November 2018
On the Edge of Common Sense

Ear Tag Identification

Good ranch managers often use numbered ear tags to monitor their herd more closely. Clem thought Reg ought to give up and start all over again. They had moved the pairs that were mothered up to the east pasture down the road. Accidentally, calf number R31 had gone with that bunch. His mama had been left behind. In his I.D. number the R stood for red. His mama’s number was also R31 but her tag was yellow. In the record book she was listed as YR31. Her calf was listed as BYR31. There was also a cow in the herd with a red tag numbered 31 (R31 in the book).

Mama YR31 was bawlin’ and missin’ her calf. Reg asked Clem to haul her to the pasture and find her calf. On the way he asked him to pick up a dry cow they’d left in a trap.

When Clem reached the pasture, he had two cows loaded in the 16-foot stock trailer. They were separated by the inside gate. Sure enough a calf came runnin’ toward the trailer. He was black brockle just like the cow. She went to bellerin’. Unfortunately, she was in the front. Clem couldn’t coax her out the side escape hatch. So, somehow he smashed the dry cow between the inside gate and the side of the trailer with a piece of cotton rope. And using one foot and one hand managed to lift the wooden door panel out of the tail gate. Mama YR31 squeezed by and leaped out. She raced to the herd and never even looked at the calf!

Clem closed the trailer up, leaving the dry cow in the rear section. Reg drove up. After finding out that Clem never actually saw the calf suck the cow, he thought they ought to check her to be sure. Out across the pasture they drove to find the cows. Reg was drivin’ and lookin’ for a place to cross the creek.

"Reg," said Clem. "We don’t wanna cross here. I see cattails."

They stuck it when the front bumper hit the opposite bank! Clem escaped out the window and they walked the mile back to his pickup and trailer. Reg got the handy man jack and set it under the tongue.

"Reg," we’re not gonna need the jack. We’ve got a thousand-pound cow in the back section.

Reg jacked it up anyway. When Clem slid the sleeve back on the hitch it came off the ball like a monkey touchin’ a hot plate. The nose of the trailer shot four feet in the air, rolled forward and creased the pickup’s tailgate ... permanently. It still won’t open.

By the time they’d pulled Reg’s truck outta the creek, the cows had circled the pasture, gone out the gate Reg had left open and were headed down the road. It took ‘em an hour to get the cows gathered back in the east pasture. As they were closing the gate they saw a calf with a blue tag that read R31 suckin’ a cow with a red tag 31. And next to her was a cow R31 with a yellow tag nursin’ a big Charolais-cross calf.

They never did get the calf’s number but as Reg said, "That’s alright. We’ll catch’ er in the fall!"

 

Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television, and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.