Posted by Connor McCauley on

March 30 2024

Cowboy Task Of The Month

Thursday was the start of a new season at TriTails. With spring in the air, it is time to start working cattle. Over the next few weeks, we will thoroughly go through the herd to give them special care. It's like a yearly checkup you would have with your doctor. This is a crucial process to ensure our cattle are healthy and loved. However, cattle workings are more than just cattle checkups; they are integrated into Texas ranching culture. It is a gathering of cowboys from ranches all over the area to assist and help each other. It is a time when I see the differences in cultures compared to my previous life in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

One slightly comparable aspect of a Texas cattle rancher's life versus my life in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the gathering of fellow workers. I say slightly comparable because although I'm not Amish, I saw the Amish having get-togethers for such working events growing up. They would have days when a whole community would gather to harvest or raise a barn. Likewise, the Texas cowboy does a very similar thing when working cattle. Fellow cowboys help others in their community get the work done.

Our day started bright and early. Sam, my father-in-law and owner of Harrell Ranch, was the first out of bed. He started breakfast for the ten of us, including the seven cowboys on horseback. By 6 AM, we were all gathered in the kitchen, praying for safety and giving thanks. After a delicious breakfast, all the cowboys headed off to collect their gear and load up horses.

My unique duty for the day was to gather pictures and videos to share with you and the website. I was lucky enough to have such a beautiful day to do so. As I drove side by side behind the two trucks and horse trailers, the sun peeked over the horizon, lighting the large and vast Texas landscape. In the west, an almost full moon was glowing bright even against the deep blue morning sky.

At the rendezvous, the cowboys gathered and unloaded their horses. They then went out in two groups to gather cattle in the surrounding pastures and push them towards the pins where we would work them. It is always an experience to see cowboy hats and spurs on boots. It is like being in an old Wild West movie and experiencing a different culture than the one I grew up in. It was a privilege to photograph them on such a beautiful morning.

Once we arrived at the pins, it was time to separate the moms from their calves. We did this because the moms would not be pushed through the chutes and would require different care than the calves.

The calves have their ears marked, and the boys are to be neutered. For cattle, neutering is not as painful as it is for other animals like a dog. The boys are back in the pastures, happy as can be, with no recovery time. 

With the moms sorted, it is time to spray them down with a solution to help keep the files off of them during the summer. This helps them stay happy and prevents diseases. Once they are sprayed down, we keep them outside the chute to wait for their calves.

It was exciting to observe the cowboy's skill throughout the process as each accomplished their task. Most of these folks grew up riding horses; for them, it is second nature. Things like sorting cattle are highly skilled tasks that involve impeccable horse riding skills. Caring for calves is also a highly skilled chore as the cowboys need to care gently for the animals and make them comfortable in high-stress situations. This is not something an average person would be capable of doing, but only people with decades of experience or generational knowledge.

With all the cattle settled and happily grazing, it was time for us to head back home. Looking at the herd and reflecting on the whole thing reminded me a lot of going to the doctor as a kid. It was never the most fun to be poked and prodded at, but it was for better health in the long run. It made me realize that ranchers are caretakers who love their animals. They have an invested interest in them, forming a bond. You'll hear me say occasionally that ranchers have rough hands and gentle hearts. Every year, this is confirmed to me more and more.

I am compelled to address a common misconception here. I often think about the vegan movement and groups that claim to be animal activists but are entirely against ranchers. I think about how they claim to have a heart for animals by not eating meat. From what I have seen and experienced, these people could not be more against these animals. They group ranchers into a stereotype of being cruel by using videos that don't accurately portray the vast majority and are sometimes even fake. They often grasp wildly at inaccuracies like for instance, putting a Holstein on a "don't eat me" billboard. Not many people eat dairy cattle, by the way.

The truth is I see time and time again ranchers caring and loving these animals. The cattle at ranches I've been to have ample land to roam, water, food, protection from predators, healthcare, and love they would not have in the wild. Ranchers and cattle have a dependency on one another. These are domesticated animals, and if we stopped eating meat, these animals would dwindle into almost nothing, and with no Cattle, there would be no ranchers. I have yet to see a vegan care for a cow, and I would make the bet that they never will do so on any scale. The only people capable of giving cattle extraordinary lives are American ranchers. At the Harrell ranch, we are happy to be a part of raising happy, healthy cattle.

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