Sunday, March 29, 2009

Horn Tipping and Steer Making :)

This is actually one of the first things I did when I got to the cattle ranch, but I just haven’t gotten around to writing about it. They’re long days ok? I get tired!
So horn tipping, yes it is as straight forward as it sounds, and it involves a HUGE and I mean HUGE shearer type of tool, the bulls’ horns and a lot of blood. I have never seen blood like it, and by the end of the day the yards did look like a scene from a horror movie, like chainsaw massacre (I haven’t actually seen this movie as it even sounds too scary, but I imagine it is what the special effects on that would look like.
So two of the sons came up for the weekend to lend a hand, at first I –quite naively- thought I can do that surely. Well I soon came to understand why they say working on cattle stations is one of the most dangerous jobs in Australia. Oh and that is something else I keep getting told off for, they are not cattle ranches over here, that is an American word… they are cattle stations, so as much as I should change all of the ranches to stations in my blogs… I’m afraid time is lacking a little, so you shall just have to read station if I ever say ranch! Ok?!
Anyway back to it, yes so the sons came over to lend a hand, and we set the cows up ready to come into the race in groups of three and get their horns tipped, which basically means cutting the ends of them off. This is for a couple of reasons, one they can do less damage, something I think we will all be pleased to hear. But also they try to cut the horns at certain angles so they grow into curves and look all pretty. But trying to cut the horns at a certain angle is a lot easier said than done when you have bulls bucking and rearing and generally going crazy about being confined to the race. You know when I first arrived there and we had to get a bull in the race to spray its wound Les told me how bulls can actually turn themselves upside down and end up on their backs in the race, and I didn’t believe it. But… I have now seen it with my own eyes! And these races are literally only big enough for the bull to walk into and back out of. Yet one bull managed to end up on his back looking rather helpless and silly! So of course I had to get a picture of that!
So you get the bulls in and put a rope brace on their head which in theory should mean you are able to keep the bulls still, but well, the bulls are strong! And this was normally my job holding the rope, and calming down the bulls, well the later I did rather unsuccessfully but in fairness I think this is pretty impossible, when you have a bull snorting and huffing and kicking his feet up, you know how they do in comedy cartoons, they actually do that in real life too! And it is just a tad scary!
Then one of the sons gets up on top of the race like standing over the bull and positions the mahoosive shearers (I think this is the correct term) over the horns and uses quite some force to crush the end of the horns off. Now most of you will probably think, but surely the horn is just like hard nail, so it is like clipping your nails, and nails don’t bleed. Well that is what the outer part of the horn is made of, very hard nail, basically, but inside is like a type of bone marrow, and of course if you break a bone, it will bleed, so this is exactly the same. And boy do they bleed, not only do they spurt, literally spurt out in continual streams from about four places in each horn, they do this for the next few horns! On more than one occasion I got squirted with blood! But the bulls didn’t seem to be too distressed by the actually cutting of the horn, just the being placed in the race they didn’t like. But I guess they must have figured out that if they are being put in the race… it won’t be pleasant things that will be happening to them! So that was horn tipping, hard work and gory is how I would describe that process! So next was making steers, and as I have said before steers are basically bulls with no balls, so you can guess what the next process is. But they no longer cut them off, they band them, and they slowly shrivel up, rot, stink and eventually fall off and you see them dotted around the yard. This did cause quite a bit of amusement in the following weeks. Especially as I was supposed to collect these, rotten, stink, manky cows testis and put them in a bucket! I’m sorry, but I do find that a little gross and I am ashamed to say on more than one occasion I did just call the dogs over. You know the dogs LOVE them! Ahah, they consequently get told off for chewing on them though! Ahah! Oh deary me! But yes they get banded, a little like how they used to band lambs tails. So they have a huge contraption that looks quite lethal and it used to stretch out these rather small rubber bands and fit them over the bulls… nether regions! Oh I didn’t tell you how we decide which ones to make steers. Well basically I will give you the basic info on the situation. The major companies that buy the cows meat has decided that steers taste better than bulls, because they don’t have certain hormones and what not, it’s a little scientific, that bulls have. So the only bulls you keep bulls are basically ones you want to breed from or sell as Stud Cattle. So how to decide, well firstly you have the average life weight gain. The cattle get weighed at different intervals, but that process is a whole other blog! And then they through many calculations you can decide which ones will put on the most weight and therefore be most desirable at producing babies that grow quickly. So that is the most… scientific one. Oh and they also rate the eyes, depending on whether they have brown or white hair covering them and how good the eye lashes are, because certain colours are more prone to eye cancer. So that is another pretty scientific one. But the others are kind of harsh, for example one was made a steer because he was the wrong colour! Another because is legs were wonky, a few more because their legs crossed over when they walked. Another because his balls hung wonkily! No joke! Another because he stooped when he walked! I think they should bring this kind of selection into humans would create brilliant kids… aha… ooo did that sound just a tad Hitler-ish?! I am joking! I promise! So yes the selected bulls got made into steers. And they didn’t actually seem all that bother by the process. One of the sons said he did a load of goat the other day and they were hilarious, they walked around crosses over their legs, sitting cross legged, all sorts of things! But the bulls appear to not be worried in the slightest by it. And then 3 to 4 weeks later as I’ve said they do just drop off. The majority of them heal up nicely but we have had a few we need to spray with a disinfectant spray every night, but they are healing better. And I’m told the whole process is a lot more humane than slicing they open, cutting them out and tying them up! Did that just make all the males cross their legs? Ahah! So yes that was steer making and horn tipping, a most productive and shattering day I might add!

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