Sorting OOPE

I did it!  I actually took photos while sorting cattle!  Yes, I waited until most of it was done and yes, most of the pics are definitely OOPEs but considering I didn’t drop my camera and Tart and I didn’t lose any cows and Tart and I didn’t fall down on the *)(&*&^% ice – I consider this a success.
Today was gorgeous… blue sky and SUNSHINE… I even removed one of my hats because I got too warm!  Last year when we did this, we started off with a warm day, left all our warm clothes in the pickup then got hit with a BLIZZARD.  It was pretty miserable!
We share this BLM allotment with neighbors… so we each send our crews out to ride and sort our cattle out.  Many people have wondered why we brand our cattle…this is the main reason!  There’s a lot of country out here and with 6 different brands we can tell which way the hundreds of cattle need to go…
Our brand is a-bar-a and then we have some leased y8 cows as well.
Nudging the cattle to a sorting grounds took most of the day.  When we reach the sorting grounds – which basically is just a nice flat area with no prairie dog or badger holes – we set up a loose formation.  Usually it falls to kids, lesser experienced riders, relatives, and non-owners to hold the herd.  If a cow tries to escape the bunch, it is their job to turn her back.
Here Vernon looks over the bunch while the outriders hold the herd.
Don’t mind my cuff and the edge of my pocket blocking this view… these really are OOPEs!
Owners usually cut out their own cattle.  Vernon has ridden Winchester slowly into the bunch.  Which looks easier than it is.  It takes knowledge of cattle to do this right.  The position of your choices’ head and feet and the body language of her neighbors will tell you a lot.  How you handle your horse affects the situation as well.  E-ffects… A-ffects… both!  Many people that try to do this are “noisy” riders.  The riders are thumping the sides of their horses or waving their arms or just go in bold instead of quietly.  Most don’t realize their actions move the cattle as well as their horse.  The cows don’t like it and try to hide in the middle of their compatriots.  It can get difficult to dig a cow out of hundreds of others if she doesn’t want to go!
Here a neighbor rides quietly.  The cows are barely looking at him.  That’s good.  Notice the little baby calf by the red cow.  Only a week or so old, he belonged to an unknown cow… no one recognized or really could read the smudge of a brand or the eartag.  Our neighbor will trail him to his place and call out the brand inspector to figure out the mystery.
When you have this much help, you can sort off cows faster… and if you don’t understand the process or are an idiot at “reading” the body language of horseback riders and cows, you would see this as mass chaos.  Some riders cut out cattle, some turn back the ones that shouldn’t leave, some hold the main bunch.  It can get pretty hairy sometimes!  Today was done in slow motion for the most part as ice was under the snow… and it is simply stupid to go too fast!
Our cattle are kicked this direction.  Cows know which way is home, and they’ve all done this before, and they just meander on down the fence line.  If they were REALLY ready to go home, we’d have had to put a rider on the far side to keep them from leaving the country, but these are happy cows and once they are out of the bunch they went to grazing and didn’t wander too far.  Just look at the Big Horn Mountains today… you can see them!  They were hiding under snow clouds in my pics from yesterday.
Lucas was left at home…too big of a ride for his body.  Elsa and Dally are coming into heat, so they were at home too.  It was awfully noisy when I left this morning… Lucas howling and the girls barking their disappointments!  The dog, Spike, that Lucas fought with yesterday was left at home since he was lame.  I don’t know if Lucas did it or George who Spike also fought with.

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