These days the cold has a more of a slap than a snap to it. It’s not quite the freezing, turn your cheeks to stone kind of cold – but one that reminds you very clearly that Winter is coming. The hair on the cows is all thick and burly, and the calves are getting big and tough, with muscle on their frame after a long spring and summer of wandering the mountains and fields. And so its time for sorting.
Let me take you for a little ride along on sorting day. It starts like this:
When the horses are all standing around together getting saddled, and people are moving and talking with their breath visible in little white puffs, there’s an energy and excitement that fills the air. Though it’s work and a long day ahead, it’s awfully fun to be together.
After we gather up the herd, all of us strung out in a loose circle around the cows (of which I have no pictures sorry, because I was up on my horse and busy helping out) we head to the corrals. It’s a beautiful day, and the fields are left peaceful and quiet for a little bit.
At the corrals its a mishmash of cows bawling and calves dashing here and there, mud flying and boots getting stuck as we try to head off that cow or calf that’s trying to sneak past. It requires some yelling and a lot of strategy, and a whole group of us to work together.
There’s a lot of action, and a lot of waiting around to decide who we want to keep and who needs to get sold and if that cow who lost her tag is A97 or A109. Sometimes we lose a calf (by which I mean they outrun us and disappear back into the herd) and we have to start all over again. Sometimes we change our mind and let one out after we’ve already chased it in with the others.
Once we’ve got everyone in their pens it’s time to head in for lunch, and maybe we’ll do a little sorting afterwards, and possibly give someone a shot if they look sickly, settle for sure on who’s going to sale and and separate that neighbour’s cow that somehow found her way into our back field.
It’s the kind of day that happens often on the farm, a regular occurrence, spring, summer and fall. Good thing for sturdy corrals and nearby family that are happy to help out!