That’s how many steers we moved from Lundale back to the home farm today. Forty-eight. Well, technically 46 steers and 2 bulls, but those are just silly details, right?
We knew it was going to be a long day. The trailer can hold 8-9 cattle at a time which meant we’d be doing six runs back and forth to Lundale. Between driving there, loading steers, driving back, and unloading, each trip would took a little over an hour, assuming everything goes according to plan. Which it rarely does. As we plotted out our day, Ryan and I both figured we’d still be loading steers after sundown.
We’d set aside Thursday and Friday for this task. While we were hopeful we’d be able to get it done in one day, we were also realistic. Four loads one day and two the next seemed like a good plan. However, the weather forecast for Friday became increasingly more ominous as the days passed. The road to Lundale is tricky on a good day and we didn’t want to drive the trailer in and out in the snow and ice that the storm was sure to bring.
Waiting to bring them back until after the storm wasn’t an option. The grass is gone so the steers are completely on hay now. We’ve been taking bales down to them twice a day, but this isn’t fuel or time efficient. If we waited until after the storm to bring them back, it would be at least another week. First we’d have to wait for the snow to melt and then for the ground to dry out for the sake of the trailer and the steers. They don’t like slippery surfaces so ice and mud are not our friends when working cattle.
That left just today to get them home. We started early to get chores done and were on the road by 8:30.
There isn’t a chute system down at Lundale, just a small corral we use to sort and load animals as needed. It isn’t the most secure of structures . Putting 48 animals in there at once would have been a tight fit and they likely would’ve torn it apart, something we hoped to avoid. Instead we locked the whole group in a section of the lane and just brought 8-9 into the corral at a time. From there we loaded them and brought them home.
Unfortunately we couldn’t just leave the ones in the lane there unsupervised. They were fenced in, but only just. We didn’t want to take any chances so one of us stayed behind while the other two returned to the home farm to unload. Being in charge, Ryan had to go back and forth so Steve and I switched on and off who had to stay back and wait in the cold!
The first two groups loaded decently, though we realized quickly the corral was too big to work such small groups. This was an easy problem to solve. Corrals are made of 6-8 foot panels that can be added or removed to create the proper sized space. After the first group we removed a few panels to make the corral smaller and the next group loaded more easily.
Group 3 was our first problem group. There was a knothead who would not get on the trailer. Steve and Ryan were working gates and I was working the steers (I had what should have been the easy job), but for the life of me I could not get this one guy on the trailer. Everyone else would load and he would panic. As I chased him, the others would wander back out and we’d have to start all over. After several failed attempts, I took over Steve’s post, he took Ryan’s, and Ryan took mine. The little bugger still didn’t want to cooperate! Finally Ryan was able to get him loaded.
Next came group 4. Group 4 started as a group of eight, but ultimately became a group of six. There were 2 crazy steers who wanted nothing to do with the trailer. Nothing we tried worked. One eventually dove head first through the 12-guage high tensile wire (which was electrified) back into the lane. (He’d done this before a few months ago.) The other followed suit, though he wisely jumped over the fence to freedom and avoided getting shocked.
We made sure to split up the two nut jobs between loads five and six. We also made the corral even smaller to exclude the spot where they’d escaped. Once cows find a weak spot, they will return to it time and time again. We wanted to eliminate that option for them.
One of the bulls was in group five which worked to our advantage. Our bulls are very much like Ferdinand. They are extremely docile, even more so than most of the steers. Still, they are big and bossy and command the herd. We were able to work the bull in such a way that he forced crazy #1 onto the trailer.
The steers in the last group were all a bit spazzy, but this worked out, too. They were actually one of the easiest groups to load because they were so determined to get away from us that they saw the open trailer and ran in immediately, even the one who’d jumped the fence. I actually think he was stuck in the middle of the mob and really didn’t have a choice once everyone started moving.
We loaded the last group around 3:15 and were back to the farm before dark! It wasn’t perfect, but we couldn’t have asked for better. And we finished almost 2 hours ahead of our anticipated schedule. Now everyone is safely back at the farm and we’re all praying we don’t get the 6 inches they’re predicting!