February 11, 2016

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Ranchlands' founder Duke Phillips is a third generation cattle rancher who believes in economic diversification, high conservation ethics, and public education as critical to the future of ranching.

Yesterday when we were riding home, Tom said to me, “I will be happy when things get back to normal”.  This is our third week of working cattle, and he was expressing what all of us are feeling.  It isn’t that Tom and the rest of us do not like doing this work, quite the opposite, we love it.  But, its controlled chaos. Things happening at perhaps not a fast pace, but for sure a much higher level of activity the entire time there is sunlight. Cattle moving the whole day going different directions, a cow jumping over the fence (through the fence?) or out of the race, moving cattle out of one corral in order to move another pen through it, breakdowns, weaned calves to be ridden twice a day, loading trucks, broken corrals to be repaired, walking the herds back to their home pastures… All day long, every day, it’s a constant buzz of activity.

Quite a contrast to sedentary life of checking water and grass conditions, working on projects, meetings, wrangling the horses, moving herds from pasture to pasture.  No bawling cattle.

But every year, ranches across the country bring their cattle in to be worked at least once: pregnancy testing, weaning calves, shipping the non-pregnant ones, shipping steers or putting them out on pasture.  Then walking the mature cows out to their winter range, the two year old heifers calving for the first time somewhere closer to HDQ so they can be ridden daily.  It marks the end and the beginning.  Today is our last day of having the herd in the corrals.  Tomorrow we walk the mother cows out. Monday begins the new cycle.

Photography by Matt DeLorme