Daily Archives: July 18, 2010

Waxing Poetic

With that much ground to cover in a working day, do you take two horses out? Or just ride one and change horses every day?” Shirley asked this and I got waxing poetic on the answer so decided to make it a post cause it was so blinking long. 

It depends how hot or how hard we might think the day is. Sometimes we come home for lunch (at 4:00 PM which I always complain about) and get another horse and go back  out. If the cattle are at the south end of the lease it’s easier to take two horses. Usually we ride one horse 1 day and 2 days off for them (no days off for me) in a rotation. 

Sometimes if I’m hurting or really tired or behind on my housework I get to stay home after lunch at around 4:00. Some times I don’t go out till a little later. A five hour day in the saddle is the best for me but most are quite a bit longer. My cowboy often rides a broke horse half a day (when I’m not there) and young horse the rest (when I am there). Everyone gets the Sabbath off unless there’s “an ox in the mire.”

We usually have our own string of horses and don’t ride the other guys or use the other guys equipment just like on the big outfits. (There is quite a difference in stirrup length between the 2 of us). There’s a reason they do it that way; it’s easier on our relationship and our horses.

Pic is my go-to horse for hard jobs I’m worried about, so sometimes he sees a little more duty than the others I ride. He’s a long circle (high energy) horse with some problems but they have gotten less since I have been the only one to ride him. He still takes a lot of patience but I’m willing to try to be patient with him because of the trust I have in him. And he fits me, physically fits, it feels better to sit on his back than in my most comfortable easy chair. My other horses don’t feel the same.
Like any working cowboys, we actually put our lives in our horses’ hands, so to speak, on a daily basis. It’s dangerous with so many variables (cow or bull, horse, dogs, cowgirl, cowboy), the footing (blowouts, sand-hills, badger holes, brush, bog), throw into that mix my 45 foot rope and his 60 foot one and maybe you can begin to get the picture. Trust is really important both ways. The horse has to trust me not to ask him to do anything stupid and I have to trust him to watch his footing and not go down with me and to hold the rope to keep me and, more often, my cowboy safe.
I consider it a real privilege to be able to work this hard even though it’s not all romance and pretty days. The days I get hailed on, or have to ride in the rain, or in my snow boots and snowsuit, or fighting bugs and heat, or I’m just plain scared to do what I have to, I just tell myself, “Enjoy it! Remember you won’t be able to cowboy forever”. I hate to even think of a time when I won’t get to do this. Sure there’s bad days but the good days are soo good.

Sunday Stills-Summer

Summer is leaves.
seagulls in prairie puddles,
warm blue skies,
and bulls.
Janis had some questions about bulls after my last post and I thought I might just add my answers to this post since I don’t have her email to send it to her.
We manage a community pasture where about 50 members lease 40,000 acres from the EID (Eastern Irrigation District, who I think is the largest private landholder in Alberta). They each get to put between 25-50 cow/calf pairs (all cows must come with a calf) out on the lease for 6 months during the summer grazing season. Each member buys where ever he wants and provides a bull for each 25 cows he puts out. We are hired by and answer to a board elected out of those members.
The approximately 1800 cows are divided into 4 herds depending on the type of bull they want to breed to. We have 2 read Angus (one that the bulls come on the 1 of June, the other they turn bulls in on the third week in July or the 1st of August) herds, a Simmental (no blacks), and a Charolais herd. The herds vary in size: the Simmental and the Charolais are the largest herds. The late Red Angus herd is the the smallest. It’s pretty standard that there is one bull for every 25 cows in each heard. The largest breeding field is 8 sections the smallest is 2 sections (again a section is a square mile or 640 acres)
Most of the members farm and want to be done calving early so they can concentrate on farming when they need to. Cattlemen here, ranchers, don’t usually turn bulls into their cows as early because they don’t want to calve in the cold winter weather early in the year, here in Alberta.
Bulls can come here as yearlings (I think they should be 2 year olds when they come but it’s not up to me) and they can come back until they are 6, if they are healthy. Semen test and registration papers (they must be purebreds) are required to be turned in to us for every bull that comes to the lease. They are given Cylence (for flies) and Fusagard (for foot rot) at the hoof trimming day which is usually the same day they are brought out. 
The owners drop them off but we are required to round them up (when they are done breeding or injured) and bring them in. My husband is like a bull-houdini and can load most bulls out in the middle of an 8 section (8 square mile) field just by opening the door and encouraging them in. The Charolais, we have been driving (us on horseback) to the North Camp corrals (where we live).
Bulls that get broken penis or stifled and cannot breed are sent home to their owners who often then will sell them immediately at the local auction.
Simmental bulls are the ones I like to deal with the most. They seem very manageable, I’m not sure if it’s the breed or how the owners handle them. The Charolais are the least manageable, some of them I’m sure it’s because of how they are handled when they are not here.
I think 60 days is too long to have the bulls out (see my blogpost : Time to Go Boys for pictures of why) plus I don’t think it’s a good management practice but again it is not my call. The cows are preg checked by a vet at their owner’s place when the owner choose or chooses not to. We watch to see if there is anything bulling (riding/being riden) and can tell generally how the cows are being covered.
If everything looks fine and then we see a bunch of riding later in the year we know there’s a problem, probably with tric (a VD that causes aborted fetuses at around 50 days or so). It hasn’t happened here but the neighboring lease had it so we’re on the look out for it this year.
Every lease is run a little different but that’s how it goes here.