Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This is What I Herd

Yesterday my herd of cows became the biggest it has ever been. We have been having calves all along this spring and now we are up to nine. Yesterday morning my neighbor Dick came over and hooked on to my cattle trailer (my truck can barely pull itself up a hill) and we went about 25 miles to the east to pick up 9 Angus feeder steers I had bought. That brings us up to 38 head including calves. We probably still have about 4 or 5 calves to go.

The guy I bought them from had quite a few head of cattle, about 120 I think, but he didn't have any kind of loading chute or anything. I guess what he normally does is lead them with a rope while someone behind them pokes and prods them until they hop into the trailer. We did this with the first two until I decided that I wasn't going into a cattle trailer with a bunch of nervous, agitated 800 lb steers to take the neck chains off of them. We ended up setting up some gates to try and run them into the trailer but it was a pretty poor set up and that didn't go real well either. Finally we had them loaded and took them to the sale barn in Nicholson to weigh them.
Because sale barns are designed to handle hundreds of cattle at a time they are generally layed out pretty well with alleys, gates, and chutes. It can be little difficult to find your way around that maze, but once you have figured out which gates to open the cows pretty well take themselves where you want them to go. We got them in and weighed and back onto the trailer without any effort at all.

We have always worked with a cobbled together corral system which works a lot better than the system the guy who sold me the cows has, but it has a lot of room for improvement to get to the efficiency of the sale barn. The thing is finding the ballancing point to have a corral that makes handling cattle fairly easy yet has a price tag appropriate for the small number of cattle that we have.

The cattle are all out on pasture now but the grass is just starting to green up and really hasn't grown much so I am hauling them out quite a bit of hay. I ended up putting them out on pasture because the cow shed isn't big enough to handle that many cows. We are still trying to find out what the carrying capacity is for the land that we use as far as cows it can support is concerned. Unfortunately the carrying capacity is going to vary depending on the kind of growing season that we have. In a drought year we could be in trouble with the number that we have now. In a cool wet year where the grass just keeps growing we can probably handle even more cattle. But you never know what you have til you have it.


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