“It’s grass time; open the gate and turn them out.”
That’s the way it was for most farmers many years gone by. Today, there’s usually a lot more to preparing cattle for summer pasture than just unlatching the barnyard corral.
Some ranchers still do the work with horses and lariat ropes but majority of today’s cattlemen have working faculties. It’s not as true Western romantic but more efficient and likely less stress on both cattle and cowboys.
Most cow-calf operators have cattle identified by numbered ear tags, so the right calf must be with their own mama. While families generally stay together, that is not always the case. Youngsters sometimes wander to play around with other calves and must be sorted out from playmates for that motherly love.
Certain ranchers tag heifer calves in a certain ear, left or right, and male babies in the opposite. Likewise, depending on management philosophy, cows with heifer calves might be pastured separately from those with boys.
Every calf must have specific health treatments varying according to the operation. Generally, there are a couple of neck pokes vaccinations, one on each side of the neck, Insecticide treatment is often applied in some form whether pour-on, dust or a fly tag in the untagged ear.
The little boys have it tougher than their mates as they usually become steers by a cowboy’s surgery skills. Implants became a popular growth stimulant several years ago but are controversial today with some believers and other none users. Typically, heifer calves never received a pound-increasing incentive in their ears but that was not always the case either.
Momma is not immune from prepasture doctoring with treatments typically not so intensive. There’s usually at least one vaccination, certain kinds of insecticide applications and occasionally something else.
Replacement heifers require additional attention than the older bovine females. The yearlings are branded on one hip for the year born and the ranch brand on the opposite hip.
They get at least two shots, updated identification tag in left ear and a fly tag in the right ear. Plus, there’s pour-on insecticide down the back.
Of course, preparing yearlings going onto Flint Hills pasture for efficient summer gains require similar but different preparations.
Reminded of Deuteronomy 11:14: “He’ll make sure there’s plenty of grass for your animals.”