It was another day of horseback riding and this time it was going to involve the cows. It was about time to get those moo-moo machines to move finally! After getting up in the morning and eating breakfast, it was back on the horses. The problem with cows is that they were very spread apart, much more than the sheep were. It was also raining so it meant that we had to be more careful especially while riding. It was the same drill like the sheep, gather them up and then put them in the livestock pens. Instead of “drowning” them, this was different because it was the calves that we were targeting for branding and weaning.
Bringing the cows back was longer than sheep as some groups were so far away, requiring more ground to cover. The good thing was that we had a lot of riders which could help greatly in surrounding and gathering the cows.
What a messy affair this was going to be. First, we had to get small groups of cows into this blocked off area and then separate the big cows from the calves by using flags. Some of these cows were huge, enough to run us over and kill us but for some reason, these cows don’t realize that which I thought was funny.
Once we got them separated by letting the big ones run through, we then proceeded to segregate the calves in this transition pen. Branding is not a fun thing to do as these cows crap and piss on you like it were nothing. I got a chance to hold a calf down by what the gaucho said to do which was hold onto the cow’s tail real tight and use the fence as leverage as someone brands the cow with the hot iron. Jeez, that sucked as holding the tail meant putting my hands in crap while fighting the crazy movement of the cow as the branding was commenced. And this was not just for one calf – it was for all the calves which could mean over a hundred of them!
After the calves were branded, they would then be sent into another holding pen where they would begin their new lives without their parents going into this crying mode which would go on for at least 3 days. While it might seem cruel to separate the calves from their mothers, this deliberate practice is done in the same way around the world and after 3 days, most calves and mother cows forget and go on with their new lives. This was a lot of work because not only did we brand these calves but we had to put the older cows back to the pastures only to hear them go into crying mode over the lost of their calves.
Because this day was relatively early, it was game time – volleyball time! The great thing about this ranch was that they have a lot of open space so the owner decided to put up a volleyball field. We started practicing for a bit until we decided to go head-to-head in which my team won 2 games easily thanks to our team having superior athletic skills. It was the three of us versus five of them and yet, we still won easily despite being outnumbered. It’s like with cows and gauchos – you get outnumbered and still make things happen.
And best of all was relaxing at night with a good cup of mate. This was what a lot of gauchos or even people of Uruguay drink quite a bit even when they get up in the morning so they can power up. I’ve also seen people on the streets of Uruguay with a bottle/cup in their hands along with a thermos full of hot water. I always wondered what they were for and then found out later that it was mate. Good stuff if you ask me! Better enjoy it since Brazil was calling and it would arrive in several days! We were leaving the ranch the next day and it was off to Argentina just to cross through and eventually into Brazil.