Horseback riding adventures, guides, tours and trails in the backcountry wilderness regions of the Nicola Valley.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Calves

Branding calves on the ranch

“I feel very blessed to be working with such a great bunch of people”

There are so many things to consider if you are ranching in the Nicola Valley – branding day and calves is one of them.

Spring is here in Merritt BC Canada, the calves are born and now it’s time to get things ready to start branding caves on the ranch. You want to do this before you send them to range or before anyone can take them.

There is so much you need to get organized and ready for branding day. Not only do you have to have your ropers and ground people lined up but you also have to make sure all your equipment is in working order. You also need to make sure you have all the necessary supplies for the day.

On top of all that your crew will need to be fed and kept hydrated throughout the day.

Today I am going to take you through a day of ranching in the Nicola Valley – branding calves. This is not like a typical written blog but a story through photographs. I really hope you enjoy.

Start of the day

Once the crew all know there jobs, fed breakfast which on this day consisted of coffee, tea, water, juice, muffins, bacon and egg or ham and egg on English muffins.

 

 

showing breakfast cattle ranching

Breakfast at the Ranch House

Horseback riding in the Nicola Valley

Cowboys mounting up and discussing life before the real work begins.

Breakfast done, now everyone is just getting ready to head out to gather the cows and calves.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Cowboys heading up to gather the cows and calves and bring them in for branding.

branding calves in the nicola valley

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Day, bringing the first herd in from the back fields.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Heading into the arena.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Look at all the fresh grass. Won’t be like that for long.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Cowboys getting ready to start roping the calves.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Here we go, first calf roped and getting hauled up to the branding station.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Once they have had their medications its time to brand. Gerry is checking to make sure the brand is on well enough. The smoke is from the hair burning.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Two sides going at once to make it a smoother operation and a little faster.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Corena branding one of her calves.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned so the ground crew tries to help out in catching the calf to re position the rope into the correct place. It’s all about team work.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Waiting for all parts of the branding to be completed before letting the calf go.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

You can see here the calf was roped in the wrong spot.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

So they wrestle the calf and re position the rope.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Which makes it easier and faster to give the medications and position for getting the ranches brand.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Gerry from 8 Mile Ranch putting his brand on.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

First herd finished and heading back out to pasture. Lunch Break

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Horses all lined up along the fence as the cowboys and crew stop for lunch.

Lunch Time

Another great meal consisting of fruit trays, vegetable trays, home made sausage rolls, sandwiches, muffins, all kids of little deserts and drinks.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Lunch all done, time to head out and gather the second herd.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Day. This is the second herd coming in for branding.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

As the second herd makes it’s way into the arena you can see it isn’t as grassy this time.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

I have to say this is one of my favorite calves. I call it Panda. Just missing the white around the eyes.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Relaxing for a moment while waiting it’s turn.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Ranch dogs patiently waiting for their turn to do some work.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The hair is clipped away so you can see better where you are putting the brand.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The Bosses 🙂 Gerry 8 Mile Ranch and Corena Calton Cattle Co.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Kids also love having some fun on branding day.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Colin bringing up another calf. Way to go Colin.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Nothing quite like seeing a father and son bonding.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Calves are just so darn cute.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The Boss Gerry doing his part in roping a calf. These horses are just as hard working as the cowboys and people on the ground. It is really quite something to watch how it all comes together.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Corena’s pretty brand on one of her calves. Nice job

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Sometimes a little wrestling is in order hahaha, hold her down.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

UT watching on, waiting to go out and work.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Gerry jumping off his horse to fix the rope on a calf.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Catch it…

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

And re position the rope. Great team work by all.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Team wrestling is a fact of life when branding. Flipping a calf that just didn’t want to go down.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Hold on… We are almost done!

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Oh another one where the rope needs to be re positioned.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Way to go, get them all finished up.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Group two heading back out to pasture

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

There’s that little panda again. So darn cute.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Second group back into the pasture, now to go and get the third and final group.

