Late Friday afternoon, my husband, our three daughters and I all flopped on the couch exhausted and hoarse after what should have been a fairly routine cattle drive went all wrong! A drive that usually takes 2 hours, took 5 and 1/2! The cows took every opportunity to make the drive a real challenge!
This time of year all the mother cows are now without calves at foot, grazing happily on their own. They are bred, and housing a growing baby calf which will be born in February. They have this time to ‘dry up’, meaning they do not have to supply milk. This is healthy for a mother cow to have this time to herself.
Friday morning it was time to move the herd to another part of our ranch for their final bout of grazing before we start feeding them around Christmas or the end of the year. This cattle drive is about 5 kilometers down an old highway, past a forestry campsite, over a little bridge, along a busier road, under the highway and lastly through some acreages and then into our ranch, which is called the ‘Bateman’ place. It is tricky to chase a large group because there ends up being a long distance between the first cow and the last cow.
The roundup, where the drive started went without a hitch and we were off down the road with Doug riding Count, our daughter on Sully, myself on King and our Ranch-hand and two other daughters on the Gator. We were moving along as planned until we got to the little bridge that crosses a smaller, but deep, iced-up creek. The little bit of hay was not enticing enough to lead the first cow across and instead they stepped down off the road and into the thick willow. Our hope then was that they would cross the creek, but with it being steep and frozen, they didn’t want to do that either. Finally after going back and forth, for what seemed to be forever, our youngest daughter was able to run a armful of hay up and get the first cow to walk across the bridge! They then proceeded one by one, single file, to tiptoe across. Cattle and horses are usually leery of crossing bridges because of the hollow sound it makes beneath them. Although most accept it once they’ve done it, that wasn’t the case on Friday. After nudging 250 over, 30 decided it wasn’t for them and they were not going. Our ranch hand and our youngest daughter had gone on keeping ahead of the lead, so the four of us were left to try and get these last 30 across. After 45 minutes of: up the bank, down the bank, yelling and flapping our arms we realized ‘they had won’ and they were NOT going to go. Fearing the rest of the herd was nearing the highway, Doug on Count ran to catch up. My daughter climbed on my horse behind me and we drove the ‘stubborn’ ones back to where they came from. Thankfully the three of us were able to get them into the corral, so we didn’t have to round them up again! We left them there to ‘think about what they had done’ (ha ha), and quickly loaded up the horses in the trailer and raced over to find the cattle drive. It is amazing how mad you can be at cows, with them being completely oblivious to it!
Because the road was slippery in places some of the cows walked in the ditch. This was a problem because a lot of the properties have old fences that are half standing. The cow accidentally steps inside the down fence but then is not able to get back out. Just as we pulled up, this happened and five got on the wrong side of one of these fences. It took them and us on a 20 minute detour chase! Finally catching them up to the rest of the herd, we found our middle daughter holding everything down, riding one horse and leading the other two. It was good to have such capable help! After that, we made it under the bridge and to the first acreage, where the first of the herd was grazing away on their lawn, waiting for everyone to catch up. We made it to our destination and the cows got to ‘happily grazing’ again in grass up to their eyeballs! The next morning we trucked the remaining 32 ‘stubborn ones’ over! If only we could have verbally communicated, “You should cross this bridge because you are going to LOVE it where we are taking you to!”
We seemed to spend a lot of our ranching life ‘fighting’ to get cows to go where they actually really want to be. Figure that one out!