Working out of the Rodear
- July 25, 2015
- Jenn Zeller
Summer is in full swing here on the ranch, and that means lots of riding time, colts to start (which means less blogging and sharing stuff with y’all), ranch interns who are here to work and learn, calf brandings galore, and plenty of extra folks around hanging out. Life couldn’t be better. Among the many things we’ve been doing this summer, is teaching our replacement heifers to rodear.
Rodear is a Spanish word meaning “to surround”. On ranches in the Great Basin, as well as in the Western United States, many outfits, will train their cattle to “rodear”. It’s especially helpful if you’re short-handed, because you can pretty easily teach cattle to stay bunched up, such that even one person can go through the herd, rope what needs doctored, or inspect calves for sickness, and not have cattle scattered from hell to breakfast when they do.
Because cattle are herd animals, doing things this way keeps your cattle quiet: to draw upon their need to be together, by teaching them there’s safety in numbers and that staying bunched together on a flat, or in a corner is a win-win for them.
Teaching our cattle to do this has given our ranch interns a reason to work cows horseback, and they’re learning about cattle behavior while they do. The herd can be held with just two people, while a third person goes in, sorts off a heifer, and works her – to teach her to drive. This will certainly come in handy when these girls calve out in the coming years. Should they have trouble, it won’t be a new concept to be asked to go somewhere with a horse behind them. Our heifers are handling superbly.
Working out of the rodear makes for good horses and we’re kind of about good horses on this outfit. In many instances, ranches might brand out of a rodear. Those holding herd will take turns with the folks who’re roping calves out of the herd (As an aside: roping calves, or yearlings, out of the rodear is about the most fun a person can have horseback — says a girl who goes all over the country chasing cans!). The best part about this for the calves is that their mother is allowed to be there the whole time, so once he’s been branded and vaccinated, he can go right back to find her, instead of being separated from her for several hours, (if you sort your cows from your calves, as is often the case in this part of the country). You can also hold herd from a rodear if you’re sorting pairs, and as something pairs up, it can be let out of the herd quietly and efficiently.
Our replacements have gotten so good at being rodeared, that one person (usually me) can move them from pasture to pasture, and two people can go out and hone their roping skills (using breakaway ropes of course) — one to hold herd — while the other gets to practice. When we rodear our cattle to brand, we use 60 foot ropes to head and heel them, so that we don’t have to get as close, which also causes less stress on the calves. Big loop roping is pretty standard the further West you go. Here, it’s not done on very many outfits — only a couple that I can think of.
To teach this, we will gather the cattle and place them in a corner, or on a flat, and one person from the group will go in and ride in a circle around them on the outside. After a couple passes, where they learn to be comfortable, you might then ride through them a couple times, doing as little as possible to disturb them, and allowing them the chance to file around you, back into the group. When done correctly it’s one of the lowest-stress ways folks can handle large groups of cattle efficiently with not many bodies needed to get the job done.
This may not be something every outfit will find fits their program, but it sure fits ours and benefits not only the kids/interns, but the horses and cattle, as well. We’ve spent quite a few hours holding herd in the rodear, and plenty of time visiting with friends and neighbors while we do it.
About Jenn Zeller
Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...