10.02.2016

Fall Gather

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It seems like we measure our lives by what stage the cattle are in—calving season (early spring), spring gather (spring to early summer), cows on the mountain (summer and early fall), fall gather (October), preg checking (November to December) and then winter when the cows are on the desert. October 1st was the official start of the fall gather, which means riding to get the cattle off of the mountains. Most of the cows know their way home and when the first snow hits they will start heading down the mountain themselves. This is typically a good thing unless there’s an early snow like we had this year, which required our cowboys to go push the cows back up for another week because we don’t want them to come home too early and eat all of the fall feed.

Different mountain ranges that we run our cattle on have different “off dates” in the fall, meaning that not all the cows start coming home on October 1st. We start with the cattle that have the earliest off date, make a big push to get all of them, then move on to the next group of cattle. We ride the country on our horses, find the cattle and get them in a group to head down the trail. If it’s really hot they usually don’t want to go, but when there’s a little bit of weather they trail down a lot better. Some of the cows are then just left in the lower country for a little while, but others are corralled then loaded onto semis to go onto pasture. Our biggest gather starts next weekend on a mountain permit where we run in an association with four other cattle ranchers. Everyone gets together to ride and gather the cattle into the sorting corrals. It then takes a day to sort everyone’s cows and calves from one another. This is where DG and my father in law being present is really important! If a calf is born too late in the spring and we haven’t branded it yet, it’s considered a “slick calf.” Slick calves don’t have any form of identification so you have to watch the slick calf to see which cow is its mother so it can be sorted into the right group. After all the sorting is finished, the next day everyone trails their cattle their own way because they don’t run in an association the rest of the year. Our cattle get trailed to another set of corrals where we then wean the calves from the cows.

Weaning day is another really important day. DG knows how many calves we need of what weights to make our fall shipping commitments, so he looks at each calf and determines if it’s big enough to wean from its mother or if it should stay with her to grow for a little another month until she is preg checked. The calves that are weaned are loaded onto our truck and taken to the feedlot to start fattening. The cows and any calves that DG doesn’t wean stay out on the range and continue slowly eating their way toward home.

Most of the cattle are usually gathered by the end of October and the big calves are weaned, sorted in the feedlot and start growing. Then we transition into preg checking, which is another post for another day. I love fall gather because we get to ride our horses and it’s always so pretty. I mostly just get to go on the weekends, but it’s something I look forward to all week. I’m definitely in a better mood when I’ve gotten to get out and ride!

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