Woke up to snow and wind this morning. It made me think back on the sunny days of summer. I went back and looked at some of the photos I took while on the road this summer. On the crest of the hill in the distance you can see a windmill. It was a “real” one that still pumped water into a stock tank for cattle on the range far from home.
Here in Montana there is still a fair amount of open range. Open range makes my job easier because I don’t have to figure out how to negotiate fences to do my job. On the other hand if there are cattle in an area with a fence it can make my job easier because I don’t have to worry about them when that fence is between us. Most of the time if there are cattle I don’t worry too much, open range or fenced pasture. I just keep my distance. Range cattle don’t generally crowd you since to them you are not the food train at this time of year and unless they see you as a problem with their young, you likely won’t have problems.
The exception to all this is bulls. You need to be aware of there are bulls in the area. Earlier in the season I seldom ran into them. Now it is the time when ranchers turn the bulls into the lands with the cows, and I almost always find a few bulls in with the cows and calves out on the range. Only once did I get into a fenced area with them, and it was only because it was a required count of that specific spot. Even that time, I was a good distance away and I think that my grasshopper counts may have been off because I always had at least one eye on what the bulls were doing, where they were moving and how interested they were in me. A bull can move faster than I can run, so I definitely want to avoid any encounter.
Like in the city you choose not to put yourself in danger by staying out of shady neighborhoods or going out alone to certain places. I can now pick the bulls out of a herd as I drive down the road, I no longer need to stop and study the cattle to see if there a bulls before I decide to get out. Like the city, I choose to avoid the personal risk. Nothing is likely to happen to me, but just like urban dwellers I choose not to put myself at risk when I don’t have to.
This is the time of year that ranchers move their cattle from spring lands to summer lands. It happens after the calves have been born, branded and vaccinations have been given. Summer lands may be leased or owned, but are generally in higher elevations away from the main homestead. It is not a great picture, but here is a photo I snapped when I ran in some cattle being moved last week.
For those of you curious about this all, the county I was in last week had just under 2,000 people. According to data I could find they sold approximately 45,0000 head of cattle last year. This does not include the cattle that they kept for breeding stock for this year. If you ever wonder about the food on your table and where it may have come from, your beef may have come from one of the many cattle herds in Montana.
Last Sunday when we came home there were cattle in an area they are not normally found in. They were all over the railroad tracks, the right-of-way and even milling around the local grain elevator.
We live in open range country which means if you don’t want cattle you fence them out. The railroad puts up fences and cattle guards to keep cattle off the tracks. It turns out that someone came up the tracks to spray for weeds and thought they would only be an hour or so so left the gate open. When they went to leave the cattle were in, and he did not know how to get them out so left the gate open assuming they would leave. What this meant is the rancher had to come down and herd the cattle back out and close the gate. Other than being a pain in the but nothing bad happened. No cattle were lost.
My mom always hollered after us kids to close the door. The same is true for any gate you come upon when you go out into the country to ride horses, bicycle, ATVs, or hike. If you found it open, leave it open. If you found it closed, close it immediately after you go through. Not later when you return, but now. You are a guest at best, trespassing at worst. You don’t don’t know why the gate was as you found it but there is a reason for it.