‘Tis the season to put cattle out on summer pasture
Calving season is over in Moffat County, and most ranchers have finished branding.
The next job is to turn the cattle out onto summer pasture. The grass is coming on, so most cattle probably will be turned out in two to three weeks, depending on the pasture altitude. Some already have been turned out.
“Turn out” time can’t come too soon for ranchers (or the cattle, either). As soon as the grass starts to get green on the other side of the fences, the cattle begin thinking how nice it would be to crawl out.
Sometimes cattle stand next to the fences with their heads held high and their noses pointed up country.
Although nobody has gotten into a cow’s head to know for sure, she’s probably thinking about past summers when the grass was plentiful, there was plenty of shade and the water was cool.
My dad, Kenneth Osborn, says that cows can smell the wild onions that come on this time of year.
Cattle are crazy about wild onions.
But, before cattle can be turned out onto pasture, there’s work to be done. During the late fall and winter, elk have crossed the fences.
Snow has drifted over them. So, the fences have to be checked for broken top wires.
In some places, portions of a fence may even be flat on the ground. Gates, left open during fall cattle gathering and hunting season, have to be closed. All the fence checking and repair sometimes can go on for miles.
Cattle sometimes are trailed to summer pasture, but more often semitrailers haul them with livestock trailers and/or pickups and stock trailers.
Turning out cattle is family time.
Everybody helps – grandpas, grandmas, dads, moms, kids and grandkids.
For one thing, high country pasture, where we take our cattle, is a beautiful place to be in spring.
Chokecherry and serviceberry bushes usually are in full bloom (if they escape the frost), and the aroma is wonderful. Blue bells and other flowers are in bloom, too.
Secondly, turn out day is family day, a day to work and play, complete with a picnic lunch.
At our house, turn out day begins early.
The cattle are gathered and put in the corral. They’re sorted according to which ones go that day as turn out often happens on more than one weekend.
Cows are paired with calves. (There’s no worse nightmare than taking a cow to pasture with the wrong calf.)
Then the cattle, even those that are to be moved, are fed hay. That’s so the cattle have something in their stomachs before being turned out onto lush green grass.
While the animals eat, the trailer and pickup are checked to make sure the turn signals, brakes and lights are in working order. Then, tires are checked.
When the trailer is backed into the loading dock, some of the cattle know what’s up and load themselves. However, the calves have no clue, some of the cows get excited, and the children have to help get everything loaded.
At summer pasture, the cattle are unloaded on a county road and put through the pasture gate. Family members are posted along the road to make sure calves follow their mamas into the pasture area.
Mineral blocks are put out, the gate closed, and it’s time for lunch.
This perhaps is the part of the day most look forward to. As the cattle graze on the bright green grass, family members get out the coolers, filled with sandwich makings, fruit, sodas and bottled water.
It’s time to relax and visit.
When our grandchildren were small, they ate lunch while exploring the tree-covered areas and while climbing around on the rocks. Openings under the oak, chokecherry and serviceberry bushes even became pretend playhouses.
And then, lunch over, it was time to go back and get another load of cattle.
It’s all part of turn out day.
Diane Prather can be reached by calling 970-824-8809.
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