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“One-day rancher” has completed his shift




There I was this past weekend being the “One Day a Year
Rancher” at my brother-in-law’s place at Fort Steele in

Thumbnail image for krr collecting herd .jpeg

 southeastern B.C.  It was the annual weekend to process the cows
and calves at Kootenay River Ranch before they head out to pasture, hopefully
sometime in the next week or so. They had a relativ
ely easy winter on that side
of the Rockies, but it is dry. The weather is nice but they need a good rain to
get the grass going.

We haven’t been there every year for calf processing, but
many times over the past 35 years. Several family members who come out for the
annual processing day are part of the original crew. And they’re getting old.

During a couple breaks as cows and calves were sorted, the
conversation drifted to how times have changed. Processing calves before turnout
used to be quite a rodeo. There was quite a crew of cowboys on horseback
pushing the herd up from the holding pasture toward the corrals. And I remember
on more than one occasion, making good progress with this first part of the
process, then one or two high headed (insert swear word) would turn to head
back, the whole herd would turn and start running, crash through the fence down
to the river bottom pasture and we’d have to start all over again. (More swear
words.)

Thumbnail image for krr calf shots .jpeg

And there used to be
a lot more processing. For many years calves had to be sorted, then caught,
castrated, dehorned, tagged, branded and vaccinated. And it seemed like many
more cows had to be branded and dehorned and tagged. For a few years, as I
recall we caught and flipped every calf on the ground and they had to be held
for the various treatments. Being younger and a larger framed person in those
days I was one of the calf flippers. Once they were down I could sit on them
and they wouldn’t move much.

Later the ranch bought a couple calf tables and that made
the job a bit easier, although you still had to get calves organized and lined
up and often pushed into the table. You learned to respect those nasty hind
feet that could deliver a solid, sharp and memorable blow to shins, thighs and
other parts below the waist. No wonder some of the boys in those days wore
hockey shin pads.

The process has been simplified to mostly vaccination of
cows and calves on processing day. All calves are castrated, tagged and
dehorned (as necessary) as day-olds out on the calving pasture. They are no
longer branded.
 

For the most part now cows and calves just have to be
sorted. 

A couple crews work with the calves in the barn — a half dozen calves are
brought into a pen, a steel gate is swung against the group so they line up,
head to tail, single file against one side of the pen, the gate is held, and
each calf is given a shot, then the group is released.  Each crew has a pen. Those little hooves still
work pretty good however. My wife is sporting a dandy bruise this week that she
could only share with a very few people.

Thumbnail image for Krr done.jpeg

Cows are run through the corral outside. Six or seven head
are crowded into a chute (don’t need the headlock anymore) and a couple needle
people walk beside the chute and give them a shot and then they are released. 
There is still the sorting effort and herders are needed to
keep cows and calves moving, but it becomes a pretty simple process. You’re
still glad to see the 350
th cow,  and nice to realize you’re not dog-tired
either.

And the carrot at the end of this processing stick is a
great beef on a bun lunch in front yard of the house, looking out across the
Kootenay River at the snow-covered Rockies on a glorious day. The job is done,
the food is good and we enjoy a great social moment.

krr lunch .jpeg

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner
based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at
[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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