It’s one of the best times of the year on the ranch — shipping yearlings!
The PV Ranch backgrounds all its own calves in the feedlot here in the Yellowstone Valley. The calves are weaned from the cows in the fall, then spend 6 or 7 months eating silage and hay and grain in the feedlot. After they’ve turned a year old, the calves are dispersed each year: the replacement heifers go out to pasture here on the ranch, steers and spayed heifers go to pasture in Wyoming, and a third group of heifers will be AI’d and offered up for sale.
The steers are the first to go this year — they’ll ship out to Wyoming today and tomorrow. Though we received an inch and two-tenths of rain last night, which is A LOT of rain for this country, the work must go on — the trucks are hired and a few of them even pulled in last night. It’s a familiar sound I’ve been accustomed to and reassured by since my childhood, the rumble of the big rigs as they pull into the yard in the middle of the night… because that sound always means that tomorrow will be a shipping day.
For us, shipping the yearlings out of the feedlot is a sure sign that we made it through another winter. It is passing the responsibility for, the burden of, these particular animals to another ranch. And because nobody around here loves the feedlot — it is, admittedly, the grossest part of the ranch (and the months when it’s empty are a relief) — it just feels good to think about these muddy calves that have lived in captivity for so long hopping off a truck in Wyoming and finding themselves belly-deep in the summery freedom of miles and miles of green grass.
A few pics I got this morning:
Wearing yellow slickers, Joe and Jacob count calves off the scale. Dr. Dick Cunningham is brand-inspecting.
They hadn’t started loading the calves on the trucks yet when I was down there a few minutes ago. (I was handing out breakfast burritos. A couple of the truckers thought I should charge them for the burritos. Hmmm… I just might do that next year!)
The trucks are lined up waiting for their loads. They’ll drive to Wyoming today and return here for their second loads tomorrow.
The crew will be at my house for lunch. Fajitas!
© Tam Blake