After Jamie and Chad’s shipping was checked off the list, it was time to ship the HC calves.
They spent several long days looking and looking and looking some more and finally found them. It seems the heat and lack of grass had everyone hiding out in the trees so they were a little harder to track down this year.
Then Mom and the girls spent a couple of days getting the big meal ready. Here is a little insight into how this usually goes. If Dad lines up a crew of say…20 or so to help out then Mom starts doing her “ranch cooking math” which goes something like this. If there are 20 cowboys coming you should plan on enough for 35 because some of them will eat enough for 2 or maybe 3 and then you should plan on a few extra, just in case, because you never really know for sure who might just show up and then you should probably add a little to that just in case the ones who might show up happen to be the big eater types who might eat enough for 2 or 3 and then you’ll want to add some cushion in there because the last thing you want to have happen is to ask people to come help you work and then run out of food, so just to be on the safe side you better up your count another handful. And so when it’s all said and done you have a crew of 20 coming and your cooking for some where in the neighborhood of 75-80, roughly……. I think in another life the woman had a traumatic experience where she was supposed to cook for some big banquet and ran out of food and it was off with her head or something but in this life she has never, ever, ever run out of food. We’ve eaten leftovers for a really long time but she has never run out of food.
And then the big day arrives. Now, for those who’ve never been involved in a shipping day before I’d like to set the scene a bit. So, think of it like the day of the big game, or the big presentation you’ve been working on all year in front of the company president, the presentation that determines your raise – or lack thereof – for the year. It’s a big day. You really, really want it to go well, really well. So, there can be some nerves on this day. Sometimes folks can be a bit on edge, especially if the boss is a little bit of a Type A, perfectionist……hypothetically speaking of course….there’s really no one on our outfit like that, we’re all very relaxed, almost zen like really, very laid back. I’m just saying I can imagine that it could get kind of tense if that were the situation…..I can be very insightful about things like that.
Anyway….everyone is up early, Mom especially, double checking that she has enough food, there’s breakfast and horses are saddled and loaded usually before the sun is up. Then it’s off to gather.
I mentioned in my previous post how gathering can be tricky and how it’s important to get it right the first try so that your not adding work to an already really full day but also because it’s important for the cattle to be handled as calmly as possible. The less stress the better for the calves (and the crew). Calves that are stressed are more likely to weigh less and more likely to get sick and since our goal is happy, healthy calves then we really try to handle them as quietly as possible.
Once in the corral, the cows are let out and the calves are kept in. This is where, as I mentioned before, one brave soul stands in the gate while the rest of crew pushes the cattle toward them. Cow coming, step aside, calf coming, step in front. The past few years this person has either been Dad or Casey, which is a little bit funny since they are two of the most injury prone people on the planet. Sometimes there is betting in the back of the corral as to who will get hurt first but that’s a story for another time.
Once the cows and calves are sorted then the calves are hauled down to the scale, re-sorted, weighed and loaded onto the buyers trucks. This year the steers headed off to Oklahoma. The heifer calves are still in the mountain and this week will be gathered and weaned and then we will try to determine how many to keep and how many to sell, with no significant rain since May the drought will weigh in heavily on the decision this year.
Once the calves are loaded and on their way everyone heads up to the house for lunch. Luckily, there was plenty of food for everyone.
**Please note that some of the pictures in this post are from years gone by. Since I wasn’t able to be there this year I had to rely on others to take pictures for me and they gave me some song and dance about having to do “actual work” that day and pictures were not “high priority”. It’s hard to find good help these days…..