April 1, 2015

Tagging Calves

I never really knew what an adrenaline"rush" was until I started tagging calves. 

All the mother cows on our ranch have a specific number. The first number is the year she was born, (3 = '03 or '13), then whatever number we are on in the sequence. The cows born before 2010 all have yellow tags. The next generations of 2010 and 2011 have green, 2012 and 2013 have blue. I like this system because I can see from afar the color and know generally how old the animal is. The Ranch Hand wants to change this and go to all yellow, but I'm gonna fight this one tooth and nail! I want to do purple for the next two years. :) It's just easier, especially as our numbers grow and we have duplicate numbers, different colored tags will make it easier to identify cows.

All the calves get a yellow tag with the same number as their mother. That way we can know who goes with who and keep track of them. When we move cows, like to summer pasture it's very important that we "pair them up" after the move. That is, get the calves united with their mothers. You can imagine the chaos as EVERY cow and calf is bawling for each other, so we make sure they are together no matter how long it takes.

Well now that you know our system let's get back to that adrenaline rush deal. At first I was terrified of tagging calves for obvious reasons. 1200 pound mama, protecting her newborn baby... now I'm pretty used to it and most of the really mean cows are gone. I still carry a sorting stick, stand tall and big, and use a loud voice.

This is what a tagger looks like. It's like getting your ear pierced. Calves don't enjoy it, but only for that moment. They heal just fine. It's kinda like a right of passage for a calf... well not really, I just made that up. The O/ is our brand, for identification if they are mixed in with someone else's cattle, and we like it.

I gave the 4 year old the camera and he messed it up, so the photos aren't that clear. And he didn't even take these. It took me a while to figure out how to fix it. This is not my favorite sight when I come to tag a calf. This mamma is pawing the ground, but she was bluffing. Still, adrenaline rush. When I get back on the 4-wheeler I am all shaky and can feel that buzzing throughout my body.

 I'm not mean, but sometimes some of them do get whacked. I grab the calf by a back leg and drag it closer to the 4-wheeler so I can hop on or get behind it just in case.

Check to see if it's a bull calf or a heifer, (boy or girl), right ear for the bulls, left ear for the heifers. Another easy thing to help with identification. Kneel on calf, hold the ear, watch the mamma, squeeze tight making sure you get it on correctly. I've messed up plenty of times, had to re-do a tag, cut the old off and put in a new one. Part of learning I guess.

Let it go and send it back to Mamma. With the Red Angus bulls, even our black cows are having a lot of red calves this year. The most I've done in one day is seven. All is well today, do it again tomorrow.

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