Final Group to be Branded

 

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding day. Here comes the last small group of calves that need to be branded. Yes, that is a dairy cow that you see. She is a surrogate mother. Any orphan calves that the ranch gets will be introduced to the Dairy cow. She takes them on as her own. It’s quite amazing to watch.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

There always seems to be one that ends up almost like a pet

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

This little one is no exception. Corena has to go and give it a little pet.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Then she talks to it before branding. So cute. So much care and consideration goes into everything that this ranch does. I feel blessed to be a part of what they do.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

And sometimes you think you have it.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

You try really hard

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

And still….

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The calf wins and gets away….lol

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

There is even a dummy steer and rope for those who would like to try their luck.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Kids seem to love it

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Although it’s more fun to rope your brother and drag him around.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Okay, I will let you go hahaha.

Supper Time

Now that all the calves have been branded. It’s time to relax, tell stories and prepare for the amazing supper.

All in all a day ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Day is a day of not only full of hard work. It is also fun in seeing old friends, new ones and enjoying all the day had to offer.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The start of the amazing Mexican dinner being prepared for supper by Patrick.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Adding peppers, oh my it’s looking so good.

For more great blogs about Merritt and the Nicola Valley head over to Experience Nicola Valley web page.  Corena owner of  Calton Cattle Co is also at Creative Company in downtown Merritt with lots of wonderful western decor.

western decor Calton Cattle Co Merritt BC Nicolla Valley

Photo Credit Calton Cattle Co. at Creative Company

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Day

Great places to go camping in the Nicola Valley.

Some great camp sites around Merritt.

Never a lack of things to do while out camping in the Nicola Valley.

Camping in the Nicola Valley is by far one of the best pass times in the spring, summer and fall.

You can start by checking all the provincial and forestry camp sites. There is a great map to look at and see what they have available at each. You can take a look at the interactive map from Ministry of Forests. From there it would be easy to decide on which site has what you are looking for in terms of hookups, power, showers, lake , fishing hiking etc.

I have done this a couple times and it can be very convenient. I may decide to do this again one day. But right now I prefer a little more rustic way of camping in the Nicola Valley. It opens up so many more options and places that you can go.

Provincial Camp sites.

Some great provincial campsites around the Merritt area include Kentucky Alleyne. Located off of highway 5A between Merritt and Princeton. There are some great hiking trails, fishing and geocaching. There is also a great kids pond between the two lakes where children can fish in the stocked trout pond.

fishing kentucky lake

Photo credit Michelle Lea’s Photography

Another great site is Monk park on the north west side of Nicola Lake. There is also great fishing here and if you have a boat you can get out into the deeper channels to fish. Rainbow, and kokanee are among the fish you can catch in Nicola Lake. You can get there by following highway 5 from Merritt towards Quilchena. Then take the Monk Park turn off just before the Nicola Lake dam.

fishing Nicola Lake

Photo credit Michelle Lea’s Photography

More rustic camping in the Nicola Valley.

There are plenty of great forestry campsites through out the Nicola Valley as well. Some of them include Tyner, Boss, Shea, Davis, Kane, Lundbom, Marquart and so many more. Each of these lakes has it’s own pro’s. There are usually quite nice set ups for camping at all of these forestry sites and each lake has good fishing, trails and an abundance of wildlife.

Lundbom is a great place to camp for those who love to take their horses along. There are corrals and some great trails and open range land. Makes for an amazing camping trip.

Rustic Camping

We usually just drive to a nice spot in the bush by a lake and camp. No power, no hookups, no water. Sometimes we are not sure if our trailer will make it in but we do. If for some reason the road it not safe to take the trailer we will take the tent.

camping Helmer Lake

Photo Credit Michelle Lea’s Photography

Our trailer is always loaded with food.

We always bring our own water, propane, battery or solar lights. We even make a portable out house. And last camping trip we lined the path to the outhouse with solar lights. It was great.

camp at Rey Lake

Photo Credit Michelle Lea’s Photography

Canoeing, kayaking and boating

All of these lakes would be great to take your canoe, kayak, boat, belly boat or even pontoon boat. They are all easy to access. There are so many lakes close to these lakes as well so you can travel a short distance to a new lake and a new experience.

