Getting Cows Out to Summer Range


{Silly me, I took my good camera but forgot to put a memory card in it so all I had for a camera was my phone.}

A few weeks ago the family moved cows to summer range. It’s been over 15 years since we moved cows to summer range from the Reed Place pasture but due to the lack of adequate grass and dry conditions over the winter months, we had to move our herd to the Reed Place after our branding. On a normal year we keep our cows at home until June 1st, when we move our cows out to summer range.

The majority of the trails we use to get cows moved onto summer range in the Black Hills involve trailing them through a lot of trees and rocks.

This is normal cow trailing scenery in the Black Hills: blind corners, thickets of jack pines, rocky outcroppings, and pine trees.

 Unlike wide open spaces, we usually can’t see too far ahead down the trail. Fortunately, most of the trails we use we know what’s ahead but this year we moved cows on a different trail.

The week beforehand had been windy, damp, cool, and cloudy, but on moving day the sun came out and the wind was calm. The one advantage we had moving cows from this location was that it was a shorter distance to get to our endpoint—the stock tanks. The disadvantage was that we were overconfident in our plans and remembering the trail and we didn’t allow enough margin for errors.

Not only were the cows unfamiliar with the route but the kids were too. I vaguely remembered where we needed to go and even my husband had forgotten one corner of a fence that we had to push cows along before reaching the gravel road.

Pushing cows down a trail they were unfamiliar with went well at the beginning but things changed when they reached a fence we had to push them along until they got around the corner. This is a fenceline prior to our mini wreck.

The cows met the fence too far back before having to round the corner and calves started slipping through a hole in the fence they’d found. Once cows saw their babies on the other side of the fence we had a mess with cows turning back and thickets of jack pine we had to ride around to head off our cows. We ended up having to regroup and drive them across a neighbor’s pasture through the downed fence and through his gate instead of our original plan of going around the fence to the road.

{Photo Unavailable due to the tense moment getting cows headed off, gathering scattered calves and cows, some hollering, maybe a little faulting and blaming, family arguing, and general cow-moving chaos}

We managed to get the herd regrouped and resumed our peaceful cow-trailing on the gravel road.  The kids and I rode horseback and my husband used a four-wheeler, which saved time in running ahead to make sure our cows headed in the right direction at the beginning of our journey.

Here’s the trail boss at our endpoint–subconsciously maintenencing his mustache while assessing the situation.

He also used the four-wheeler to go back for the pickup and horse trailer to save time in having to ride all the way back.

Once we got to the stock tanks horses and riders took a lunch break while waiting for my husband to go back for the pickup and trailer.  This is one set of tanks (you can’t see them very good but they’re by the windmill in the background) we use and what we refer to as 18 mile. We check all our tanks daily to ensure the floats are working properly, kicking water on when needed and don’t get stuck on, running water unecessarily.

The wait time gave the cows and calves a chance to pair up and settle down before we left them on their own.

I took advantage of the wait time tophotograph my cow-moving partners dozing. My son stretched out in the grass:

Some can nap standing up…


This is Bean Dip, or Bean for short.

Once we got the cows moved the family helped get tanks at our spring pasture drained, loaded and hauled along with the mineral feeder and lick tubs trailer. It turned out to be an ideal day to move cows despite our mini chaos moment.

2 responses to “Getting Cows Out to Summer Range”

  1. Stacey Avatar

    Now it wouldn’t be a true cattle drive without some kind of wreck would it? Looked like a beautiful day.

  2. Buttons Avatar

    I am enjoying your blog we have 60 head on our farm right now so I do understand these antics:) Love your photos. B

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