Raising cattle is hard work

Farm Forum

Raising cattle is a long-ago occupation Mary Ann and I had and it went well throughout the years. However, it is very hard to tell this far along whether or not it was ever a profit-making endeavor.

But we have lots of fond memories of those days when we used to have 300 mother cows to calve out every spring.

It seems as though we always had to work the cattle or calves. There was constant vaccinations, dehorning, castrating, pouring, hoof trimming, pink-eye treatment, pregnancy checking, weighing of calves at birth and weaning time, pelvic measuring, re-tagging both cows and calves and myriad approved practices that always were necessary if you were to have a successful herd.

Working cattle always brought out the frustration of having cattle not do what they were supposed to do. Trial and error brought us to the conclusion that help was always needed to round up the herd, sort and send them down the chute to the cattle catcher. There were numerous jobs that were associated with working cattle. Someone had to run the catcher, someone had to fill the catching pen with cattle/calves, someone had to send them down the chute and vaccinate.

Somehow that very dangerous and dirty job always went to Mary Ann. I can still see her covered with loose manure, hollering and urging those reluctant bovines to continue down the chute to the catching machine. She never complained about her task, although it was not very savory, but she did her job brilliantly. A quick shower and change of clothes and she always looked like a million bucks afterward.

Just rounding up the herd was exasperating. Cows are smart and if they sense or see the smallest weak point in a roundup they will head for it. They know that some sort of treatment is in store for them and they will resist any kind of attempt to bring them into the working corrals.

Walking on foot was just wasted effort for the most part, but usually with pickups we could finally move them along into the corrals. We soon learned that some fences needed to be built with lots of “Vs” in order to catch them all in one place. We used horses at one time, but using horses a few times a year usually involved some rodeo riding and unwilling animals to perform the way they should.

However, with the advent of the ATV four-wheelers, the reluctant bovines just knew they were defeated. In fact, just seeing these new vehicles made the whole herd much more cooperative because they knew they couldn’t outrun an ATV. The advent of the ATV to the rancher was well-invited and made life much easier. In fact, our present pasture renter, Karl Eichler, is a master at working his cattle alone and with his ATV can just about do everything it used to take a whole crew to accomplish.

With the help from great neighbors, like Bob Wendt and his son-in-law, Jerry Braun, we always got the herd worked in record time and we were always so thankful we had neighbors we could rely on to help out. We will be forever grateful to folks like them who were always there to help.

Nuff said.

Gerald “Jerry” Krueger is a retired educator, coach, commercial pilot and farmer. Write him at His column publishes Mondays.