These are some of the neighbor’s burned
cows that survived the fi re we had here on
our creek in 2003. They are sheltering in
a little patch of trees in the Forest Service
allotment that didn’t burn up, near a water
trough. This is where Dan French brought
hay to them, and a few days later was able
to haul portable panels up there to create a
catch pen, so he was eventually able to capture
them and haul them home for treatment.
We had to fi nd a way to haul them
out. That group was near enough to a
jeep road that we took portable panels
up there and set up a little corral. We
took hay up there, right after we found
them, to get them something to eat.
The Forest Service was kind enough to
dump water into that dry trough for
those cows, with a helicopter.”
“The cows came to the feed and
water, and after a couple days we
used more hay to bait them into the
pen. We fed them several more days
so they were used to going into the
pen to eat. We shut the gate on them
while they were eating. They were
ready to come home! It was easy to
load them into the trailer,” he adds.
“When we went to get another
bunch we’d located, the Forest Service
wouldn’t let us go into that area; they
said there were still too many ‘hot
spots’ and it was too dangerous to ride
in there. So we came home and rode in
from another direction (coming from
the bottom of Mulkey Creek) to get
those cows out. They wanted to head
for home instead of where the pen was
set up, so we ended up walking them
home. It took a while; some were lame
because their feet were burned. The
cows’ udders were burned and some
had burns on their backs where burning
branches had fallen on them.”
Some of the rescued cattle (brought
out after the fi re) needed treatment
for burn wounds. Half the surviving
cows had to be sold after they healed;
their udders were too damaged to be
functional. Some cattle didn’t survive;
their bodies were found later.
They had been running from one
quaking aspen patch to another and
the fi re caught them in the middle.
Fire, and other natural disasters, are
hard to prepare for ahead of time;
there is not always enough warning
to get cattle out of harm’s way.
Having a plan for ways to deal with
unexpected problems can be helpful,
however, and in some situations this
might mean portable corrals or even
a few panels that could be taken to a
distant location for emergency containment.
Portable corrals are also
useful when cattle need to be taken
care of out on big pastures rather than
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HEATHER S. THOMAS
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2019 I WORKING RANCH I 39