The dog days of summer are here, but 4-H kids and cattle ranchers have to learn to bare the heat to get the job done. As proud new owners of their Ranch in Flagler County, Paul and Deb Mears hosted Day 3 of our 4-H Cattle Round Up Summer Camp. We got a close up look at their South Pole herd with cows and calves born earlier this year from Jan through May. This new summer camp developed by a cooperative effort between 4-H Agent (Alisha Hutchinson) and the Agriculture Agent was an amazing experience for 4-H participants (ages 12 to 18). Unless you grow up on a ranch, this type of experience for kids working commercial beef cattle is truly “unheard” of. Most students that are pursuing degrees in animal science programs don’t even have these type of hands-on opportunities.
Farm hand, Brian Anderson, demonstrated traditional cowboy techniques and rounded up approximately 25 head of cows and calves on horseback from an 80-acre pasture. Once penned, they were separated one-by-one and guided through the pens to the squeeze shoot. This is where the cow is held steady by mechanical equipment and given deworming medications and appropriate vaccinations. All the 4-H participants had the opportunity to learn the procedure and administer subcutaneous vaccinations on the cattle. After the cows were treated, a calf table was brought in for working calves. This was a bit different as it allowed the calves to be strapped to the table and flipped on their side for more intensive procedures. All the calves were vaccinated, dewormed and ear-tagged. It was a bit more strenuous for the eight bull calves that were quickly transitioned into steers through castration. Although there was a little blood during this procedure, the entire cattle operation was calm, quiet and steady. The only noise was coming from the mama cows since it was the first time they were separated from their calves, even though only for a few minutes.
The kids were truly impressed with the calm and humane environment of working a beef cattle herd. There appeared to be minimal stress among the cattle and the only thing the calves seemed to be annoyed with was their new ear tag. When they were released from the table, they were just shaking their heads trying get that foreign object out of their ear. They didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that they’d just lost their manhood. They were quickly reunited with their mother who comforted them and licked their medical wound. This was truly an amazing experience for the Agents as well as the kids participating in the camp. We’d like to send a huge thank you to Paul and Deb Mears for their willingness to share their new ranch with us and to Brian Anderson for sharing such a wealth of knowledge and experience. Looking forward to next year!