Ranch Life: Shipping Cattle in the Flint Hills of Kansas

August 6, 2015 05:16 PM
 
BT_Sunset_Shipping_Cattle

For five decades, my family has been ranching in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Nearly every one of those years we've taken in stocker cattle for our custom grazing business.

The cattle come to our ranch outside of Eureka, Kan., in the spring and leave approximately 90 days later in the summer. Those cattle stay on the native grass pastures surrounding our ranch.

This year we took in nearly 3,300 head of steers that originated from farms and ranches all over the country. They arrived in mid-April and left in mid-July. 

With the help of our family, friends and neighbors are able to gather and ship the cattle out to feedlots in western Nebraska and Kansas in just a week's time. 

Here is a look back at shipping season on the Bechtel Ranch:

BT_Young_Cowboys
To start out we move far off pastures via gooseneck trailers and our groundload. Here are a few of our helpers making sure we have the right count.



BT_Unloading_Cattle
We unload the steers at traps near our shipping pens so they'll be ready to go if we have trouble gathering any pastures.

 

BT_Stocker_Cattle_Grass
The steers enjoy grazing on belly deep grass in the traps that haven't been touched since the winter.



BT_Semi_Trailers
Ten trucks show up to the ranch every morning at 6:30 for five days.



BT_Weighing_Steers
We weigh a few drafts of steers every morning to figure out how the trucks will be loaded. Most of the time we load between 62 and 65 head per truck.
 


BT_Cowboy_Steers
Individual groups of cattle are moved into a large working pen where they are held until the truckers call for more cattle.


BT_Loading_Steers
The cattle are pushed on horseback into the working barn.



BT_Loading_Steers_(3)
They go straight up the alley to the loading chute.


BT_Loading_Steers_(4)
One or two people on horseback will crowd the cattle up the alley where they are counted one last-time before heading west.
 

BT_Cowboys_Steer
Occasionally a maverick calf breaks from the group in the working pen, but it will still make its way up the alley to the semi trailer.  


BT_Moving_Steers_(3)
When more cattle are needed to load another pot during the morning we bring them up from our holding pens.



BT_Cattle_Horseback_Cowboys
The steers are held in pens with access to hay, water and shade for approximately 12 hours prior to being shipped.



BT_ATV_Cattle
We gather the cattle on ATVs and have the feed truck lead them up to their new pasture.



BT_Stocker_Steers
Eventually, the steers end up in a centralized shipping trap that is a half-mile from the pens.



BT_ATV_Steers_Shipping
In the evenings we take the cattle out of the shipping traps.



BT_ATV_Trees_Cattle
We wait in the trees until it appears enough cattle are going down the road. Sometimes it takes several trips, but there is no need to stress the cattle by rushing too many to the pens.



BT_ATV_Road_Cattle
A few riders trail the cattle on the road while two riders travel alongside the cattle near the exterior fences.



BT_Counting_Stockers
Once the dust settles in the pens, it is time to count the cattle.



BT_Counting_Steers_Pens
The steers are counted and brands are checked. Then they are sent to the holding pens, where they'll wait until the next morning to be taken to their new feedlot homes.



BT_Feedtruck_Cattle_(2)
The steers get a little more cake in the evenings to go along with their hay in the pens.



BT_Pens_Night
Everyone is happy by dark after getting some dinner, especially the cattle.



BT_Barn_Night
And like that, another year of grazing stocker cattle at the Bechtel Ranch is done. In fewer than nine months, we'll be getting the next group of stockers, and it won't be too long before we're shipping cattle again.

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Comments

 
Spell Check

David Meyerkorth
Rock Port, MO
8/7/2015 02:30 PM
 

  What a tradition to uphold and prove to America that truly some of the best things in life are past down from those before us and to continue the legacy that the American Cattleman is still a part of this great country today! May God bless your efforts each and every day--- A BIG THANKS from my farm family to your Ranch!!!!!

 
 
David King
Pomeroy, OH
8/10/2015 11:16 PM
 

  What a big operation. Growing up in SE Ohio, we had a small dairy and a small beef herd. I remember getting those bratty steers and heifers to the sales in the fall. Who knows, some of our feeders may have ended up on that farm in years past.

 
 
Anthony
Wichita, KS
5/2/2016 08:57 AM
 

  That was such a beautiful well written piece of cattle industry I love how people like you guys/gals can help be more informed.

 
 

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