Imagine cowboys mounted on horseback, driving cattle a hundred or so down a back road from their summer grazing pastures, back to the main farm for winter. Sounds romantic, easy, and productive right?
That’s what we were planning. However, mother nature had other thoughts. A couple weeks ago the day before Aly’s birthday, I was in a wretched mood, having a rough day. It was a Tuesday morning, we woke to 4-6” of heavy wet snow. Hunter and I checked the animals quickly and headed North for a couple errands. Just as we arrived into town, I received a text that there were a couple cattle out. Then another with a picture, showing a large group of cattle on the side of the road.
Formulate a Solid Plan
Hunter and I headed back, and working on a plan as we drove. We would herd the cattle into a paddock across from the home farm. This would keep the herd of cattle we are finishing, at the home farm separate. We got in touch with the owner of the paddock, and they were good with the idea.
We arrived home the plan was to grab a tractor and a bale of hay. Then head to the cattle, and drive slowly back as they follow us home. Driving down the road we found most of the herd munching on stockpile grass, desert compared to the bale of hay. We tried anyhow!
The cattle started to follow us the last half mile or so back to the farm. Then they spied our field off to the left. Not exactly where we wanted them, but safe and off the road. This paddock was fenced on 2 sides, the other sides typically were fenced using temporary wire. The finish herd was just south of the barn, and we needed to keep them separate.
Change of Plan
The cattle took off into our field in lieu of following me the last hundred yards. I changed direction and followed the first bunch into our field. I rolled out the bale of hay to keep them content while we capture the rest. Hunter ran for some extra fence posts, to close off the paddock. I headed for another bale, and the rest of the herd.
At this point we had some on lookers and about 50 head still out. After the second attempt most of the cattle were accounted for. We drove up the road to look for more. We found 10 in a different field a half mile away. Six of them were easy to push in the right direction. The last 4 were younger mischievous calves, a bit of work and they headed towards home. We headed back to the rest of the cattle to close off the fence, and get them situated. We arrived about the same time as the group of six, and went right to work, forgetting about the 4 last calves.
A partial fence that wasn’t currently enclosed separated the large herd from the finish group of cull cows, and finish cattle. We needed to keep them separate. Hunter was pretty sure he could open gates and herd them into the barn yard, while I brought a round bale into the barnyard and repaired the fence. He herded the finish group in nicely, just as the main herd became curious and started to head towards them. We both knew we needed to act fast.
I switched over to helping Hunter and he pushed them a bit harder. One obstacle was in the way, a shallow drainage trench that we hadn’t yet back filled. Could we get the cattle to cross it, I grabbed a few handfuls of hay and placed them on the far side at the point where the ditch was the safest to cross. A little more herding and the finish group slowly crossed the ditch. We easily herded them into the barnyard. Now secure, and separate from the main herd.
Back to the Main Herd
Now to address the main herd that wasn’t completely fenced in. Hunter thought it would be best to move them into the south side of the farm. Where the finish group had been. We moved some more hay, secured the driveway, and gave the cattle a little time to slowly meander over, as finished up and lost interest in the hay that we had used to guide them back to the farm. No point of rushing them.
In the mean time we walked through the cattle checking them over, Hunter remembered the 4 calves, and looked around for them finding only one. The main group slowly wandered into the south side of the farm.
We headed back out and found them in the field where they had been with the other six. As we drove by we noticed two of a neighbors flighty cattle were in the catch pen. He’s been trying to catch them for the last month or so. We drove by turned around. I jumped out running over to try to close the gate before they got up and ran out. Success! So I got on the horn, he organized a couple of guys, and headed over with a trailer to bring them home. Afterwards they gave me a hand pushing our last few calves home.
So much for the romantic cattle drive, the herd saved us the trouble of organizing, and feeding a bunch of cowboys. Hunter and I remained calm, created a plan under pressure, and adjusted the plan as needed as we executed. On top of that my mood improve as soon as we started working the herd.
Lesson for the day
When a wrench is thrown in the day, remain calm, formulate a solid plan, and be ready to adjust as needed. Action can change your mood.