Tagging the pure bred calves involves a few different steps. After catching and hog tying the calf you asses the mother for her udder condition, condition of her feet, general body build and temperament. After the calf is gendered, weighed and issued two tags; one large dangle tag with an identification number on it in the right ear and another smaller CCIA or “button” tag in the left. CCIA tags make it possible to identify on what ranch the calf was born, and in what year. They were developed to improve the state of animal health and food safety and to make identifying particular cattle easier. During the entire process, you have to be careful about making mamma mad….
At that point it was obvious that Everett had a plan. He had his rope down and had slid the loop out of it so just the hondo was at the end and he was swinging it in a long low circle.
“I’m gonna try and draw her away. If you get a chance grab the calf” He called over his shoulder as he began circling the old cow. Every time Everett got within about six or eight feet of her, that old thing dropped her head and came after him, but he could not draw her away. Finally we decided to push her over towards the fence.
Now this next part isn’t something that should be used as a guide because really, a barbed wire fence shouldn’t be trusted as cover in a situation like this. In this situation though, we didn’t have much else to choose from.
The plan was to try and get the calf to climb through the fence so we could use it as a barrier between us and the cow but just using the horses for pressure wasn’t doing much good. The cow was still on the fight and every now and again Everett would bounce his rope off her face in hopes of toning her attitude down a little, with no luck. Finally, he glanced over his shoulder again.
“Emily, climb through that fence and see if you can get up beside the calf. If you can, try and pull it through the fence.”
I quickly climbed down off my little paint horse, handed her to Devan and did as Everett suggested. They were walking down the fence line and had gotten quite a ways ahead of me so I had to jog to catch up.
Note: chinks aren’t exactly proper running attire – Neither are cowboy boots. I tripped on a patch of grass and demonstrated a very ungraceful nose dive.
“Quick! Come grab him!” He shouted. I struggled through the five strand barbed wire fence. And there I was, on foot, standing between an angry 1200 lb cow and her calf, with no cover other than Everett and his little buckskin horse. Meanwhile, Devan was trotting up the fence line leading my horse and carrying the tagging supplies.
So as quick as I could, I grabbed a hind leg of that calf and bolted towards the fence. Before I could get there though that calf let out a bellar and before I knew it, Mamma had gotten past Everett and had her eyes on me. Now I’m not going to lie, getting plowed over by a cow isn’t exactly high on my list of priorities so once I saw her coming my way I dropped the calf and bolted. Once again though, Everett got between the two bovines and I had another shot.
This time, I was closer to the fence. This time, my safety buffer was only a few feet away. I grabbed that 85 lb calf’s leg and I bolted hard to the fence. Once I got there, I hit my knees and began struggling to shove the calf under the fence while watching my back. I could see Mamma’s eyes on me.
Have I ever told you how tricky it is to shove a calf under a barbed wire fence? Well there are a lot of different variables in a scenario like that. For instance, the calf bellaring, wriggling around and trying to stand up, or maybe even kick you, the barbed wire fence and its tendency to get caught on your clothes, or even the fact that that calf’s mom doesn’t particularly want you to succeed. Add my clumsiness into the situation and it is no easy task!
It took me a minute but I got it done. Just as Mamma got past Everett again, I had to bail through that fence myself and pull the calf a few feet away. Finally! I was safe! … Well kinda. I knew that Mamma could come through that fence at any moment if she really wanted to so I hogtied that little thing and we got it tagged in a hurry.
Ahhh…. The hazards of the workplace. Out here, they’re a little different than the ones you might find in town but I sure wouldn’t trade my job. It’s beautiful out here and things are always happening. I’ve learned a lot in the past two weeks and I hope to keep that up!