On the ranch, The Purpose Driven Herd, Uncategorized

Wild cards: divide and conquer

Hey fellow seekers, the preg checking’s done and it was a full day.

Headed out to gather the herds on my "horse"

The vets were supposed to be here at 1:30, so I started gathering at 8. Mosey was locked in the garage and Tom was watching videos. If he was outside, he’d be nervous about leaving the back gate open at the stone posts. Wouldn’t be right to have cows get out. But he was watching videos so I enacted the usual plan.

On the Yamaha, I led 39 cows in and circled back to the gate I’d left open a couple of minutes ago. But Tom had noticed and slipped out to save the ranch, so I unchained the gate and found two calves wandering near the alley gate. I hazed them in and secured the corral. All other calves were weaned a month ago; this was a preg-checking roundup and the easy half was caught.

Tom, who had already shut the back gate again, said he would stay and do some house chores. So I went north for 40 cows in 5 loads, provided I could lead them across a road and down the alley. One wasn’t mine but we’d sort her out later. I had done this for 20 years and knew it took 5 to 20 minutes, depending on wild cards. I learned early that if time gets to 15 minutes, cows will start back up the alley as I round up stragglers, and meetings can end with a jump over the alley fence. I figured on 10 minutes since the neighbor’s heifer was in there.

It took 50 minutes. All were waiting for their morning bag of cubes at the intended gate. Thee gate, as Miranda would say. So I opened the back gate which, I admit is a little too close to thee gate but it has always worked. Anyway this time I hit the thumb throttle and roll in with the cubes, herd assembling behind me. Except the heifer. She thinks the back gate is an opportunity and begins tiptoeing that way, three of mine following. Oh no, I groan and buzz over to cut them off…

This puts the other 36 in chaos since I buzzed off with their cubes and morphed from friend to predator. Now, all sweetness and cubes, I’m back to QUICKLY open thee gate and roll through to see half following me. But fat 532 and old wall-eye 69 are trotting away. By the time I get out the other end of the catch pen, it looks like just about all came in. I buzz around to the back gate and find a couple of cows grazing along the road instead of crossing but they look almost apologetic as I approach and head on down the alley. I have to follow because I see Four Strong Winds 30 yards inside thee gate and will need to open a separate trap for them.

A couple of minutes later, the Four Winds are still standing in formation 10 yards apart, with the wall-eye aptly keeping her blind side to the others. They must have cow-municated a plan because as I haze from the edge of their flight zone, one or another runs at a tangent while the others scatter everywhere but alleyward.  So it becomes clear I must divide and conquer. Biggest first, 532. She tries cutting across a pond, but it’s dry so I just kept up a steady pace and alternate pressure from left and right, once or twice circling around as she pauses for whatever reasons…  One by one, with minor variations, I get all four winds calmed and caught so they are no longer capital letters.

Simple plan involves chains and heavy metal (gates)

Trailer in position, I stayed with the divide-and-conquer plan since it’s just me. Four go in the front and 4 in the back. It worked every time with hardly a yell or a twist of tail.

 Dad came over with his rig to record data and then help haul. Two cows were judged unworthy, including the 15-year-old 69 as she was showing her age and seemed unhappy with me now. Six others were open or short bred to the point I culled them. Thirty-five may have settled to AI out of 50.

At 4:30 we started hauling to Wayne’s winter pasture, 16 at a time, gated into groups of 4. Tom rode along and told me about lightning and where to turn. It was turning into a stormy night by the last double trip and backing across a meadow to let them out across an electric fence took a little luck. Dad went on home and I had to take the last load over in total darkness at 7:00 with light rain and lightning. Asked Tom if he wanted to stay home and he said no, wouldn’t miss this for the world.

Divided they load easily and ride comfortably.


Wondering how to get them unloaded in the dark, when it dawned on me to just weight down the hotwires enough to drive on in and up into the pasture, locate the herd and then release the last few. It worked and we came home to start a fireplace and grill, watch some football, sip a homemade chokecherry beverage and watch over a couple of sizzling Certified Angus Beef brand strips. It had been a long, but good day.

Till next time, let’s keep targeting that brand and building tomorrow together.


blackinksteve Visit Website
A dreamer, lucky enough to see some come true. Rooted in these Kansas hills, I married schoolmate Anne, hunter, fisher, cook, mom, teacher and coach, fellow K-Stater. We make homemade wine and better Angus calves each year. Two daughters are grown now, the eldest in Ireland. Unique son a teacher, too; we’re legal guardians now. Introspective, I love words (pictures, too); trying to avoid groaners, but puns are intended. Obscure Reference Man who likes historical ballads. Well, most music except – pardon my gap – rap. Since 1998, Director of Industry Information for CAB; now Senior Editor, Producer Communications. And so help me, I care.
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