So just why is it that ranchers need to go look at pastures and cows and horses every day? When I was in the Panhandle, the term used was “prowling pastures” (actually, prowln’). The cowboy is looking at, and looking for. As he ambles along, he notices the condition of the grass. If there is any. Someday he might begin to see certain kinds of weeds. Some of these are good, edible plants like forbes, burr clover and sedge. He’ll also notice if the pasture is getting too short too fast, an indication that it’s being overgrazed. If there is adequate fencing, it’s time to move that herd. It might’ve been time to move last week!
Let’s say that you are riding along with this cowboy, checking the cows. When you get to the herd, you look for new calves born since yesterday and note their mama’s number in your tally book (mine’s now my cell phone). And you note the gender, and the color. We used to weigh the calves to get birthweight. This was so we would know if a given bull was throwing too big a calf, a sure way to injure some cows and render them infertile. That puts a strain on weaned calf percentage, which in turn affects the bottom line. With the margin that most ranchers live with, that bottom line is rarely a black one anyway. Prowling along, you look for calves who don’t seem to be doing well or cows with problems such as worms or lice. You look to see if it’s time to “gather” and treat with some spray or pour-on, or fly tag. You check the salt feeders to see if they have enough salt blocks and loose mineral. If not, tomorrow you’ll be firing up the old ranch pick-up to pack salt in. Or, if you are in some of the more remote areas, you’ll spend the day packing up mules and panniers for the trip out to the hills and valleys to put out salt and mineral.
Oh, yeah, and this happens even when it’s raining, freezing, blazing, with wind thirty miles an hour blowing sand in your face, or when you have to push through mesquite thorns and wait-a-minute vines in hundred degree heat! It takes a “cow person” and a cow-horse with some serious “want to”. And if you think a four wheeler can go anywhere a cow or a horse can, you need to come ride with us!