DELL, Mont. – At just over 6,000 feet in elevation, it is quite the anomaly for there not to be any snow on the Johnson ranch. Usually buried under several inches of white snow by this time, Jeff and his sons, Tony and Dan, are learning to make do with the lack of moisture. This time of year is usually very busy for the Johnsons on their fall calving operation, so if there is a silver lining to the lack of snow, it is the fact that conditions have been more favorable for processing calves and cows.
The first half of January has kept the Johnson’s busy. On Jan. 4, they were able to wean their biggest bunch of calves, and then on Jan. 14, they got the red ones weaned.
The Johnson’s ranch conveniently has two sets of working corrals that sit on opposite ends of their property. The Johnson’s red cows run on the north side of the ranch, so all of those pairs were brought into that set of corrals to be separated and then the calves were all hauled in a trailer back to the ranch headquarters where the feedlot sits.
With all of the calves weaned, the next big thing to do is to get them all vaccinated. The Johnsons choose to wean their calves and then wait a couple weeks before they vaccinate them.
“We kind of wait to get the bawl out of them so they aren’t as stressed when we vaccinate them,” Tony said.
Keeping stress levels down, especially in their calves, is very important to the Johnsons. A couple years ago they attended an animal handling workshop taught by Dr. Tom Noffsinger, who is an expert in the field. Tony attests they all learned a lot from the workshop with the one huge takeaway being the concept of dry running all your livestock through the chute/alleyway system before they are actually worked.
“The whole point is to get livestock to not hate the chute, so they don’t think a chute is just the place they get poked and jabbed. We opened up everything on our Daniels Alleyway and placed some hay on the other side of the chute so there was a reward for them. We used as little effort as possible and basically just let the calves run through,” Dan explained.
Jeff and Dan did the dry run with the calves the day before they were vaccinated and the little extra effort was well worth it. Tony attests the calves rolled through the alleyway system much smoother the day they were vaccinated, and ultimately, the hope is the vaccines that were given had increased efficacy since the calves were even less stressed and wound up.
The Johnsons apply the same concept in their cows, as well. After weaning they give their cows Ultra Saber to help with external parasite control. Not every cow has to be caught for this procedure, so the majority of the cows just enjoy a leisurely stroll through the chute. By the time preg-checking comes along, neither cow nor handler experiences much stress, which is nice.
On Monday, Jan. 18, the Johnsons trailed two bunches of cows about seven miles to some lease ground where they will ride out the rest of the winter. Tony says the day was a bit of an adventure.
“It turns out neither bunch was weaned very well, so they didn’t want to move,” he said.
The task of moving cows can become quite arduous when some cows in the herd mill about and are always looking for an excuse to cut back and head for home. Thankfully the cowboys proved triumphant over the cows on this day and the cows are settled onto their new pasture.
Dan’s work schedule with Superior is cranking up again with the spring bull sale run about to begin. He was in Denver on Jan. 8 to open up bidding for the grand and reserve champion steer of the National Western Stock Show Catch-A-Calf program, and looking ahead, there is lots of filming yet to be done and plenty of sales to attend.
Keeping track of everyone’s schedules can be tricky, but open communication and a strategically placed calendar in Jeff’s house seems to help.