Notes from Windward: #70

This Fall's Cattle Roundup


      Each season here on the southern edge of the Cascadian Wilderness has its charms and challenges. In late summer, early fall, a recurring challenge involves dealing with hungry range cattle. Each year we improve our defenses in an effort to minimize the damage, and each year the cattle are happy to point out where we still have more work to do.


     The first pass through by the range cattle saw some damage to one of our apple trees. The fence was too close to the tree, and the cows were able to reach over the fence and munch on the leaves on that side of the young tree.

     Andrew's working on improving the lower half of the sheep's summer pen, an area accessed by a 12' wide gate. Since it's sealed off from the upper half, where the sheep are currently hanging out, there wasn't any need to close the gate. The other morning, I was delighted to see that the range cows had decided to go through the gate and check out what Andrew's been up to.

the range cattle checking out the summer pen

     I went directly and closed the gate before putting in a call to our County's Range Officer. He in turn called the owner of the cows.

     By the time the range cattle come down out of the woods to bother us, they're ready to be moved to their winter grazing range down along the Columbia River. Their owner usually has to bring in horses and dogs to round them up, so he was delighted that we had them corralled. We made arrangements for him to show up the next morning with a stock trailer.

the welcomed arrival of the stock trailer

     The fence around the summer pen was designed to keep two hundred pound sheep in, so it remained an open question as to whether the fence design would retain cows who weighed a thousand pounds and more. Come the next morning, I was quite pleased to see that the cows had spent a quiet night and were awaiting their ride to the river.

backing up to the gate

     The owner arrived right on time hauling in a long stock trailer. He backed the trailer up to the gate for the upper half of the pen, and we slowly, calmly walked behind the cattle moving them towards the trailer.

     The key thing to remember with these sorts of critters is to position yourself opposite of the direction to want them to go. As you then move towards them, they'll move away from you‒in the direction you want them to go.

planning our strategy

     There was a good deal of pushing and shoving amongst the cows ("You go first!"; "No, you go first") as they got themselves up and into the stock trailer, but all in all, the exercise when quite smoothly. The owner was very appreciative of the help rounding up the cows, and we were very pleased to see them out of here for another year.

     While some damage was done to one apple tree, all in all, it was a small "tax" to pay, much smaller than what the deer charge us each year for living in "their" forest.

the "pruned on one side" apple tree

When working with animals such as cows, you can figure on things either turning out well or awful. Because of the way that we'd built our gates and fencing, it was easy enough to move the cattle where we wanted them without confusing or spooking them.

     Once they start to panic, there's no telling how things will turn out. It's much better to ensure‒through thoughtful planning and calm execution‒that things go right the first time.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 70