Feedback on Caring for Cattle in Winter

Readers weigh in with further advice and pointers for keeping cattle on the range during winter.

| May/June 1976

As a veterinarian in range practice on the northern plains, I was very much interested in the article by T.J. Gilles on wintering range cattle. Our practice covers an area of more than seven thousand square miles, so we're exposed to many different types of cattle management . . . and maybe some of our observations might be of value to today's back-to-the-landers.

In our part of the country branding, dehorning, castration, and vaccination of the spring's calves are all taken care of early in the summer, about the time that most of the young animals are three months old . . . and yes, I do recommend that all these procedures (which any livestock owner can learn to do himself in a short time) be done to your cattle.

BRANDING. Most ranchers of our acquaintance use ear tags . . . but only in addition to the traditional practice of branding because the loss of even the most secure tags is sometimes unavoidable and can really be a problem on pastures with dense brush. Another reason for a brand is that rustlers are still alive and well among us, and it's not unusual for a large cache of "green" hides to be discovered . . . the identification of these cattle skins would be impossible without the practice of branding.

Brands aren't really that difficult to acquire, either. Your state livestock board usually has a listing of available designs and the recording fee for the registration of your own mark is minimal. If you have a buddy who is a good welder, you might talk him into making your irons . . . which will then allow you to identify your livestock (very inexpensively) in the time-honored way.

CASTRATION. As I glance through the pages of MOTHER, I get the impression that her impact is not so much on the big-time operators who own tens of thousands of acres of land, but more on you homesteaders who have much smaller spreads . . . and who provide for yourselves from the intensive and careful management of your holdings.

For this reason control of your livestock is vital to the proper use of your own property and the maintenance of good relations with your neighbors. The last thing you need—in other words—is a gang of playful, half-grown bulls touring the community to survey next spring's prospects. Castration will keep your herd more peaceful, simplify interstate shipments (should you make any), and put money in your pocket in the sale ring. A veterinarian or successful stockman will be more than glad to show you the proper method of carrying out the surgery so that you can perform it yourself.

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