Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Back in school, I was pretty good at math related subjects...algebra, business classes, those kinds of things were pretty easy for me.  But geometry....I just couldn't get the hang of all those angles and triangles and all that stuff.

So it's pretty amazing to me how much I use angles in my day to day life.  You see, herding or cutting or sorting a cow requires the use of angles.  The older I get and the more I do it, the more I realize this to be true.  Even if I'm on a young horse that doesn't really know yet how to do the cutting itself, if I get the right angle on a cow, I can do what I need to with her.

Using the correct angle becomes really important if you are using a 4 wheeler to sort a cow.  You can't turn one of those things around very short at all. (well you can, but you have to turn the handlebars, gun the motor and spin the back end around.  It's fun but isn't real productive if you are trying to be careful with a less than cooperative critter)  It doesn't take a cow long to figure out she can out maneuver you when she doesn't want to cooperate.  So I have to use my noggin a little and outsmart her with angles.

Case in point, yesterday morning when I was riding through one of the north bunches, a cow had gotten herself on the wrong side of the fence and had her calf.  There wasn't a gate close by, so I put the fence down and tied it and thought I would just push her back over.  Nope.  She wasn't having it.  Her calf was maybe four hours old and he was plenty cooperative.  Momma, not so much.  She was pretty sure she ought to whip me and every time I got very close to her, she kept on coming toward me.  In a pretty serious mode.  A cow can get a look in her eyes that tells you she means business. And trust me, this girl had it.  When they do that, " shake their head and blow snot thing", while they're coming toward you in a hurry, it makes me nervous.  I was wishin' for a horse about then.....a cow looks you right in the eye when you are on a 4 wheeler.  And when she's acting like she wants to whip you.....that's not a good feeling.  At. All.  Of course, it isn't a very good feeling when a cow hits your horse either.  But that's a story for another day. 

So I need to not only use some creativity and quite a bit of cow sense here, I need to keep the correct angle on her.  An angle so she doesn't escape or think she can, that will keep her moving in the direction I want her to go, without antagonizing her so she crawls over the 4 wheeler to get me and have me for breakfast.  A person thinks you should just be able to get behind a cow and they'll go, but especially right after a cow has calved, most of the normal rules don't apply.  I also need to take my time with this cow.  Let her have plenty of space, but not too much. 

It was slow....we covered an area of maybe 50 yards in about a half hour.  Seriously.  I think I just outlasted her.  She got tired of me and went is what I think finally happened.  But I had a lot of time to think about the angles I wanted to use with her......and during a period of time, the angle I wanted to use to retreat.  But all's well that ends well.  Whether or not it was my cow sense or my stubbornness that got the job done.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Some Days I Don't Much Like My Job

The other day while riding through the heavy cows.....it was beautiful.  The sun was shining. The grass just coming on.  Barely a breeze. My Maggie mare walking on a loose rein through the cows. The air felt perfect.  Perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  Until.....way off to the north I could see something.  Something that didn't look quite right to me.  I can't really tell you why it didn't look right.  Just one of those things you kinda get so you can tell after a while, I guess.  I picked up Maggie to a trot and headed over to check it out. 

Long before I reached my destination, I was pretty sure what I was going to find.  And unfortunately I was right.  It was an older cow that couldn't get up.  I don't know why this happens.  I do my best to keep it from happening.  I cull everything I think might have a tough time during the winter.  I write down and make sure I look up anything that's slow or lame.  Bless this old gal's heart.  She'd made it through the tough part of the year.  It's green grass time!  But for some reason, it was too much for this old gal.  And to top it off, she'd had her calf, but was too weak to take care of it and had probably been too weak to push it out as quick as she should.  It was dead.  Probably still born due to lack of oxygen.

It broke my heart.  I cried all the way home.  At the last gate, I sent Matt a text message telling him we needed to put this old gal down and out of her misery.  Now you might be wondering, "why doesn't she just nurse her back to health?"  Trust me.  I've tried it.  I've carried water and feed to cows for weeks trying to get them enough strength to get them to get up.  It just isn't going to happen.  They are finished.  What does happen is they get mad.  Really mad.  So mad if they COULD get up, they would eat you for lunch.  That's what bovine do when they are sick or hurt a lot of the time. But really, who could blame them?

Matt met me at Dad's and as soon as I had Maggie taken care of, we drove back over to where the old gal was laying.  On the way, we discussed how much this part of the ranching life sucks.  How difficult it is to have to put something out of their misery, but how we owe it to them as their caregivers. "It's just part of it, I guess" Matt says,"I don't get any enjoyment out of it and I want to end it for her as quick as I can.  But I'm glad I can do it."  I'm glad he can too.