Loons

We love going fishing to catch our dinner or just catch and release. It’s all about getting out and enjoying the day. One lake we go to has a resident loon that will come and try to steal the fish right from the side of your boat or belly boat. You have to be very careful and keep a watch or your fish will either get taken or have some pretty good marks in it from the loon’s beak. It is quite exciting and kind of scary at the same time. You can get some great photos of the loon though.

loon wanting to steal fish

Photo credit Michelle Lea’s Photography

Eagles

I remember another lake where you had to be careful as the resident bald eagle likes to come and steal the fish right off your line. Have to keep your eyes open and reel like crazy to get the fish in before the eagle steals it. It makes me laugh every time I think about it.

We are seriously so lucky to have what we have in our back yard. I remember setting up camp one summer and just going back and forth to work right from camp.

Bruce the Spruce

I have to tell you a fantastic little story about Bruce the spruce grouse. While out driving around, there is one road we always take to see what wildlife we can capture. Once particular day when we stopped at our normal corner I heard a grouse. I started to call it to see if it would come closer and what do you know. This grouse came right out strutting his stuff. He would follow me and even the truck for a little ways up the road.

NO WAY!!!

On our way back down I didn’t see the grouse again but told my boyfriend to stop and I would try calling him again. My boyfriend said no way is it going to come back again. I got out of the truck and started to call “Bruce…come on Bruce where are you” Well, wholly crap. Here comes Bruce strutting his stuff again. We couldn’t believe our eyes. I got a few more photo’s before heading home for the day.

Week Later

Thinking there is no possible way Bruce would still be there I decided to take my daughter for a ride up the road a week later. I needed some better photo’s. The ones I took the first time were not as good as I wanted. We got to the corner and I got out. My daughter must have though me to me crazy to be calling a grouse. “Bruce, come on Bruce, where are you” My daughter was just floored as out of the bush comes Bruce the Spruce. I got some better pictures this time. Had a little visit and left for home.

When my boyfriend got home and I started to tell him that Bruce was still there. My boyfriends daughters were listening couldn’t believe that I was calling this grouse in. I let them know that we would go out again as soon as we could so they could also see.

Couple weeks after that

It wasn’t until a couple weeks later that we got to head out again. I thought for sure this time Bruce would be gone. But he was still there and came out when I called him. My step-daughters thought it was the craziest thing. I also thought it was pretty wild how this grouse would come out when I called it. He was there and kept coming out for about a month and a half. We would go up and visit for a while and get some photo’s and a couple video’s.

I am not sure what ever happened to Bruce but he finally did disappear. It was a sad day when I went to see him and when I called he no longer came. I can only hope that he just moved on.

Gardening

I was pretty much ready to start planting a garden out there. Although we were back and forth I did plant some potato’s and lettuce. Our trailer stayed out there from April until the first snow in October. It was the best summer I have ever had. I think  this year I will bring some planters out and have a bit of a container garden.

Property

Now we live on property and I thought by having property I wouldn’t want to go camping in the Nicola Valley anymore. So I started to get animals to sustain us on our own land. Well, I was wrong. I miss camping in the Nicola Valley. Quading, fishing  going on hikes from out in the bush some where. There is absolutely nothing like it. I love being able to see all the amazing wildlife when I am camping in the Nicola Valley.

bull moose calf

Photo credit Michelle Lea’s Photography

New places to explore

Usually we always camped at Helmer Lake. Unfortunately there was a bad flood that took out most of the camp sites as well as the road. Forestry has not fixed it for the past 3 years. So on to new and exciting places.

We decided to sell all the animals so we can do some serious exploring again. Some of the lakes that we are looking forward to checking out this year are forestry camp sites. But that’s okay. I am looking forward to picking fresh berries and catching my supper again.

Can’t wait to share with you all what I have experienced over the spring, summer and fall and which ones we love. There are so many places to check out when you go camping in the Nicola Valley. Some you may have heard about. Some maybe you haven’t. I will tell you about all of the ones I visit and what I see and experience at each.

Take Care

Please take care of our country so that others may also enjoy it for generations to come.

