Spring Cattle Drive - May 20, 2009


Jennifer BurtwistleLast Fall I promised to tell you about driving our cattle home from our west pastures. However, that adventure didn’t go quite as planned.

It started out as a drizzly day, and quickly progressed to a windy day with horizontal freezing rain, not at all conducive to photography – especially when I forgot the camera. My husband, Jim, and I arrived at the west pastures with a manual transmission diesel pickup with his ATV loaded in the back. I had just had eye surgery and was not seeing particularly well, and am generally not allowed to drive the stick shift vehicles since I tend to ‘round off the gears’. Jim is an excellent herdsman, and is gentle with his cattle, so they trust him and come to his calls. He started calling them as we drove into the pasture, and they began to follow the pickup as planned. Jim was going to have them follow him on the ATV and my job was to meet them on the road to help drive them home. But, to make matters more complicated, the ATV refused to start, and the herd was surrounding us, understanding that it was time for them to head home. Jim decided to walk ahead of them, in the freezing rain, across the pasture. It had to be a very long mile for him, but he looked very much like the Pied Piper with his entire herd behind him. I snapped a couple of photos with my cell phone, but you can imagine what those looked like. It took awhile, but I found my way to the gate and met him on the road, and we drove the herd home. After hot showers, dry clothes, and a pot of coffee, we were finally warm.

Driving the herd out to the west pastures yesterday was, by contrast, a splendid adventure. Aside from yet another ATV incident, flat tire this time, all went reasonably well.

Jim, our son, Will, and Jim’s brother, Rich, rounded up the herd at around 6:00 a.m. The cattle seem to know when it is time to travel and they were eager to head out. I say that because they were literally running toward the west, making it hard for their month-old calves to keep up. We drive cattle using ATV’s rather than horses now – partly because our horses are old and deserve a rest, and partly because ATV’s stop when you want them to. [photo 1 – to come]

The cows did not keep up their initial pace and slowed considerably after a mile or so. The guys were headed across neighboring pastures, a distance of approximately 6 miles. I stayed home to prepare a picnic lunch and met them with the diesel and trailer when they reached the highway. Crossing a highway with a herd of cattle can range from being tricky to disastrous, but this year was remarkably uneventful. There was no traffic from either direction, so the cattle crossed and headed down the gravel road on the way to the west pastures. As mentioned earlier, one ATV blew a tire when Jim ran over a broken off tree stump, so we loaded the ATV into the trailer, and Jim hopped into the pickup with me. Our daughter, Laura, agreed to walk to help drive the herd. Will gave her a ride to catch up with the cattle. 

ATV and trailer 

4/11/2010 2:56:40 PM

That all sounds fascinating and alot of work. We have a hard time handling one tiny calf let alone hundreds of cattle. Good luck. Lisa Spring Peeper Farm

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