“I could use your help” is a phrase that I am a sucker for. I’m a helper. During harvest, there are many “opportunities” to help. One area that I have been excited to be able help with during harvest this year is at the feedyard. While everyone is busy in the field with harvest, there is still work to be done at the feedyard, with limited availability of people to do it. That’s where I come in.
One afternoon, my husband called and asked me if I could help process cattle in a couple of days, and after finding out he had already arranged for his mom to watch the kids for me, I quickly agreed. I love to help process cattle (this “process” is when the cattle in a pen are given vaccinations and dewormed). I’m intrigued by the nature of cattle and how they respond, now that I have some basic knowledge of how cattle think. We also have cattle handling facilities that make the process much more smooth, for both the people and the cattle. We, as a cattle industry, have come a long way in understanding and incorporating equipment and procedures for handling cattle in a less stressful manner (for the cattle, which is then less stressful on the handler).
I also love processing cattle because I love to see my father-in-law ride his horse to move the cattle from their pen to the working facility. He is a talented horseman and he has a lot of cattle sense. Those two talents make a great combination for successfully handling cattle – and it’s fun to watch! Handling cattle is mostly about keeping quiet, making purposeful moves at the right time, keeping you and your horse in the right line of sight of the cattle, and staying calm. Cattle are flight animals, so understanding how they respond to their environment in light of being a “flight” animal is crucial to getting them to go where you want them.
It seems that everyone has a certain way they work cattle, and it takes a bit to get into a groove of how each person operates and how to make the whole process flow. We have one of our local veterinarians (it was my brother-in-law the day I helped!) administer the vaccinations, dewormer and implants. Another person (my father-in-law) brings small groups of the cattle into the working area. As the cattle move through the working facility toward the chute (the piece of equipment that holds them in place so that they can be worked on) another person (me) encourages the cattle to move forward until they are eventually in the chute. I was a little nervous about how this would all work – I didn’t want to embarrass myself (I’m much less experienced than either of the 2 I was working with), and I wasn’t sure if my style of working cattle would mesh with my father-in-laws. I was nervous for no reason. It worked great, and we had a lot of fun too. At one point, I told my father-in-law that I thought his kids sure married well! 🙂
Well, I must have done ok that day, because I’ve been asked to help a few more times to watch the gate while my father-in-law pulls a sick one out of a pen. I take our kids along to help with that – and I love that they get to learn about cattle first-hand by being a part of the action, and they love getting to ride grandpas horse. I love that I can help. In fact, I hope I still get asked to help, even when the others are back around after harvest.