I would like you to make a promise. When you go into the back country please, leave it like you were never there.  Always make sure your camp fire is out before you leave. If you see someone else has left a mess behind, please make an effort to clean it up then make a note and message me at Experience Nicola Valley. I will make a point to go back and see if there is anything else I can do. Thank you all so much.

Great places to go camping in the Nicola Valley.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley.

A day in the life at a local ranch; 8 Mile Ranch/Calton Cattle Co.

“If I get into a wreck can I call you? I already have a one in the house.” Corena

Anything can happen when your ranching in the Nicola Valley. I spent my day helping out at my friends at 8 Mile Ranch/Calton Cattle Co. while some calves were being born. Then I get to share that experience with all of you through blogging with Experience Nicola Valley.

I got the text about 9 am.

” Good morning Gerry has to go to Kamloops later this morning. If I get into a wreck can I call you? I already have a one in the house.” Corena @Calton Cattle Co.

frozen Calf warm kitchen

Photo credit Corena @Calton Cattle Co.

Getting Ready.

Oh my gosh, how exciting. I texted back right away ” Yes, I can absolutely come by if you need me.” I didn’t hear back right away. Then I got to thinking, what if something is going on right now and they can’t answer the phone. Well, I better get over there and see if there was anything they needed help with. Ranching in the Nicola Valley or anywhere can be full of surprises.
So I bundled up because the weather was a balmy -27 degrees.

freezing temp bundle up ranching life

Getting ready to go out in -27 to help friends with calving.

At the Ranch.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley of course always includes feeding. When I got to there everything looked good. Gerry and Corena a were out feeding and checking heifers to make sure there were no more calving at the moment. I walked out to meet up with Corena and chat with her to find out how things were going.

Back at the House.

She explained that Gerry had found the calf this morning looking like a little frost ball. With temperatures being so low they brought the calf in to warm up a bit. So, we headed over to the house to see how the little guy was doing.

Calf in the kitchen.

We walked in and in this big black tub was the cutest little baby calf. I have to admit I will never tire of seeing these little miracles. He was all dried off and getting ready to head back out to see mom and get some more food. Corena had already given him a bottle of colostrum to make sure he has the best start possible. I love ranching in the Nicola Valley.

calf, house, warm, cattle dog

Blue the ranch dog watching over “his” baby.

After taking a torch to melt all the snow and ice off of the trailer hitch, we got the it hooked up to the side by side then got ready to take this little one back to his momma. The tub wasn’t as heavy as I thought it was going to be. But with this little one standing up we had to be careful to have the weight distributed evenly while we carried him out to the trailer. Meanwhile, Buddy is keeping a close eye on what we are doing.

ranch dog border collie

Buddy watching us get the trailer ready.

Momma.

Once in the trailer we slowly hauled the little calf over to the pen his momma was in. She was still calling for him. It amazes me how when ranching in the Nicola Valley or on any ranch the cows and calves each have a distinct call so they know the sound of each other. Yet, to me they almost all sound the same.

Reuniting Calf with Momma.

We carried the tub into the edge of the paddock and set it down. Momma was getting a little agitated so we worked quickly to get the calf standing up and walked the calf into the paddock where mom could sniff, lick and talk to the calf to make sure it was hers. We watched to make sure Momma wouldn’t push baby away and that she would accept him back.

heifer calf reunited on the ranch

Heifer reunited with her calf

Quick check around paddock.

While we were waiting Corena suggested we take a look around the back paddocks to see how the other heifers were doing back there. While we were checking she mentioned to be careful of one of them as it wasn’t very friendly. We took a look around and all looked good so we went back and checked on baby and momma again. While I was watching and of course taking photos, Corena was blow torching the water trough to melt the pipes so it could be filled up again. In these temperatures everything freezes.

freezing water torch thaw fill trough

Thawing water lines to fill troughs.

Once we had the water filled we rechecked on Momma and the calf. They seemed to be doing okay at this point so we left them alone to bond.

Heading back to the house.

