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Working Cattle: A Family Farm Dance

Working Cattle: A Family Farm Dance
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Living on a Family Farm is never dull and there’s always something to learn. Just ask anyone who’s grown up jumping across hay bales.  Our kids are all finally old enough to participate in working cattle in some way or another.

Now, being a full time farmer, The Daddy is used to working cattle by himself or with 2-3 other people. Needless to say, it’s a bit more challenging to orchestrate 16 people into this process we like to call “The Dance” (not the Garth Brooks’ kind) . It’s something that has to be learned.

a drawing The Head Mother did for Pete’s birthday

For instance: when sorting cattle, if 2 people are together, one in front of the other, you have to move to the same side or you’ll confuse the cattle as to the direction you want them to go.

Another learned step is staying out from in from of them when trying to get them loaded in the shoot and into the head-gate. Seems like common sense, right? Not exactly! But when you’re 8 years old and fascinated by the size of these bovine, you don’t think about your body being a foreign object in their peripheral vision. We tell the kids, “Scoot over and get out of their line of sight and BE STILL!”

(As a side note, when Peter and I were still in the baby/toddler stage, The Head Mother would often stay with the youngins at the house, while I learned the moves on the farm.)

As the sun comes up and slowly burns off the dew, folks are already busy. Some put up gates to form an alley into the loading pens, while others block gaps with vehicles and bodies.

The younger ones help form a “human wall” to come up behind the cattle as they follow The Farmer (aka PawPaw) who rides on the John Deere Gator. Yes, he has them Gator trained…

the human wall

Ideally, all goes smoothly and the cattle go right into the lot they’re supposed to. But sometimes there’s a runaway calf or a flat tire that upsets the whole production. This is farming, people! Key word: FLEXIBILITY! It’s important to have a plan, but be ready for a monkey wrench-or any piece of metal-to be thrown into your day at any given time.

Now for the various dance moves:

*The Daddy is the conductor, but also serves as shot giver, head catcher, ear tagger.

*The older ones (ages 21-13), which in God’s providence are all still around, are learning to sort and drive the calves into the shoot.

Yes, a lot of modern farmers wear ear buds while working!

*One has learned the art of banding, a dirty job if ever there was one…

*One person worms (she’ll never have to worry about getting worms herself…)

*This year we had one learning what pink eye looks like and when you should administer “Liquid Gold” aka LA 200 medicine.

*Book keeper & syringe re-filler (my job for now)

*One to hand the [amazon_textlink asin=’B000HHLL7W’ text=’syringe guns’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’besidethecreek-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’66a3565b-9ee1-11e7-94dc-dbdc1aa93ccb’] to The Daddy, which are kept in a cooler with ice packs along with the medicine to refill them.)

*One to refill the [amazon_textlink asin=’B01CZ0NCK2′ text=’banding tool ‘ template=’ProductLink’ store=’besidethecreek-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a3c4c087-9ee1-11e7-8d8c-6701a70b0581′]after each bull

*[amazon_textlink asin=’B0042LBXA4′ text=’Ear tagger’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’besidethecreek-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’bf49e2bb-9ee1-11e7-a8bd-6768b7dcae73′] filler & writer

*One even stood beside the banding man with the cutter at arm’s reach.

Farmer talk & lunch

Now, you might be thinking, “That’s crazy! You can work cattle with way less people and get it done way faster.” That might be true, but we are training the next generation. Really, the whole process only took about 5 hours to work around 50 head. In the grand scheme of things, that’s no time at all. 🙂

We realize that out of the 13 grandchildren, none of them may take up farming as a career, but then again, over half of them may! Regardless of where the Lord directs their steps, they will take with them: teamwork, knowledge about the process of where hamburger comes from, memories of dirt, sweat, and cow manure, plus the added bonus of occasionally being ‘wormed’ as children! 🙂
They will attend many dances and balls in their young lives, but none will match the carefully choreographed Family Farm Dance.