Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cowgirl Lessons Begin

Cowgirl lesson #1 - Sorting fall cows

The afternoon started out with the wearing of the cowboy boots and being assigned a sorting stick.  There were rules to sorting that I had to learn quickly in order to pass my sorting lesson.
1.  Pay attention to ear tags.
2.  Don't get run over by circling momma cows.
3.  Assess cows by visual cues.
4.  Keep track of which ear the tag is in.
5.  Use the sorting stick to poke cows in the butt, encourage them to move with a gentle tap on the back side or smack on the head when the cow comes straight at you with that look in her eyes.

First activity was getting the momma cows from the lot up into the sorting pens.  This required all 4 of us.  My job was guarding the section of lot where the windbreak wall was so they did not go hide in the corner of that particular area.  Cows really like to bury their heads in the corner so you cannot see them and they cannot see you.  So here I am with 2 sorting sticks, one in each hand, so I can be a much longer visual cue to the cows, guarding the windbreak area of the lot.  The 2 class teachers were chasing the cows with 4-wheeler and on foot, trying to round them up and head them into the direction desired.  Success was had relatively quickly and easily and all cows cooperated and went into the first sorting pen without incident.

The next activity involved being a little more up close and personal with the cows.  Now was the time to really put my understanding of the rules into play.  No 200 tags, no skinny cows, only white tags.  So here we go, chasing about 15 or so from one sorting pen to another making sure we got some white tagged cows.  Then we opened up the holding pen to get just the white tagged cows in for loading.  Sometimes a cow would escape the holding pen as we were getting another one chased in there and we would have to start all over.  There was one red cow in particular who was very stubborn and was refusing to be sorted into the holding pen.  First group was made up of 8 white tagged cows so Larry's dad could take them to a special pasture as they will be sold later on this summer.  The next batch was 6 red cows to go to a small pasture by themselves. 


Time for a real test.  Activity #3 was moving cows through one area into their assigned pasture.  The next small load of 8 were sorted out and loaded to go to the pasture behind a field.  This was were I got to do some transporting activities.  So Daisy and I headed up to the pasture where this group was going.  Our test was to pick them up and drive them across the first pasture to the gate in the northeast corner and down the alley way to the other smaller pasture.  Daisy and I chased them with the mule and were doing really good all the way to the gate they were supposed to go into.  Then the cows decided that they were going to go left and not right.  So now they have circled around the entire perimeter of the pasture they are not supposed to be in and are quietly munching on grass down by the road they just got transported in the trailer on.  Of course, going down in the mule to get them was not really an option; so I grabbed and extra sorting stick from the back and trotted myself down to where the cows had congregated.  Then giving Daisy the order to head them back up the fence line to the gate and we were off.  Daisy running and barking at them to get them moving.  Me following behind trying to run in cowboy boots, waving my sorting stick and telling them to get moving.  By the time I got to where the mule was parked up on the top of the ridge, they were half way to the gate.  I was able to catch up, well sort of, enough to keep them from rounding the corner and going back down the fence line to the south which would have been just a total back track.  Pretty soon I hear the other 4-wheeler and here comes Larry with a smaller group of cows.  They did the same thing, except they just went straight to the bottom of the draw in the corner without the whole circling of the small pasture option.  So he comes up the hill with them along the fence line and into the alley way they go.  Who knew?  Daisy and I thought we should get an A on that test because even though we had to do some extra work, we accomplished the goal without wrecking the mule, losing a cow or getting kicked!

Daisy and I discussing what worked and what did not, happy we were successful in the end.

Then back to the sorting pen for one last sort.  This was the rest of the white tagged cows and the few gnarly cows that were going to be sold soon.  Now my job was to find the cow with the toenails that are about 6 months over due for a pedicure.  So instead of looking at heads, I was looking at feet.  Of course she was buried clear back in the corner, with at least 4 cows between her and me.  I finally got her identified and slowly was able to get the other cows to part ways and let me get to her.  After that, she went into the holding pen easily and off they went into the trailer.  This made a total of 38 cows gone through and sent to their pastures for the summer.

One last group to move.  This was the biggest group, 33 of them.  This was supposed to be the easy move because we just let them go back into the lower feedlot area, open the gate by the road, let them cross the road and drive them through the corn stalks to the gate in the northwest corner that takes them to "grandfather's" pasture.  This was pretty successful and Daisy had a blast barking her orders to cows and chasing them in the direction of the gate.  When she gets tired she rides in the mule with me.

So ends cowgirl lesson #1.  I think I passed with flying colors.  I was not told I failed so I am going with a passing grade for that one.

Fred and I discussed it and he agreed that I passed and did a wonderful job.