Just before we were going to head back to the house we thought it would be a good idea to have one more check. Things can change in a second when your ranching in the Nicola Valley. As we go around the corner of the lean-to Corena notices the heifer she warned me about earlier just had a calf. We went into the lean-to to watch through some peak holes. We had to make sure the mother was cleaning the little one off. She seemed like she wanted nothing to do with the calf. She would lick it once or twice then walk away.

new mother heifer calf freezing ranch life

Heifer with new calf and not interested in it yet.

Spring into action.

Corena went into the next pen and tried to rouse the mother into action by giving the new calf a little push. We thought it was going to work. Nope she again licked it once or twice again and walked away.

It was time to step in before the calf froze. We worked together to get the mom out of the pen (which didn’t take much). Then grabbing the big black tub we had just used we got the new calf up to load into it.

Calves don’t look that heavy. But it sure felt heavy when it’s not in the tub. Corena took one side and I the other. Together we lifted the new calf into the black tub. We carried the calf and tub out to the trailer and loaded it up to take back to the house. I was walking behind the trailer hanging on to the tub to make sure it didn’t slide out.
The calf was shivering so I took my jacket off and layed it over the calf. Once at the house we got the tub inside and Corena got warm towels from the dryer to lay over the calf. We spent the next half hour switching warm towels and drying off the calf.

warming calf cold farm life

Warming calf with heated towels from the dryer.

As I finished drying calf off Corena was getting a bottle of colostrum ready for baby.

Colostrum.

Colostrum is a very rich milk, the first milk that comes from the mothers. It is full of antioxidants that help protect the new calf against diseases.
Now that baby seamed to be a little perkier it was time to try feeding.

Feeding Time.

When you are ranching in the Nicola Valley one of the things you have to learn is how to feed new calves.
You would think that calves would automatically start sucking and it will be just that easy to stick a bottle in it’s mouth.
That’s not always the case. Sometimes it takes a while for them to “get it”, I was really hoping that in this case the calf would automatically pick it up.
First you have to stick your finger in it’s mouth to try and get the sucking reflex going. If the calf starts sucking insert the nipple and your good to go.

My Chance to shine.

So, here I go. I have the bottle and I am in position to start feeding. I think the calf is going to start sucking so I put the nipple in and nothing. It starts playing with the nipple a bit but no sucking. I take the nipple out and give the calf a min to taste the colostrum. Hopefully this will trigger it to start drinking. I try again, nothing. A third time nothing. Okay, time to switch positions and try at a different angle. Just not my day today.

Let the professional take over.

“Sometimes if you stand over the calf and try from a different angle the calf will start drinking.” Corena said
she then gets in position over the calf and gives it a go. Of course almost right away the calf starts to suck back the milk. Woohoo, this is a great thing. Calf is drinking and drinking strong. They can sure down a bottle quickly.

calf feeding colostrum house warmth

Calf drinking colostrum to give it the best start possible.

As Corena was feeding she asked “did we even look to see what the sex is” I laughed and said “no we haven’t had a chance yet” So while the little calf was feeding we took a peak.

Do you want to take a guess at what the sex was? A bull calf (male) or a heifer (female)? Comment below and let me know what your guess is.

boy or girl heifer or bull guess

Take your best guess in the comments below. Bull calf or heifer? What do you think.

Getting set up to take calf back out to it’s mother.

Now that the calf is warm and fed we need to go out and set up the paddocks, move mothers and babies around so we have the new mother in a paddock where they can work with her if she doesn’t accept her baby right away.

We start by opening up the gates and moving momma and her calf over one paddock. As we are doing this the new mother decides she wants to go in with them. Oh, here we go. Now we have to move them over and separate the new mother. She isn’t that friendly so we had to be very careful to watch she didn’t try to charge us. Was a bit iffy a couple times but we did get it done and they were all separated and in the correct paddocks.

Reuniting calf #2 with it’s mother.

After a few hours in the house, warming up, feeding and resting it was time to reunite this calf with it’s mother.
We again got the side by side in position to haul the tub out and into the trailer. Once we come back into the house to get the calf it’s standing. Another great sign. Carefully we carry the calf in the tub out to the trailer and load it up. I am not to keen on the calf standing, hopefully we make it over to the mother okay.

The wreck.

