Fall weaning on the Broken Spear Ranch | TheFencePost.com
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Fall weaning on the Broken Spear Ranch

Tony BruguiereRanching is a family endeavor and Emily Allen, Gail's daughter, helps with moving cattle to the sorting pens.
Tony Bruguiere, Rodeo Pixels |
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For Gail and Millie Allen, who own the Broken Spear Ranch near La Junta, Colo., it is the end of one year of raising cattle and the beginning of another.

For a cow-calf operation like the Allens, the two run together at the fall weaning. Cows and their calves, which were born in the spring, have to be gathered up and separated. The cows will receive a series of shots, checked for pregnancy, and moved to winter pastures. For the calves, it’s weighing, weaning, and off to the sale barn in La Junta. With the pregnant cows, the whole process begins again to produce next year’s crop.

There are several levels to the cattle industry before the finished product reaches the supermarket in the form of beef for consumers. The cow-calf operation is the first step in the process where the rancher runs cows on grass pastures. All beef cattle originate in cow-calf ranches. It is here that the basic raw material of grass is converted to cattle.

The Broken Spear Ranch is like many ranches in Colorado in that it is family owned. Expect for an occasional day worker, labor is done by family members. When more people are needed for gathers, brandings, and weanings, neighbors provide the extra manpower. This shared labor pool works out to the benefit of everyone involved.

As 91-year-old rancher Lloyd Hall from nearby Delphi, Colo., put it “All the neighbors help each other. You drive 50 miles sometimes to help a neighbor. When you call them, they’ll be there. That’s the best help you can get because they know what to do. You don’t tell them nothing – you don’t need to. Works out the best you ever saw.”

So it was early in the morning that Lloyd Hall and his grandson Gary Hall joined Ryan Strieter, Floyd Meyers and Duane Wilson from the nearby Dry Creek Ranch to help the extended Allan family gather up the Broken Spear cattle for weaning.

The Broken Spear Ranch is made up of deeded and leased acres and Gail and Millie Allen have operated the ranch for 10 years. Daughters Emily and Missy and son-in-law Jeb Brown rounded out the Allen family workers.

The cattle were gathered in two groups in order to put as little stress on them as possible because “Every moment that you are messing with that calf he is shrinking – losing weight” said Allen, “and in the cattle business, you are paid on weight and the bigger the numbers, the more chance you have to lose a lot of pounds.”

The process of weaning or “stripping” a calf from a cow is pretty straightforward, but it does require experienced hands on good horses. The cattle are placed into a large holding pen and from this group a smaller group is removed. This small group is separated into calves, cows and heifers. Once the first calf is stripped from its mother, the bawling starts and grows louder as the day progresses.

A group of mixed cattle are moved to an alley with pens on each side. Two riders move to the face of the group and other riders position their horses in pen openings to act as “gates.” As the cowboys at the face of the cattle let individual animals pass down the alley, they are directed into or kept out of pens by the “gate” cowboys. The cows are directed back into the large holding pen. This process is repeated over and over until all the animals are sorted.

Once all the animals are sorted, the cows are moved in groups to the alley where they are sent to the squeeze chute. There they get inoculations, ear tags, and a pregnancy check by a vet. The non-pregnant or “open” cows are sorted off and will be sent to the sale barn. Allen gets about 10 years of production from a range cow. Those that are sold will have another few years of production if put on a wheat or corn pasture.

The cows and the heifers are sent to winter pastures and the calves go to the sale barn and the yearly cycle begins again. The calves are the ranch’s annual cash crop.

This is the point where the economics of the marketplace comes into play – the point that can make or break a ranch. Up to now, the cattle have produced no income, only expenses. Whatever the rancher gets for his calves at the sale barn will be his one paycheck for the year.

“In any self-owned business you run the risk of losing money,” says Allen, “but only in agriculture can you work a full year and not only not make any money, but it’s very possible you worked that whole year and will lose money.”

Allen continued, “The average working man can’t understand this concept. They see the guy that has a ranch or farm and they think he has really arrived. In actuality, there are no guarantees that we are going to work this year and make a profit. We all hope that we can, but we may break even or we may lose money – or we may have a good year and make a lot of money. We never know until we sell our calves in November.”

