I’ve been getting to observe, learn, reflect and share lots of different ideas and methods in the last month. I haven’t really felt like writing much. Writing to me takes a lot of effort in putting thoughts into words and to be honest I get a little tired of telling people all my ideas (I am sure some of you get tired of my ideas). But I feel a big part of my responsibility to the animals and the industry is to gather up and share ideas. You can do what you want with em.
The biggest issue I see in the livestock industry from a production standpoint is labor. The shortage of and skill level creates challenges that I would like to visit about in the next few writings. I’ll start off with the sector of our industry that is doing pretty well from what I have seen, and the nice way the crew worked.
This is a report I sent to the veterinary group that I was working with. It was a fun day. As soon as we were done I stepped off my horse and we headed to the airport. I had quite a bit of green stuff on my wranglers, if you know what I mean. When I fly internationally I have a high enough status that I can go to the United Airlines club. I had plenty of room around me as people in 3 piece suits and wealthy old women must not like the smell of recycled grass. With my “short brim” Greeley hat and manure smell I’m pretty sure they thought I was a real cowboy.
My plane was two hours late leaving Chicago so I got into Atlanta at about 1 in the morning and by the time I got my car rental I got to my room at 3. It was a long day, and I think I can relate to cattle being shipped on these long hauls and the stress and fatigue they feel. I was able to do a good demo the next day at Auburn University, but I pretty much crashed for a couple hours after it.
Heres my report on a ranch in Cochrane, Alberta. They run 1000 Hereford cows and we pregnancy tested the cows that had their first calf, and they were sorted for the calf sex, the bunch I was a part of was the heifers calves. Hope you can get some good out of it.
My Report I sent to Ceanna Tannas, my liaison with the clinic and my horseback partner for the day. Great young lady and a good hand.
It was a real organized day of work, from the instructions we got before we arrived, and the whole time working I never wondered what I should be doing. I liked the way Ron (the boss) followed etiquette and standards of a traditional cowboy crew, but was very easy going and made sure everyone new what there job was and kept everyone safe and organized.
The pressure could have been way to much with the amount of people we had, and the fact that they needed to get two different groups gathered and penned before the veterinarians arrived, but everyone stayed calm and didn’t over pressure the pairs when we started them, moved them and put them in the gate to the corral. Not one critter ran back and that is fairly unusual with that many riders pushing pairs into a corral.
The sorting got a little unorganized as we were sorting from two different directions and sometimes we were sending cows we sorted right into the other pen that Ron was sorting. It might have worked better to sort on one bunch, then let the other group sort while the other pushed calves to the back of the bunch.
The nice thing about the sorting is no one rammed and jammed on the cattle so they all got better as they thought their way to freedom rather than being forced out the gate.
On many places I observe to much pressure from to many directions and the cows are confused and scared and the learn bad habits rather than how to move away from pressure and end up worse every time, and before long it is very stressful on the cow and the cowboy. This was not the case here. I feel they were learning while being worked.
The actual pregnancy checking seemed to go smooth except for the chute malfunction. We would put 24 cows into the staging pen, and then feed 4 at a time into the alley leading up to the tub. This was a real nice number as it was a small tub with a fairly short alley to the chute. When we had 8 left we would put them all in the alley to have time to go back and get 24 more. When we did that they would take all 8 rather than 4 and they always had trouble getting them in the tub and up the alley. I observed much more need for the use of the stick, more safety issues with the closing of the gate, and cattle getting back before the gate was closed. 4 head is a much better, safer number, and I feel the cows will load much easier next time as they had a positive flow going in and out of the tub.
As mentioned before, the only real negative was the head catch on the chute not working properly. The thing I observed from a distance was no one panicked, they made sure and got the cow released in a quick safe way.
It was nice to have such a good mix of people and the “boss” set up the different people very well to have the more experienced help pair up with the less experienced help to make things run smooth and safe.
We had two young people(Ron’s son and daughter)and they fit very well with the work. When sorting they were asked to stay out of the corral and they sat on their horses and watched. When we began working the cows through they were as much help as anyone. They interacted with everyone, were real polite and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing. I feel it is so important to involve these kids in a safe, positive way that they learn to work livestock properly and also how to work and interact with a working crew. They did great.
It was a very well planned, organized morning and a pleasure to be a part of the age old tradition of a crew working livestock combined with the technology of modern science with ultra-sound pregnancy checking and electronic identification for record keeping. Everyone involved from the owners, working crew and veterinary staff should be proud of the job, but strive to do even better next time.
I feel real fortunate that Zoetis and Veterinary Agri-Health services gave me the chance to work on this nice ranch with a real good crew.