Back on Aug 2nd Jamie and Chad shipped their calves. They got up early and with the help of family, friends and neighbors gathered all the cows and calves.
Once gathered, they carefully corral the herd. This is the first tricky part. You have to move cattle into a corral at just the right speed, too slow and they won’t move together and you won’t get anywhere, too fast and they will get nervous and worked up and probably not see the gate and you end up spilling the whole herd. If you spill them once it usually spells big trouble. They are a little bit like toddlers or corgi puppies in that respect, once they figure out how to pull one over on you they are bound and determined to repeat it. The last thing anyone wants to do is have to re-gather a couple hundred head of cattle, especially on shipping day. So everyone has to be on the same page and paying attention.
Once they are safely in the corral everyone breathes a sigh of relief and then the second tricky part starts. Now, one brave, highly skilled person is selected to stand in the gate and let the cows out without letting the calves out. This means when a cow comes running at you, you step aside and let her through, when a 400 pound calf comes running at you, step in front of it and don’t let it through. Pretty simple really. Of course, sometimes the 400 pound calf doesn’t stop when you step in front of it and instead runs you over. You can see why everyone wants this job, it’s very exciting.
Once the cows are out of the corral the calves are loaded onto trucks and taken to the headquarters to be weighed and sorted. They are unloaded and the steers (boys) are sorted from the heifers (girls). Then they are sorted one more time, this time any that seem small or sick are pulled aside. Then they are weighed in groups of 40. Since they are sold by weight this part is pretty important which is why the seller and the buyer or the buyer’s rep usually do this part together. As the calves come off the scale the brand inspector counts them and makes sure they have the right brand, you don’t want to accidentally sell any of the neighbors calves, they tend to like to do that themselves.
Then they are loaded onto the buyers trucks and off they go to their new destination.
This year Jamie and Chad’s steers were bought by Geezer Bowling and they went to Nebraska. Their heifers were bought by Rose and Kent Bacon who have a ranch in the Flint Hills of Kansas. They traveled about 16 hours to reach their new home in Kansas.
Rose and Kent will feed them a mix of grain, grass and hay for several more months. The calves come in to feed bunks in the morning for their grain and Rose and Kent ride through them to make sure they are all looking healthy and take care of any that might be sick. Once the calves finish eating they send them back out to the pasture for the rest of the day. In a normal year they would graze on grass for the rest of the day but because of the drought they are needing to feed them hay this year.
Rose says they are doing well in spite of the heat and dry weather. They are praying hard for rain in Kansas too.