Friday, December 26, 2008

Weighing Calves

It's that time of year to weigh the calves and see if they've put on enough weight. Our ranch raises calves until they're about 850 pounds, and then they're sold to a buyer who will finish them, or raise them until they're between 1,200 and 1,300 pounds. Because we live in such an isolated area, it's not economically feasible to finish and ship cows from here. 

First the cowboys gathered up the calves and herded them into holding pens. Then about 50 at a time were send to the scale.

Here's our oldest cowboy, Lee, working on the frigid morning. Not even cold weather keeps him away from rolling out of bed at 89 years and getting his horse ready to work calves.

And here's my sweet-faced nephew Ryan holding the gate open. He probably wouldn't like me calling him sweet-faced, seeing as how he's a college man now. You can see it's cold by all the layers he's wearing, including his thick green hoodie, work jacket, and warm wool cap with ear flaps. Those ear flaps are really nice, they keep your ears nice and cozy.

The calves run past my hiding spot and towards the scale.

The cowboys make sure none run in a different direction. The scale is huge, it weighs semis with trailers full of hay. Once all the calves are on the scale, they close the gate.

Then my brother-in-law Dave goes into the scale house to weigh the load of calves.

It's an old Howe scale, 1930s vintage, and it still works great today. The state Scales and Measures comes out and inspects it every year.

Then it's time for the calves to get off the scale and go to the next holding pen. My brother-in-law Tom tells the calves where to go. (And they actually listen!)

Once a few calves lead the way, the rest are ready to follow.

He's carefully counting as they go by, as are other cowboys. It's important to know how many calves are in each load so the total weight can be divided by the number of calves, and the average weight per calf calculated. On this particular day, the average weight was about 800 pounds.

Here's Kate, ready for the weighing to conclude so she can help move the calves back to the area they came from.

This horse was particularly friendly and let Desert Boy pet her quite a bit.

After the last load of calves has been weighed, Lee and Ryan come out, along with border collie Heidi, and they are all ready to move calves. My husband told me in advance where the next good camera angle would be, so Desert Boy and I started walking in that direction.

Only Desert Boy found a distraction and took off at a run towards this John Deere tractor.

I don't help him climb up--I figure if he wants to get in the tractor bad enough, he'll figure out a way. And he did.

Getting up on the driver's seat was a little tough, but he was determined.

What are you looking at, Mom? Of course I can drive this big tractor even though my feet don't reach the pedals and I'm really bad at steering.
Our little detour didn't let me get in a great spot for photos, but I did manage this one with Lee herding the calves on the other side of the equipment yard fence.

And a few minutes later, all the cowboys were heading back to the trucks, mission accomplished. They know the calves need to eat for a few more weeks before they'll be leaving us. At this stage, they're gaining about four to five pounds a day. I mean the calves, not the cowboys, although hopefully they all had big holiday dinners!


Caroline said...

Great story! I felt like I was right there freezing along with everone else!

A rancher's life is a good life! No extra time to get into any trouble...

The Incredible Woody said...

I'm a real wimp when it comes to cold but you make everything sound so interesting that it makes me want to mount up and herd cows.

PS - I think Desert Boy is going to be a natural at driving any type of equipment.

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