Wow! We had another great weekend. On Friday, I skipped out of work a little early and we drove up to Holbrook, AZ, in the high desert above the Mogollon rim. We spent Friday night with some friends. On Saturday, we rose early and drove out to a real cattle ranch, where we worked cattle all morning. The ranch we were at was a conventional ranch, so there were some things they did that didn’t interest me too much, but at the same time it was all valuable experience.
They had rounded up most of their herd and seperated out the cows from the calves. When we got there, they were just finishing ‘pouring’ the cows. Pouring the cows means pouring a blue liquid on their back that aids the cattle in staying free of lice, ticks, and other pests.
After the cows were all done, we moved half of the calves into a pen and started moving them one by one into a chute where they would be caught, flipped on their side, and worked on. Each calf had to be branded, get two shots, and be de-horned, if necessary. They did not band the bulls because they said they have found that the bulls will put on an additional 50 pounds if they wait six months to convert the bulls into steers. The brand they use is HUGE. I felt sorry for the poor calves. The shots they got were one vitamin shot and one vaccination; the vitamin shot was intramuscular and the vaccine was subcutaneous. I gave the vitamin shot quite a few times, but the vaccine I only tried once. I also branded one of the calves, but I stayed away from the dehorning. The dehorning sent a stream of blood spraying out of a hole in the middle of the horn, which they would use a hot iron to cauterize.
After the first half of calves, I moved into the pen with the second half of calves and practiced wrestling the calves. Most were my size or smaller, but a few were as big as twice my size. Basically, I would grab an ear with one hand, the tail with the other hand, and place my hip against the calf’s hip, so that the calf couldn’t kick me as easily. Then my job was to turn the calf until he was facing into the chute and twist his tail to make him want to walk into the chute where he would be caught and worked on. At one point during this fun, I had my back turned to a calf we called ‘crapper’ because his back was covered in manure (this was not a clean job). The other fella in with me was working on getting crapper to go into the chute. Apparently crapper got away from my co-worker and place his head right under my seat and lifted me off the ground and drove my head into a crossbar above. He only lifted me 6-12 inches, but it was enough. The only other injury I sustained was two of the calves stepped on my toes, which hurt but they didn’t turn black or fall off.
After working cattle for a few hours (it felt like a full day’s work), we went back to the farmhouse for a big breakfast. Yummy! After breakfast, we went back out to the ranch, where we mounted horses and 4-wheelers and rode out to meet another 13 cows and 10 calves. We drove this small herd back into the sorting yard and seperated out the cows from their calves. We did the same work again, but at a much quicker pace. We also banded two bulls and they decided to keep one bull for the herd. I got to ride a horse again, this time totally unsupervised — and the horse liked to lope! I wish I knew better how to ride a horse.
That afternoon, we slaughtered a laying hen and a rooster, scalded them using 140° water, and then I tried out my Whizbang Chicken Plucker, which I still need to show a picture of on my blog. The WBCP worked fabulously, removing almost all feathers within 15 seconds. The plucker worked better when both birds were spinning inside, rather than just one. One bird tended to get hung up, but with both birds when one would get stuck, the other would knock the first loose. I can’t wait to build my Whizbang Chicken Scalder, because that will make the whole process that much more efficient — scalding was very frustrating.