Castration Day - the most stressful day of the year
“It’s probably the hardest day of the year,” said Jamie. And she doesn’t mean physically.
When I arrived the veterinarian and vet tech - two attractive women - were busy unloading all their gear and setting up shop.
They meant business and barely gave me a glance.
It was 30 degrees and the one in short sleeves remarked, “I’m sweating already.”
In the two hours prior to this, two hundred cattle had been collected, herded from the pastures into a one-acre area.
It was an abnormal day and the animals knew it. You could feel their anxiety and agitation - a lotta loud bovine emoting was going on.
(This is only one of the holding areas.)
Many mommas had been temporarily separated from their babies, and they don’t like that.
As I regarded this mass assembly of living creatures, with a combined weight of around 200,000 lbs, the magnitude and danger of it just floored me.
I instantly realized that job one for me was to STAY THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY.
Anything I did to distract these people or frighten the animals, could result in terrible injury or death.
What was also obvious was the massive investment this family has made in animals, equipment, land and time.
My respect for these people and what they are doing … increased exponentially.
Before any veterinarian activity can begin, the cattle have to be sorted.
That means a couple of 120-lb women go out into an area where 100 nervous animals are milling around, and they proceed to bob and weave and dodge around them,
sheep dogging them until they get those specific ones to move left through a gate, while all the other animals move right.
Imagine after a half-hour of that, you finally get 10 specific animals you need separated.
But the moment you turn your back, the gate pops open and those 10 animals run back into the midst of the herd.
From my perch watching this happen, I felt their enormous frustration.
I’m sure some four-letter words were being muttered and sentiments of blame and guilt were bubbling over, but everybody kept their cool, as least for the time being.
“Can I help!?” I called out.
“Oh no,” she said, smiling at me, surely thinking to herself, “The LAST thing we need is our new director of marketing getting trampled.”
But that was only a minor hiccup in the grand scheme of things - not one of the major things worrying Jamie on that day.
Tensions were high. Besides the two-woman vet team, the only other two people she had doing this job with her were her husband and her daughter.
She’s paying a lot of money to have the vet there and they are booked up otherwise, so this is her shot to get a lot of things done and they have to be done right.
And that’s in addition to worrying about how the animals feel.
THAT’S why it’s the most emotionally and mentally hard difficult day of her year.
How did the animals do?
You can google ‘cattle castration’ if you want to see the details up real close. I stayed a respectful distance.
But I could see exactly what these women were doing. It happened fast.
A small flap of skin down was cut so the vet could manually reach in and pull them down, then the stem was twisted fast until they popped off.
Then they were tossed into a bucket, and thus saved for Teresa, one of Jamie’s long-time customers.
Here’s Cory, operating the headgate.
A few made a fuss while they were being worked on. And some barely moved and made no sound.
It seemed like the fussers were more upset about being constrained and isolated from their herd then what was happening around their backsides.
You have to keep in mind that any pain they had that day is less than they’d feel after being in a fight to the death with another uncastrated male.
Why the male species evolved to possess such heightened aggressiveness and sexuality that these extreme measures are necessary to curtail that....is an existential matter that I have long pondered, friends.
Over the course of an entire long day, all of them were herded through V-shaped fencing into an ‘alley’, or narrow funnel so they get into a single-file line, which leads into a ‘squeeze chute’ where they are constrained by a head gate.
Most animals were super skittish as they were funneled through the chute, with some trying to back up or turn around, potentially crushing themselves and the ones behind them.
The Funnel Captain (I just made that up, I’m not sure there’s an official name for that role),
standing up there along the alley, reaching down and physically moving the animals along, was Jamie’s 16-year-old daughter, Addy.
Yeah, let that sink in for a minute. What’s your 16-year-old daughter doing today?
“I’m really worried about you guys. It seems like one slip, and you guys could get hurt bad,” I said to her.
“It happens,” she said with a nonchalant shrug.