Javier and I embarked on a great journey October 24. We took the old 1999 F350 one ton truck and decade old cattle trailer on a 4,000+ mile road trip from the farm to Canada and back. Some in the family suggested I buy a new truck to make the trip. All we did is have our old beast checked over by the boys in the local garage and off we went.
Neither of us had seen any of this country and we were amazed at the vast empty plains from northern Oklahoma all the way to Saskatchewan. I am not sure what area is most depressing when you consider it has become depopulated: western Kansas, Wyoming or Montana. I am certain that as time moves forward there will be less and less people here. There is nothing to attract or retain any young folks except limited oil & gas, and large scale ranching and farming. There is next to no economic activity. Wind farms are all along the way, but that is not creating local jobs.
It was fall round-up season in Wyoming and Montana. Cattle that had been released into the mountain flats were being driven back to where they could be sorted, branded, calves weaned and sent to feed lots. Heifers and cows placed where they could be fed in the winter. Too many to count 18 wheeler cattle pots were moving the calves to market. It all reminded me of Lonesome Dove. Not much has changed except modes of transport in a hundred years.
We had one Canadian heifer to pick up in Montana that was bought last year and that was a far as she got. She spent the summer on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation on the Canadian border on open range and was rounded up by horseback with other cattle. Our other heifers were purchased in August in Saskatchewan from Manitou Maine-Anjou
. We visited this ranch a few years ago and they have really good bloodlines that are different than ours. They have also recently imported semen from France to create new outcross blood lines. It is important if you have purebred cattle to add different blood lines rather than line breed. Four of these heifers are bred for late winter calves, so we will have some interesting bloodlines to work with in our herd in the future.
We left the farm mid-afternoon October 24 with a 55 gallon drum of extra diesel, lots of food and snacks, water and bales of hay for our big adventure. By midnight we were in Salina, Kansas and tired. Cheap motel number 1. The next day we made it to Sheridan, Wyoming a little after midnight. Inexpensive hotel number 2. Day three found us in Augusta, Montana and we stayed with a friend of mine. It was the first day of hunting season and the local tap room was full of hunters with tall tales of the ones they did not shoot. Day 4 ended in Shelby, Montana just south of the border. We got to see the east side of Glacier National Park on the way to Shelby. Expensive and only motel in town number 3. Day 5 started out at 4:00 am headed north to meet a truck bringing the cattle south out of Canada. Blowing snow had slowed things down.
The border at Sweet Grass, Montana is no more than a very elaborate Homeland Security crossing at the end of Interstate 15. No gas station, no toilet, nada. We met the truck at a USDA facility there and had to offload the cattle for inspection. A cold, wet and windy morning to be doing this. On the road again, we headed to Sun River to pick up the heifer we bought last year. That accomplished, and taking time to repair and re-repair the lights on the trailer, we got to Great Falls. There we had to go through Montana Brand Inspection. Since Montana is pretty much open range, all cattle are branded and if you move any form one county to another the brand needs to be inspected along with proof of ownership.
It was after midnight when we got to Buffalo, Wyoming tired and ready for a few hours of sleep before the long drive home. We had laid in the trailer a foot of wheat straw and the cattle were secure and comfortable. We gave them water and fresh hay to eat. Cheap hotel number 4. One impression I got was at night driving on the interstate. You could go for 30 to 40 minutes and never see another vehicle. Such a lonely country.
The last day of our trip was our longest. We started at 6:00 am Monday and 1,400 miles later it was 7:30 am Tuesday and we drove through the farm gate. That is a long day I can tell you. The cattle arrived safe and sound, but were happy to get out and stretch their legs. Our mission was accomplished, no great problems and our old truck and trailer served us well.
Why did we do this? Because I believe that our fullblood Maine-Anjou cattle are some of the best fullblood cattle you can raise. If you are going to raise cattle, why not raise the best?