Working & Feeding the Cattle

This will be in Notes About Growing Up, which I am editing now.  This is a story about my Granddad’s Hereford cattle….

TR, like a lot of farmers in the area, was really a “stock farmer”.  That is, besides the crops he raised he also had livestock too, in his case a herd of Hereford cattle.  I do not recall how many he had exactly but let’s say around a 100 perhaps.  Some of our relatives on the Turner side of the family, the Calhoun’s, had cattle too but we were not around their herds like we were TR’s.  And that is the tale here, being around his cattle especially when we fed and “worked” them over the years.

Feeding the cattle was a daily task in the winter when the grass was dead or non-existent.  During the cold months they were fed hay which was stored in the big barn on the Roach place.  The routine was pretty simple; we would back a pickup, or TR’s beat up light green El Camino into the big barn and load it with bales of hay.  Next, we would drive to the pasture the cattle were in, they were moved around some so the grass, depending on the time of the year, would not be overgrazed.

When we got to the herd we would stop, drop the tailgate, cut the wires of a bale, and kick it off the back of the vehicle. And repeat that until all of the hay was unloaded.   The cattle knew the drill and gathered around each bale that we dropped off for them.  Cattle are not real smart but they do know what food is and who brings it to them, they are creatures of habit if you will.

Speaking of them knowing that the humans meant food, I can recall twhen we would drive up to the barns and if the herd was in the pasture there they would mosey on over to us expecting some hay.  The “cow in charge” or the bull would lead the way and the rest of them would fall in line behind them and stroll over to us.  We called that slow, bovine procession the “Cow Parade”.  As a side note for you city dwellers a “cow” is a grown female, a “bull” is a grown male, a “heifer” is a young female, and a “steer” is a young castrated male.  Castrated you say?  Yes castrated, which brings us to “working” the cattle.

When the calves were born and had matured some they were “worked”.  This process consisted of separating the males from the females.  Both groups then got injections to keep them well, I forget what disease they were treated for, but the needles were big enough to scare a little kid watching what was going on.  And the calves did not seem to like it either.

Next, the males were “dehorned”, some type of substance was plastered on their beginning to grow horns to stop them from getting any bigger.  Then the real fun began, the males were all castrated.  One of the grownups would grab the calf, roll him over, and another would get a knife and whack off his testicles and then apply some medicine to make it heal and not get infected. The calf, now a steer, did not enjoy this at all and many times bellowed out when they were cut.  But that did not last long at all and soon enough they were back to running around and playing with their brothers and sisters of the herd.  This is where “Rocky Mountain Oysters” – calf fries – come from too.  They come from the seas of the plains not the oceans that are the seas.

I will say some of the calves took great offense to being neutered.  I remember one time when my Dad was helping with this and he got kicked in HIS testicles by an angry calf.  He grabbed himself and fell over face first into the dust and dirt of the corral, at the Leach place’s little barn, like a scene out of some “B” grade western movie.  Something to think about if and when you have some calf fries, eh?

Feeding and working the cattle was a regular event, as is it with many types of stock.  And it is not done to be cruel to the calves but in the end keeps the males from fighting and killing each other to get to the females.  Standard procedure if you own stock and is not something that the PETA fanatics should fear. I wonder how many of them have ever been around a farm.  If they had been, and had gotten kicked in the nuts like my Dad, they might understand and know better, right?  I think so too.

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