The alarms went off at 4:30 am last Saturday, and by 5:15 Clint, Jack and myself were up on top of the butte unloading wheelers and the Rhino. Ranch work starts early in the morning in the summers, to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Our goal this morning was to drive a set of cows that had been fence-line weaned from their calves earlier in the week to new pasture a few miles away.
Double M doesn't usually fence-line wean, but it's been so darn hot here that Clint thought it would be less stressful on the calves than weaning the traditional way. When they weaned earlier last week, they gathered all of the pairs, and separated the calves from the cows. The cows got kicked into a large holding pen that is basically a triangle of land, with a five strand barbed wire fence all around, and it's in between two pivots. The cows had access to a water tank, and the guys fed hay to the them that week so they could control intake.
You don't want a cow to have an abundance of feed when you wean, because they're still producing milk and the whole goal is to have them stop making milk. So they weren't starving by any means - you don't want that either, or the cows will get out - but they were limit fed to help ease milk production. And udder soreness. ;)
The calves were kicked out onto an adjacent circle of grass where they had plenty of feed, and access to water. Feeding a freshly weaned calf is the total opposite of the cow - you want the calves to have really high quality feed that is highly palatible so that they will transition well and not get sick from being off feed.
By having a fence-line separate the calves from the cows, the calves couldn't nurse but could see and hear their momma's. They also had nose to nose contact through the fence, and that helps get the "bawl" out of a calf and reduce stress. The key is to successful fence-line weaning is having good feed available to the calves, and strong fences. The guys got lucky, and all went as planned. Clint had also hauled in a handful of older cows that already had their calves weaned earlier, and these cows stayed in the pasture with the freshly weaned calves. They act a lot like baby-sitters and help show the newly weaned calves where water is, etc.
So - that brought us to Saturday morning. The calves had gotten over being weaned, and the cows were ready to trade seeing their babies for green grass. We drove out into the field where the cows were to gather and besides 2 cows trying to go back, the rest of the group moved toward the out gate.
The light was juuuust starting to break as we let the cows out the gate, and headed over the butte. In the three years we've lived here, I'd never been on the north side of the butte. It's gorgeous. Jack was joking with me when we were done, that once he saw me go over the butte and whip out my camera "He knew they were down a man for a while!" Haha - I kept up....kind of, but did take my time taking pictures. You could see almost the entire ranch from on top of the butte and the sun was just beginning to light up the horizon from behind it's early morning haze.
Once we were over the butte, we trailed along the ditch for awhile. I took Jack's spot so he could check out the elk cow & calf I'd spotted in the next field over, while Clint stayed at the front and directed the cows. The cows were traveling so well I even had a chance to pick some sunflowers.
Past the part of the butte they call "The Horseshoe", we trailed until we were out on Emert Road. Once we were close the road, the guys called Duane who had already set the gates so that the cows could go right into the field we call "Jack's calving pen". The morning went really well, and by 7:30, we were back at the trailers loading the Rhino and the wheelers.
It was a great morning...and I'm glad the guys needed a little extra help, so that I got to tag along.