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 manage m e n t

By Steve Kenyon

the redneck cattle drive

A horseless cattle drive.

I

was at a very large cattle ranch this spring that was very traditional in that everything was done on horseback. As the manager stated, “If these boys can’t hold a rope in their hand, they won’t do it.” I like the fact that they are keeping the tradition alive and it was a very impressive operation to see. On my ranch however, I have found that I just can’t get enough done in a day on horseback. I will admit, I am a quad cowboy, and a bit of a redneck. Crossing a pasture with multiple electric cross fences is so much faster on a quad and I have trouble carrying barbed wire on a horse.   Let me tell you a bit of a story. Quite a few years ago I had to do a cattle drive in the fall to get a herd to a new pasture I had just added to my cell. The cattle owner was happy to get some fall pasture so he said he would bring out eight cowboys to help with the cattle drive. (Free labour.) This seemed like a better plan than hiring a stock trailer. The plan was

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to move the cattle about six miles down the road and we only had a half-mile that was not fenced on one side. Other than driveways and crossroads, it looked like a pretty easy drive. A couple horses in back, a lead truck and eight horses along the sides to keep cattle out of the hayfield, should be plenty of horsepower. There were a couple of driveways near the hayfield that I knew might be an issue and I had a thought to put up a fake electric fence across them just to help the cowboys out.   It started out fine. We got past a driveway. Perfect. We then crossed a side road. Easy.  We even made it past the hayfield without a glitch. The cowboys were experienced riders and did exactly as they were supposed to and we were heading on up the road like pros. But, as the road narrowed between two farm sites, the cattle balked and turned back. The first thing they did was pile into a driveway. “There goes my fake fence,” I said to myself, but no… they respected it and headed back out to the hayfield. 

This flimsy little wire with no electricity tied to a couple shrubs stopped the herd of 300 head. But to get into the hayfield the herd had to get past 10 horses. The cattle blew right by and started up a square dance party in the centre of the hayfield. They took turns calling out moves and they do-se-doed with the cowboys for a good hour. We tried everything to get them moving back out onto the road and past the farmyards. We allemanded left, we allemanded right, we bribed, we called, we chased, we huffed and we puffed. It was not fun. Eventually they tired out enough that they decided to head on down the road. We finally made it to the pasture but we were not done. In the chaos we had a few escapees to collect. Now it was time for these cowboys to practise their roping. Let’s just say the day did not go well. I created negative relationships with a neighbour, a customer and everyone else who helped out that day.   

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