Here's the daily lineup of trucks. This is just one day's worth- shipping the north ranch takes about 4-5 days. Each truck holds about 70-80 exiting cattle. We gather the cattle from the pastures and pen them in this set of pens. I don't have any shots of the actual gathering and penning process right now 'cause I'm too busy actually working the cattle to take pictures. These cattle can be pretty wild and penning them isn't an easy job. We typically gather the cattle from their larger pasture into a 300 acre "shipping trap". Then, the next morning at sunup, we herd them into the pens. After loading the penned cattle, we'll go get another pasture and store them in them in the shipping trap. There's always a couple of really wild head that'll break away and we'll have to go retrieve them, usually after lunch. On the last day, we spend quite a bit of time rounding up the very last stubborn individual cattle- retrieving just 1-2 can take as long as gathering the whole pasture!
For the past 10 years, we've been using primarily ATV's to gather cattle. In the old days, it would take 7-10 cowboys on horses 1 full day (sunup to sundown) to gather the big pasture (10,000 acres, 13 miles across, and 1,000 head). Today, it takes 6-8 cowboys about 3-4 hours to do the same work. We'll typically put about 50-80 miles a day on the ATV's, and it would take at least a couple of horses per rider to cover that kind of ground.
The cattle owner usually brings some horses along to rope the very last strays. This year, 2 steers jumped the pens and escaped into the shipping trap pasture. I sent two ATV's out to get them and they had them all the way into the pen when they jumped another fence and went back into the trap. Sometimes we'll knock the cattle down with an ATV, hobble it, and then retrieve it with a trailer, but with these two we just sent the ropers out. Let THEM get beat up!
This is a shot of about 150 head of cattle waiting to be loaded on the truck. They go thru the scale house in the top right corner, get weighed, and then stay in this pen until the actual loading. Weighing gives us a chance to see what kind of weight gain we got during the summer, how many head will fit on the trucks, and also gives us a head count to see how many might be missing.
Here's the entrance to the scale house. Cattle are run down the alley from the right hand side of picture in groups of 15-20, depending on size. At this time, any strays are cut out and stored in side pens.
My cousin Tyson on the right and our former foreman's grandson Shane on the left, trying to warm up after a morning of gathering cattle. The first day of shipping was beautiful, with 70 deg, no wind, and sunny skies. After that, though, it turned cold and nasty. The third day was foggy w/about 100 yds visibility. This is bad news in a pasture that's 4 miles wide and 1.5 miles deep! The wind chill that day was 20 deg, and that's before we added 20 mph of ATV speed.
Bryan and "Chance". Chance is a Sheltie we got from the pound. He'd been abandonded in a house for 3 weeks by his former owner. I "just happened" to be at the vet's that day and mentioned that I might be looking for a dog. The vet said "Let's see what we've got" and there was Chance. Cost me $16.50 to bail him out of the pound. He's 3 years old now and is a natural. Me and him have herded 250 cattle across a pasture all by ourselves. Whenever an individual gives us trouble, Chance will run in front and jump up and bite the cow's ears and nose and then run around and nip his heels to get him moving again. He's invaluable for moving cattle thru rocky sections where the ATV's slow down, and for breaking up bunches of cattle that have stopped w/out making them panicky. He's one hard-working dog! This is the first year I used him on roundup and he was one tired puppy by the last day.