Corena starts to slowly drive over towards the paddock as I am holding the calf and the tub from the side to make sure they stay put. Well, what do you know. The calf decides it’s going to try playing. As it does a little jump in the air, the trailer still moving forward and calf moves back. Calf hits back of tub and as I jump in behind to catch it the calf is in my arms the tub has flipped up and dumped its contents on top of me and the calf. While all this is going on I am calling for Corena to stop. It all happened so fast. Everyone is okay and I am holding calf and laughing at the same time. I think I am going to name this calf “Touch Down” because that just felt like a long pass, catch and touch down lol.

We get the tub up righted and put the straw back inside and again lift the calf back into the tub. Okay, not much farther to go now. We can do this.
Whew, we made it back to the paddocks with out any further wrecks.

Putting calf in with its mother.

Now, for the fun part. This new mother is very jumpy and we have to get the baby in the paddock without the mother charging us or jumping the fences. We get everything ready and the calf out of the tub and standing. As I stand guard, Corena moves the baby through the gate and into the paddock. Mother is pacing around and not looking very happy. She actually looked like she wanted to jump the fence.

We get the calf in close the gate and leave her to check out her new calf again. Hopefully she will accept her new baby now and the circle of life will continue as these calves grow up to be strong young cows.

In the end.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley can be very trying at times. There is never a dull moment and sometimes you wonder why they continue. But it’s times like these that make it all worth it. I could work on a ranch every spring during the calving season. Although things sometimes go wrong and you loose a calf. It’s an amazing time of year and I wouldn’t trade the opportunities I have of helping out for anything.

Not only Ranching in the Nicola Valley.

Corena and Gerry not only do ranching in the Nicola Valley with cows but both have other businesses they do.

Corena with Calton Cattle Co. creates the most beautiful western decor items that are featured at Creative Company in downtown Merritt. Creative Company is a group of local people who had make products and sell them in this store. There are a lot of very creative people in Merritt. BC. Go in and check them out. There is something there for everyone.

Gerry from Delistle Trucking also runs a trucking company where he hauls livestock or hay for people throughout the region. You can contact him through the BC Livestock Trucker/Hauling page.

Both Gerry and Corena are amazing people, I feel very blessed having met them and have become great friends. Plus, they let me come and help them out on the ranch which I love so much.

Cattle Co Ranching in the Nicola Valley

Photo credit Corena @ Calton Cattle Co.

Don’t forget if you want to check out more of my blogs about adventures and ranching in the Nicola Valley follow me or our other bloggers at Experience Nicola Valley

Ranching in the Nicola Valley

Living and Cowboying in the Nicola Valley

When you hear the word “cowboy” what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Did you know that the term cowboy was first documented in the English language by 1725? It was a direct translation of the Spanish word vaquero — one who manages cattle from horseback, cowboy has the same meaning. Vaquero is rooted in the word vaca, or cow, and stems from the Latin vacca.

For some of us, it is not easy to develop trust when we are dealing with something or someone new. Dealing with a horse is not different. How can you communicate with a horse? How do horses communicate with us? To learn more about horsemanship, let me introduce our guest blogger Miles Kingdon, from Miles Kingdon Horsemanship.

I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch…

cowboyI came from Saskatchewan to the Nicola Valley, in March of 1981,  because I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch.  Most importantly, I wanted a full time cowboying job in cow country.  To live in a land where I could see the mountains and ride my horse across creeks and streams, and view wildlife year round.

I had been a cowboy on the big government pastures in Saskatchewan, but that job was seasonal; finishing for the year when the farmers took their cattle home in the late fall.  Besides, the winters were bitterly cold there, and not conducive to riding year round.

So I headed to B.C.  When I drove into the Nicola Valley from Kamloops, on Highway 5A (the only highway at that time), I saw vast, beautiful rolling hills of bunchgrass.  I knew that this was the place I wanted to stay.

Streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills

My first cowboying job was at the Douglas Lake Cattle Company.  Every day, I rode out in the early morning to look at a new range; with creeks, streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills to look at.  Other days, I’d be riding across a sea of grass, and knew I was in the best cow country I could ever see.

