Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sorting Cattle: The Importance of the Right Equipment

When we decided recently to add cattle to the farm, we also decided that we needed to set up sorting area and acquire appropriate equipment. We've got some sorting capabilities in the sheep barn that help us with the sheep, but that system isn't set up for cattle. And sometimes we just set up temporary fences and pens and do it the hard way with the sheep, if we are not near the sheep barn. But temporary fencing and pens certainly don't cut it with cattle. 

When cattle decide to go a different direction than where you want them to go, there is no reasoning with them. And, at more than half a ton each, you certainly can't force them to do anything once they've made up their minds.  So we acquired a squeeze chute and sorting pen and alley. We set up small but sturdy permanent pens next to the sheep barn. 

This particular day it was time to sort off the two steers that were ready for freezer camp. We herded all the cattle into a small pen, and made sure that the chute/alley system was set up so that most of the cattle could go right through it (one at a time) back into a larger pen. The two steers would be let out a side gate back into the smaller holding pen.

Someone always has to go first. And we let whoever it is think about it and go slowly.

Once the first one goes, the others will follow. At this point we have already sorted off the two steers (on the outside of the alley). 

Eventually, the bull gets to make the trip. He is one handsome (and big and strong) dude. We are glad to have this great equipment that helps us with this process and keeps us safe.

There are lapses in the photo series because sometimes you have to set the camera down and help with the sorting. It's usually at the most exciting times, too.

Here the bulk of the herd is moving back out to pasture. You'll notice that the small calves move along with their mothers, but consider the fence to be calf-optional. They are supposed to be on the inside of the fence, moving along behind the cows. But as long as they get to where they are going, I guess the manner they get there is less important.

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