Ranching is certainly not for everyone, and, as Gail Allen puts it, “Not very many people can manage on just getting one check a year.” So why do people do it? One major reason has to be heritage. Ranching skills were learned as a child and it is all they know. An equally compelling reason is they love the work. They love the land and working on it. They love the fact that there are few places that are better to raise a family. It is hard to argue with those reasons.

For Gail and Millie Allen, who own the Broken Spear Ranch near La Junta, Colo., it is the end of one year of raising cattle and the beginning of another.

For a cow-calf operation like the Allens, the two run together at the fall weaning. Cows and their calves, which were born in the spring, have to be gathered up and separated. The cows will receive a series of shots, checked for pregnancy, and moved to winter pastures. For the calves, it’s weighing, weaning, and off to the sale barn in La Junta. With the pregnant cows, the whole process begins again to produce next year’s crop.

There are several levels to the cattle industry before the finished product reaches the supermarket in the form of beef for consumers. The cow-calf operation is the first step in the process where the rancher runs cows on grass pastures. All beef cattle originate in cow-calf ranches. It is here that the basic raw material of grass is converted to cattle.

The Broken Spear Ranch is like many ranches in Colorado in that it is family owned. Expect for an occasional day worker, labor is done by family members. When more people are needed for gathers, brandings, and weanings, neighbors provide the extra manpower. This shared labor pool works out to the benefit of everyone involved.

As 91-year-old rancher Lloyd Hall from nearby Delphi, Colo., put it “All the neighbors help each other. You drive 50 miles sometimes to help a neighbor. When you call them, they’ll be there. That’s the best help you can get because they know what to do. You don’t tell them nothing – you don’t need to. Works out the best you ever saw.”

So it was early in the morning that Lloyd Hall and his grandson Gary Hall joined Ryan Strieter, Floyd Meyers and Duane Wilson from the nearby Dry Creek Ranch to help the extended Allan family gather up the Broken Spear cattle for weaning.

The Broken Spear Ranch is made up of deeded and leased acres and Gail and Millie Allen have operated the ranch for 10 years. Daughters Emily and Missy and son-in-law Jeb Brown rounded out the Allen family workers.

The cattle were gathered in two groups in order to put as little stress on them as possible because “Every moment that you are messing with that calf he is shrinking – losing weight” said Allen, “and in the cattle business, you are paid on weight and the bigger the numbers, the more chance you have to lose a lot of pounds.”

The process of weaning or “stripping” a calf from a cow is pretty straightforward, but it does require experienced hands on good horses. The cattle are placed into a large holding pen and from this group a smaller group is removed. This small group is separated into calves, cows and heifers. Once the first calf is stripped from its mother, the bawling starts and grows louder as the day progresses.

A group of mixed cattle are moved to an alley with pens on each side. Two riders move to the face of the group and other riders position their horses in pen openings to act as “gates.” As the cowboys at the face of the cattle let individual animals pass down the alley, they are directed into or kept out of pens by the “gate” cowboys. The cows are directed back into the large holding pen. This process is repeated over and over until all the animals are sorted.

Once all the animals are sorted, the cows are moved in groups to the alley where they are sent to the squeeze chute. There they get inoculations, ear tags, and a pregnancy check by a vet. The non-pregnant or “open” cows are sorted off and will be sent to the sale barn. Allen gets about 10 years of production from a range cow. Those that are sold will have another few years of production if put on a wheat or corn pasture.

The cows and the heifers are sent to winter pastures and the calves go to the sale barn and the yearly cycle begins again. The calves are the ranch’s annual cash crop.

This is the point where the economics of the marketplace comes into play – the point that can make or break a ranch. Up to now, the cattle have produced no income, only expenses. Whatever the rancher gets for his calves at the sale barn will be his one paycheck for the year.

“In any self-owned business you run the risk of losing money,” says Allen, “but only in agriculture can you work a full year and not only not make any money, but it’s very possible you worked that whole year and will lose money.”

Allen continued, “The average working man can’t understand this concept. They see the guy that has a ranch or farm and they think he has really arrived. In actuality, there are no guarantees that we are going to work this year and make a profit. We all hope that we can, but we may break even or we may lose money – or we may have a good year and make a lot of money. We never know until we sell our calves in November.”

Ranching is certainly not for everyone, and, as Gail Allen puts it, “Not very many people can manage on just getting one check a year.” So why do people do it? One major reason has to be heritage. Ranching skills were learned as a child and it is all they know. An equally compelling reason is they love the work. They love the land and working on it. They love the fact that there are few places that are better to raise a family. It is hard to argue with those reasons.

