March 22, 2007

Worth Pure Gold

I run a small herd of cattle on a seasonal basis. That means during the summer months in Island Park. The growing season is only four months long. There is too much snow and it is too cold for a year-round livestock operation. But when the cattle are placed on those summer ranges, they will gain around two pounds a day. Once they have gained their weight, they are usually shipped to feedlots where they will gain another 200 - 300 pounds to reach their "finished" weight. They then meet up with the "hamburger fairy" as they enter the human food chain. Cruel world - isn't it?

So here we are - just a couple of months out from starting up again this year. We will get cattle on the grass late May or early June and then take them off mid-September. At both ends of the process they are weighed on livestock scales, which are balancing platforms at ground level that measure about 10' by 12' surrounded by a corral. The animals are pushed onto the scales, their collective weight is recorded in the adjacent scale house, then divided by the number of head for an average weight. The difference between your starting weight and your ending weight multiplied by the going rate per liveweight pound is what you are paid by the feedlot. Hopefully you come out ahead. After all - why else would you be doing this?

That morning in late September when we penned these cattle into the corral, it was snowing, blowing and cold. When I saddled up Rory my 16 hand 1300 lb. Pinto, I brushed the snow off his wet cold back and then off the saddle before I got on. The first few minutes were pretty wild, as horses crow hop and buck in such circumstances with a cold back. Rory didn’t break the mold, but settled down after a few minutes and then went to work turning and penning the steers. Three of us were working the cattle that morning. We were able to get them out of Island Park and down into the valley before the roads became impassable. All in all it was a succesful day with a nice check at the end. If you look close at this photo, you'll see my Idaho brand on the left hip - "Lazy Quarter Circle K"

Worth Pure Gold
by Paul Kern

It’s been a good year for the cattle situation,
Beef’s high thanks to Atkin’s innovation,
That helps people of every persuasion,
Shed that pesky patina of civilization.

The doctor’s formula is tried and true,
But it’s really nothing very new,
Throw a lot more beef into your stew,
Some peas and potatoes - but only a few.

Every ounce on those cloven feet,
Is worth pure gold on the market o’ meat,
Keep ‘em out of the cold and out of the sleet,
Contented, well fenced and out of the heat.

If you do all this, that you’ve been told,
You’ll get a big check once they’re sold,
Their weight gain per day steady will hold,
At least two pounds for a one year old.

Early in the mornin’ of the first snow,
We corralled and penned ‘em ready to go,
Into the truck and the trailer - all in a row,
We got each one in and had ‘em in tow.

When we got ‘em down to the feedlot scales,
There’d been leakage underneath their tails,
We waited our turn amid the stockyard smells,
Pushed open the door and the steers down the rails.

Now all that liquidity there on the floor,
Hadn’t been there an hour before,
Musta’ been a hundred pounds or more,
Or - a hundred bucks less - that they’d go for.

The floor of the scales got me to believin’
That I’d probably at least break even.
In front stood a bunch with sides a heavin’-
I’d come out ahead or maybe more -
Due to the liquidity they were leavin’.

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