Two weeks ago we picked up our first group of cows that we pasture on a Provincial Grazing Reserve an hour and a half west of us. It is an action packed busy day that starts very early in the morning and usually doesn’t end until early evening. All the patrons who have cattle in that herd show up and to help sort the animals. The cattle are brought in by the cowboys and “filtered” through a series of pens before they come to the actual corral area where they are sorted. The corral system is similar to a wagon wheel.
The patrons stand on a catwalk by the gates to their pen (the spokes of the “wagon wheel”) which has their individual patron number on it. The cattle come down the alley way and as the animal comes by, you call out the patron number that you read off a tag in the cow or calf’s ear. It’s like a game of telephone and if your number is called, you better get ready to open your gate as the cow or calf walks (or runs usually) by. Sometimes you “catch” multiple cows that aren’t your own…those get sorted at the end. Other times you miss your cow or calf, they end up in a “stray” pen in the middle (the hub of the “wagon wheel”). Those animals are ran through again and again until there is nothing left (or there is true stray). Once all the cows and calves are sorted into their owners pens, they are counted to see if there were any lost. On the pasture we are on, there is usually some death loss to a wolf pack that lives in the area and likes to prey on calves. Last year we suffered a loss of three calves (at the time for a 500 lb calf that was $2550 in loss), and this year, fortunately all our cows and calves were accounted for.
All in all, we sort about 800 animals in 2 hours!