Friday, May 29, 2015

Cowgirl lessons continue, day 2 - the squeeze chute

Who knew what all that metal contraption could do?  Now those people who read this who have been around squeeze chutes all their lives probably know more about them than I was shown this day but these are my lessons and I still don't know how to operate all the levers and releases.  To make things easier, we worked calves with this squeeze chute. 

Obviously when you are working calves it is hard to get pictures because someone would have to be the designated photographer, but working calves is the priority so unfortunately you get to see me with the staged pictures and no calf in the chute. 

First there was the working of the momma cows.  They each got a shot and dowsed with fly deterrent goop. This was accomplished by corralling about  10 at a time in a very small area.  Larry would stand up on the fence rail and reach across with the syringe giving each a shot in the butt and then hand off the syringe for the fly goop sprayer.  This was done with relative ease as Larry's dad was also on the gate side of the area facilitating the gathering of each small group of momma cows.  The calves were already separated and not happy to be away from their mommas.  Once this was done it was time to turn our attention the calves. 

Now one thing to realize is that both the calves and myself had never experienced this before so we both were very confused and a little unsure about this big metal contraption.  Timing is huge I found out because if you were not ready with the right lever to catch the calf on its way through the chute it would shoot right out the other side and you would have to start all over.  So I helped to coax the little ones into the chute and did not partake of any of the levers that captured its head on the other side.  After everything was done, shots, branding, ear tags if necessary I let the little one out the head captured end.  Most of the time the calf and I were not coordinated and it took several tries to get the gate to open and the calf to push or pull at the right time with its head so the body could escape.

As we worked through each calf I was surprised to find out that the chute actually would rotate so that the calf could be laid on its side for shots and branding to be done with a lot more ease and safety for all concerned, humans and calf alike.  

Let's see if I can remember the exact process:
1.  Sort a single calf from the group into the small holding area to the left side of the picture.
2.  Identify gender for immunization set.
3.  If identified as a bull calf, then the extra step of preparing the rubber band for placement and steer making.
4.  Immunization loaded in syringe and given to shot administrator (Larry).
5.  Tilt calf on side for branding and band placement as gender dictates.
6.  Lock chute upright and release.

I would not say that I passed this part of my lessons with flying colors.  I am still not sure how to work all those levers or what each of them do and the minute you add a calf in there that weighs a few hundred pounds adds a new level of difficulty to the whole scenario.  I think this is a lesson that is going to take a while to learn.  It harkens back to the old adage of practice makes perfect.  Larry has had years and years of practice.  I will likely never get to that level but I still can be helpful and that is all I strive to be!

After all the mommas and calves were immunized, gooped, branded and ready for the summer pasture we loaded them up into the trailers and headed west to the summer pasture; 2 trailers, mommas in one and calves in the other.

The cows and calves are all out to the summer pastures now so the cowgirl lessons have come to a summer break of sorts.  I am sure in the fall when my brain is geared to pumpkins there will be a refresher course offered and I will hopefully get to be involved in some of that activity.