 acres or 86 square miles.

The ranchers rest their cattle during their drive and guard dog Chance watches the cattle so they don't wander off.

We start gathering the cows almost as soon as we can see (about 5 a.m.) because the cattle move better when it’s cool.  When the heat of the day sets in it is difficult to get cows to move and their calves just want to lie down.  We try to take the tail end of the cattle to an area with water every day before we leave them.  This will give them the chance to replenish themselves for the next day’s ride and it helps keep them from returning back down the trail we just brought them up.

More about the drive soon.

From RealRancher Kent C. Price, Daniel, WY

When Ranchers Go “Nuts”

It’s all about the nuts.

RealRancher Jim Hellyer says, "We castrate for several reasons...It's easier to manage steers than bulls; it's easier on the animal and the rancher to castrate younger animals; and it's related to the overall tenderness and flavoring of the end product."

Young bull* calves in one side, young steer* calves out the other.  My preferred method of castration starts with a very sharp clean knife and ends with two warm little oysters in the nut bucket.  It doesn’t take long; first a small slice across the scrotum, squeeze firmly for grip, a little tug, another slice on the cord, and bingo….another steer just entered the world.

Seriously, if a guy really gets his hands properly wrapped around the problem the whole process is quick….say 20 to 30 seconds…

That is my job at the branding.  I am the cutter.  Castration is the task.  And cleanliness is the rule.  Always wash your knife and hands between animals.

Around our neighborhood there is a hierarchy at the branding.  The elders place their mark, the help (irreplaceable neighbors) push calves and turn tables, and the organized keep score on a rugged PC and administer the health regimen.  The joke around here is that it takes a lifetime to get from the back of the table to the front.

RealRancher Timmery Hellyer uses a handheld computer during branding and castrating. It is used as part of a "Source and Age" program their livestock are enrolled in.

We probably do it slightly different than the next, but not in any manner that is necessarily better.  It is called branding season and it precedes irrigation season.

*Terms to know:

Bull – an uncastrated (in-tact) male bovine.

Steer – a castrated male bovine.

Source and Age Verification – Source and/or age verified programs utilize the RFID tag technology (like what Timmery is holding above) to record and verify the sources and ages of beef cattle.

From RealRancher Jim Hellyer – Lander, Wyo.

Photos taken by Marcia Hellyer.

Branding Time

Branding helps track livestock from pasture to plate. This helps keep the rancher's records accurate and keeps the American food supply safer.

The month of May in the Green River Valley is a whirwind of brandings. While folks in the city are running from one appointment to the next meeting, my schedule has my family and me flying between ranches.

On my calendar I had 8 brandings to go to this month. All but one were neighbor brandings. We all trade help and we also invite other friends and family to come. We’re generous like that.

I love branding because it involves the entire family. Plus it’s very fun! This year our 4-year-old got to ride with us while we gathered cows and our 2-year-old even got to help hold one of the calves while my husband and I wrestled the calf to be branded. Learning about ranching can never start too early.

Look at those kids! They'll be ready to run the operation in no time!

On our branding day this is my schedule for the day:

4:30 a.m. – Start the Day—wake kids up, make breakfast, get ready and feed the chickens and sheep. My husband gets the horses ready and does his chores.

6:30 a.m. – Get the food over to mother-in-law’s for the branding meal after we eat breakfast.

6:45 a.m. – Get on horses and head out to gather calves from the field.

8:30 a.m. – Start branding the calves.

12:30 p.m. – Head for mother-in-law’s to help with the last minute details for the meal.

2:00 p.m. – Clean up the meal.

3:30 p.m. – Go home and rest…if the kids let me. Husband goes and fixes the windmill because we turn the cows out the next day.

7:00 p.m. – My husband finally gets home and we begin to put the kids to bed.

9 p.m. – Collapse in a pile on the bed and prepare for a similar schedule tomorrow!

There is a lot that goes into a branding day especially when you are hosting the branding. Going to someone else’s branding is more fun because you don’t have to worry about the details as much. It’s just like going to Thanksgiving; it’s so much better if it’s at someone else’s house and not yours.

The days are long and the paycheck is a good meal but it is time well spent with friends and family.

Happy family moments! Thank goodness those girls are styling up the corral with those pink shirts!

From RealRancher Kari Bousman – Boulder, Wyo.

Do you love your job? Ranchers do!

Springtime is upon us here on the grassy plains of eastern Wyoming.  Temperatures are on the rise, and beneficial moisture has been received in the form of rain and snow.  These are the ingredients that make this such a special time of year for those of us working in production agriculture.

Green grass to feed our cattle

We need grass and water to sustain our livelihood, and spring affords us this opportunity.  Our livestock graze the nutritious grass, and the rain and snow fills our reservoirs and maintains our groundwater.  When you combine livestock, forage, and water, a large portion of the United States’ food supply is created.  What a wonderful time to be living in this great country!

Mmmmm...chomp,chop...num,num...mmmmm

Spring is halfway complete in this part of the world, and our calving season is underway.  We chose this time of year to calve our cows because the weather is mild; for the most part, the severe cold and bad blizzards are behind us.  The grass is green and growing.  Simply stated, this mid-to-late calving season is just much easier on mankind and animals.

"Where's mom? I need some lunch..."

To see the newly born calves running around in the warm sun on the lush grass is just a remarkable feeling.  They are cute little babies for one thing, and they seem so happy and innocent.  Keeping tabs on their mothers’ are their only worries.  We have taken care of these cows all winter, and this is one of our rewarding experiences being a part of these new lives.  The wildlife on our ranch, mainly Pronghorn Antelope, are co-mingling with our cows and are enjoying these springtime attributes.

"You sure are a funny looking calf!"

Those of us involved in production agriculture are truly lucky to be doing what we do.  We get to experience a “rebirth” every year right now, and that makes our job worthwhile and necessary.  Whenever you can tackle your job with enthusiasm, the feeling doesn’t get any better than that.  Life is great in ranching!

Yippee!

From RealRancher Dustin Cushman, Wavy Seven Livestock – Lusk, Wyo

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