It was a good life at Douglas Lake, but I was still hungry to see what was on the other side of the ridge, so I hired on at Nicola Ranch.  I had a family of my own by then, and being at Nicola Ranch exposed me more to the Merritt Community.  Our children were born in Merritt, went to school and were involved in sports in Merritt.

A cowboy may not plan on involving himself in the community too much, because of his time spent at work, but he will, through the love of his children and interest in their daily activities.  It is inevitable for the parents.  They will rub shoulders with other parents and become involved in community functions, and as a result, feel like part of that community.

A new learning curve for this cowboy

cowboyAs the years rolled by, my interest in other ranges, and the desire to do better for my family, led me to the other big ranches across BC; the Bar K Ranch, Empire Valley Ranch, and the Gang Ranch.  These places were all a new learning curve for this cowboy.  Learning how to fit into a new environment, and acclimatize to each new system’s way of doing things; all were good for me.  I gained more knowledge about grasslands and different herd management practices.

Also, very important to me, was making a new string of horses for me to go to work with.  Taking the horses from being young and inexperienced to a finished bridle horse, at each ranch.

Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley.

A horse experienced at roping and doctoring cattle, cutting, and sorting cattle, and eventually becoming a willing partner that anyone, even my children,  could eventually ride.  And they did.  And until my children gained enough experience to be good help to the crew, the horses would take care of them throughout the day at work, and bring them home safely.

Not only did the horses watch how they carried my children through their formative and impressionable years, but so did the cowboys we rode with, always watched out for them.  Each of those hands became like uncles or aunts to our kids.  This is part of what makes our community so unique.  Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley.

At one time, the native community provided most of the recruits for the cowboy crews, and as the years rolled by, people from all over Canada, the US and beyond came to ride on these legendary outfits; some to move on to new ranges, some to stay and raise their families.  Ultimately, my family and I always came back to the Nicola Valley.  It wasn’t just the ranges and the scenery, the forgiving environment, and the horses, it was the community.  The people, and their empathy for others held us here.

Back when I was younger, and cowboying at Douglas Lake, one of the older hands did the math and figured we were riding an average of 5,000 miles/year horseback.  Some of us questioned that, but the elders on the crew attested to that figure.  Some outfits were less distance covered on horseback, while some, like the Gang Ranch, were a bit more.

I understand the horse…

So, after over forty years of cowboying for a wage, I’ve come to make a lot of friends in the cattle industry, and I’ve gotten to a place where I understand the horse quite a bit better.  It makes a difference in me, at days end, to count my blessings and tally up how many things were a bit better today than yesterday, with my horses, dogs, saddle partners and life.

It seemed the natural thing to do, once I left cowboying for the outfits full time, to hang my shingle out doing workshops.  To teach the skills we learned going places on horses, and making a living as a cowboy.  So, today, my wife and saddle partner, Possum, and I are making a business of that.  We have two more horsemanship/stockmanship workshops coming up this summer in the valley, at Seven Half Diamond Ranch.

There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.

cowboyNow, I can pass on these skills to whomever may be interested in working with horses and cattle.  There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.  And I really enjoy passing on knowledge to our youth, who, during their impressionable years, grow and gain knowledge the most. That is what they really desire.

Ultimately, after years of freedom and adventure, going places horseback, I had a few good stories to tell, and my wife pushed me to write them down.  As a result, we are looking at publishing our first book later this year.  It will be stories of life horseback, mostly situated in this valley of ours.

Many great adventures

The horse has brought me to many great adventures, and contact with a lot of good people.  The horse will do this for others as well. As long as there’s these grasslands and cattle that need to be maintained, there will be men and women riding down a trail and listening to their spurs chiming in time to their horse’s stride.  I have been blessed to grow in this community, and have come to love this valley, and the people in it.

Thanks, Miles Kingdon! We look forward to your book!

Click here for more info on Miles’ workshops. “Miles Kingdon Horsemanship offers a wide range of clinics, camps and workshops.”

Miles Facebook Page

For more reading on the cowboy experience in the Nicola Valley, read Etelka’s blog on the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo.

cowboy