Producers and Their Cows

by Amy on February 23, 2011

Part of the reason people don’t know much about cattle handling practices is because the cattlemen are busy spending time with their cows. Ranchers are committed to raising and caring for their stock to the best of their ability which means getting frequent updates on their herd.

Numbered ear tags serve as an identification and reference system but true cowmen know their herd by each cow’s characteristics. Over time, a producer learns the particulars on every cow whether he runs thirty or 1,000 head.

One way ranchers remember a cow is through incidences that occur while dealing with them which help in recalling details about that cow later. It doesn’t take many times being chased up a fence to remember which cow gets mean or doesn’t want anybody approaching her calf. Cows that jump fences repeatedly or lead other cows astray gain a reputation. Good and bad momma cows are never forgotten and problems with lameness, sickness or other difficulties that a cow had in the past reinforces the memory of that animal.

Dealing with cattle nearly every day means consistent interaction that provides producers with observations and opportunities to study every cow’s behavior and disposition and help to make abnormalities or changes stand out.  Regular interaction also gets a herd used to sights and sounds of humans, horses, four-wheelers and pickups, making cattle calmer and less skittish when handled.

It’s not unheard of that ranchers interact with cows more than humans. Some people are uncomfortable being stared at. If a rancher enjoys looking at a nice set of calves run past him or likes watching his good looking cows walk by, he can check them out without getting dirty looks for such behavior.

Cattlemen strive to be reputable producers and provide their stock with better health care than they do for themselves. A cow’s physical condition affects her calf before, during and after gestation and cattlemen do a lot of strategizing to ensure optimal herd health through adequate minerals, feed, and water. A herd’s nutritional needs may be a top priority but rancher’s are generally clueless about the nutrients their own bodies are lacking. I’ve seen some top notch calves owned by producers that looked a bit shoddy. There are some good cowmen who skip breakfast, chug Mountain Dew to wash down a hastily eaten candy bar, and look sleep-deprived yet are extremely fussy about their herd’s diet. I’ve also been around producers who looked stressed while trying to keep their cattle from getting stressed during handling. 

Like caring parents, a good rancher is dedicated to being involved in each cow’s life and knows his decisions and involvement is instrumental in overall herd health. Producers take their responsibility for every cow’s well-being seriously and personally. They worry about them and want to know where their cows are at, who they’re hanging out with, what they’re doing and how they’re behaving. Ranchers regularly show up unannounced to check on them.

Nobody knows the history on a producer’s cows better than he does. He knows what his cow’s needs are and what’s best for them. Ranchers take pride in their herd and nothing compliments a rancher more than the mention of his cows.

This column was originally published November 8-14, 2008

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Doug Feltman February 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I really enjoy your articles Amy. I was raised on a ranch south of Chamberlain and in 1972 moved to Mitchell where I was a Police Officer for 34 years, retireing as Chief of Public Safety in 2006. In May of 2006 I moved back to the ranch and really enjoying my second life.

Your articles are so true to life and down to earth about ranch and country life. It is sad to say but soooo many people have no idea what it takes to raise what we eat and how we have to take care of it. Thanks for you help in spreading the word, Keep it up!!!!!!1

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