If you're living near a cattle ranch, at some point this fall you'll likely notice the ambient sounds around your place shift from occasional bovine bellering to a cacophony of clamorous cattle.
Fall is Montana cattle shipping season, the time of year when ranchers wean their spring calves off their mommas and prepare for shipping day. Naturally, this causes a loud and noisy protest, but don't fret; you'll get used to it and maybe even come to love it as I do.
After being separated, the cows are preg-checked (and hopefully ranchers find their bulls enjoyed a successful turnout). All the cattle are doctored, sorted (separating steers from heifers and the heavies from lights), counted and weighed in preparation for shipping. Some
will be loaded onto trailers (cattle pots) to be hauled to the sale barn and pregnant cows will be turned out to winter ground. As with branding season, ranchers will often work together to help each other on shipping day. It can get pretty tense (to put it lightly) but is also a bit of a celebratory time as these families anticipate a payoff.
I've mentioned in the past that ranching isn't for the faint of heart. It isn't a dependable 9-5, go-home, put-your-feet-up & crack-a-beer sort of paycheck that ranchers earn. So, the temporary cry of the cattle may be a noisy nuisance to the neighborhood, but it's music to cattle rancher ears as that ruckus finally signals their hard-earned payday! Typically, it's the best if not the only one they'll receive all year for working seemingly endless hours in unpredictable circumstances, day and/or night, often in numbing cold or blazing hot temperatures. Ranching truly is a way of life.
For me, the sounds of shipping season serve as a happy Montana melody reminding me of our state's enduring agricultural roots. It fills my heart with gratitude for those who remain driven by their passion for the land, their livestock, and preserving way of life that's deeply rooted in our Nation's history.
(Congratulations Montana ranchers; you made it through another season!)