10.26.2015

Preg Checking Cattle

Fall means that we gather cattle off the mountain, wean calves and check the cattle for pregnancy.  For time and cost efficiency, we test our cattle for pregnancy the “old fashioned” way, meaning that we don’t use ultrasounds.  DG actually went to a preg checking “school” that was about 3 days long and preg checks all of our cattle rather than have a veterinarian come do them.  He checks anywhere from 20-400 head for several days between October 20-December 15.  There have been a few years where I helped him preg check on New Years Day, but the last couple years it’s been our goal to get it finished before then!

The pregnant cattle will go to the desert for the winter.  That’s the best thing about preg checking is that those cattle are put in a pen and immediately trucked out to winter pasture.  We don’t have to worry much about them until February when it’s time to start calving.  The “open” or not-pregnant cattle are typically sold.  In a way this is natural selection in the cattle.  What I mean by that is that if a cow doesn’t get bred during the summer months then she isn’t suited for either the range, or there’s something else wrong with her, so we don’t want to continue paying to feed her.  By not getting bred up, the cow has naturally selected herself to be sold off the ranch.  We keep all of our heifer calves every year, turn them out on the range and the best ones are bred, and those that are open are sold on an all natural, hormone-free, Global Animal Partnership sales contract.  These are the same programs under which we sell our steer calves, but these open heifers are sold a year.

Preg checking is a huge part of our fall work.  My job is usually to keep track of the cattle identification numbers (we have various herds that we keep track of different, we have to track the program cattle to ensure compliance, etc.) and to give the vaccinations.  EJ came out for her first day of preg checking over the weekend.  Luckily it was a warm day so she was able to sit in the stroller and watch.  She was pretty content to do that for about 6 hours, and when she got fussy I pushed her over to the alleyway where she watched the cows and was a happy girl.  I love being able to take her with us!

Happy EJ starting out the day.

Happy EJ starting out the day.

Oliver came out to help push the cattle up the chute.

Oliver came out to help push the cattle up the chute.

Heifers waiting to get worked.

Heifers waiting to get worked.

This is DG preg checking. See how dirty his clothes get? I have a pretty gross pile of laundry every night! And when you get that much manure on them, it usually stains.

This is DG preg checking. See how dirty his clothes get? I have a pretty gross pile of laundry every night! And when you get that much manure on them, it usually stains.

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Notes on tag numbers that I write down then bring home to transfer onto my computer.

Branding irons. The heifers already have their ranch brands, but if they are pregnant and are going to be kept on the ranch, we put a year brand on them.

Branding irons. The heifers already have their ranch brands, but if they are pregnant and are going to be kept on the ranch, we put a year brand on them.  These heifers are considered first-calf heifers (since they will be having their first calves) and get a number “4” brand, signifying that they were born in 2014.

Warmed up and trying to take off her moccs.

Warmed up and trying to take off her moccs.

The heifers that we keep also receive tags that show what summer forest permit they are going to (based on our various herds). The heifers that we sold received electronic ID tags that will help them be identified at the kill plant.

The heifers that we keep also receive tags that show what summer forest permit they are going to (based on our various herds). The open heifers that we’re going to sell received electronic ID tags that will help them be identified at the kill plant.

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