For Gail and Millie Allen, who own the Broken Spear Ranch near La Junta, Colo., it is the end of one year of raising cattle and the beginning of another.

For a cow-calf operation like the Allens, the two run together at the fall weaning. Cows and their calves, which were born in the spring, have to be gathered up and separated. The cows will receive a series of shots, checked for pregnancy, and moved to winter pastures. For the calves, it’s weighing, weaning, and off to the sale barn in La Junta. With the pregnant cows, the whole process begins again to produce next year’s crop.

There are several levels to the cattle industry before the finished product reaches the supermarket in the form of beef for consumers. The cow-calf operation is the first step in the process where the rancher runs cows on grass pastures. All beef cattle originate in cow-calf ranches. It is here that the basic raw material of grass is converted to cattle.

The Broken Spear Ranch is like many ranches in Colorado in that it is family owned. Expect for an occasional day worker, labor is done by family members. When more people are needed for gathers, brandings, and weanings, neighbors provide the extra manpower. This shared labor pool works out to the benefit of everyone involved.

As 91-year-old rancher Lloyd Hall from nearby Delphi, Colo., put it “All the neighbors help each other. You drive 50 miles sometimes to help a neighbor. When you call them, they’ll be there. That’s the best help you can get because they know what to do. You don’t tell them nothing – you don’t need to. Works out the best you ever saw.”

So it was early in the morning that Lloyd Hall and his grandson Gary Hall joined Ryan Strieter, Floyd Meyers and Duane Wilson from the nearby Dry Creek Ranch to help the extended Allan family gather up the Broken Spear cattle for weaning.

The Broken Spear Ranch is made up of deeded and leased acres and Gail and Millie Allen have operated the ranch for 10 years. Daughters Emily and Missy and son-in-law Jeb Brown rounded out the Allen family workers.

The cattle were gathered in two groups in order to put as little stress on them as possible because “Every moment that you are messing with that calf he is shrinking – losing weight” said Allen, “and in the cattle business, you are paid on weight and the bigger the numbers, the more chance you have to lose a lot of pounds.”

The process of weaning or “stripping” a calf from a cow is pretty straightforward, but it does require experienced hands on good horses. The cattle are placed into a large holding pen and from this group a smaller group is removed. This small group is separated into calves, cows and heifers. Once the first calf is stripped from its mother, the bawling starts and grows louder as the day progresses.

A group of mixed cattle are moved to an alley with pens on each side. Two riders move to the face of the group and other riders position their horses in pen openings to act as “gates.” As the cowboys at the face of the cattle let individual animals pass down the alley, they are directed into or kept out of pens by the “gate” cowboys. The cows are directed back into the large holding pen. This process is repeated over and over until all the animals are sorted.

Once all the animals are sorted, the cows are moved in groups to the alley where they are sent to the squeeze chute. There they get inoculations, ear tags, and a pregnancy check by a vet. The non-pregnant or “open” cows are sorted off and will be sent to the sale barn. Allen gets about 10 years of production from a range cow. Those that are sold will have another few years of production if put on a wheat or corn pasture.

The cows and the heifers are sent to winter pastures and the calves go to the sale barn and the yearly cycle begins again. The calves are the ranch’s annual cash crop.

This is the point where the economics of the marketplace comes into play – the point that can make or break a ranch. Up to now, the cattle have produced no income, only expenses. Whatever the rancher gets for his calves at the sale barn will be his one paycheck for the year.

“In any self-owned business you run the risk of losing money,” says Allen, “but only in agriculture can you work a full year and not only not make any money, but it’s very possible you worked that whole year and will lose money.”

Allen continued, “The average working man can’t understand this concept. They see the guy that has a ranch or farm and they think he has really arrived. In actuality, there are no guarantees that we are going to work this year and make a profit. We all hope that we can, but we may break even or we may lose money – or we may have a good year and make a lot of money. We never know until we sell our calves in November.”

Ranching is certainly not for everyone, and, as Gail Allen puts it, “Not very many people can manage on just getting one check a year.” So why do people do it? One major reason has to be heritage. Ranching skills were learned as a child and it is all they know. An equally compelling reason is they love the work. They love the land and working on it. They love the fact that there are few places that are better to raise a family. It is hard to argue with those reasons.


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