Pipi’s Pasture: Bringing the cows home
Over the years, there is one thing we have learned about cattle gathering time — it’s just unpredictable, both weather-wise and in the way the cattle choose to behave. We don’t have that many cattle, but still, it’s a job.
If it has snowed beforehand and is cold (like the year it snowed 15 inches on the pasture), the cattle are likely ready to come home. However, if the weather is nice, there are still some leaves on the trees and there’s still feed in the pasture (like this year), the cattle might decide they want to stay. A soon-to-change weather pattern can also be a factor — think how horses or kids sometimes act before a storm, for example.
The gathering process involves rounding up the cattle off the pasture (sometimes, out of the trees in the creek bottom) and getting them up to the county road, where they have to go through a gate next to a cattle guard, then head down the road a mile or so to my brother Duane’s corrals. Then, they’re loaded out — destination, Pipi’s Pasture.
I need to add a note: The county road is loaded with obstacles. It is lined with chokecherry, serviceberry and oak bushes. The neighbors’ cattle and horses are just over the fences, and in one spot, there’s a wide-open space that invites the cattle to break off and cross a culvert, and then … well, it’s a mess.
That brings me to this year. It started off with a complication. A cow had turned up with a swollen foot, and she couldn’t walk on it. Precious time was spent trying to load her and her calf in a trailer in open pasture. No such luck. She ended up hobbling down a little hill and across the creek, where she joined up with the other cattle. The cattle were all gathered up, so you’d think everything would go smoothly from there on. Guess what happened?
I was having trouble getting the gate opened next to the cattle guard, so I wasn’t watching the road. Instead of turning down the road, the cattle turned up the road. Even worse, we had forgotten to close a gate across the road that leads into the June pasture, so some of the cattle headed in there. The riders (on four-wheelers) took up the chase. The rest of us held the remaining cattle on the county road.
It seemed like we waited an eternity. Finally, we heard the sounds of the four-wheelers, then cattle bawling in the distance. At last, cattle spilled back out onto the county road. More sounds of four-wheelers. Finally, the riders came down. Two bulls were still in the pasture, tame bulls that decided to act like idiot bulls, taking off for the highest part of the brushy pasture.
We closed the gate to the pasture, left the bulls to calm down for another time and followed the rest of the herd down the county road. You’d think that all would go well the rest of the way to the corrals. Guess what happened?
The cattle found the open spot. They crossed the creek and headed back to summer pasture. It took a lot of chasing through brush to get them headed back onto the county road. Finally, the cattle — including the crippled cow — found their way to Duane’s place, but not before picking up a young longhorn bull at the neighbor’s ranch.
The cattle were loaded up and brought home. But that left the bulls. Their story is for next week.