We’re continuing our report on our trip to the ranch. This has no particular financial implication; we just want to tell you what happened.
Compuel is what we’d call the ‘back 40’ in America. Except it’s about 10,000 acres…and it’s a 4-hour trip on horseback. Still, the cattle have to be rounded up from Compuel annually. Then, they are driven down to the main part of the ranch …where they are vaccinated against brucellosis and other diseases and parasites…culled…castrated…and generally treated roughly. It takes about 7 hours to drive the herd up over the pass and down to the corrals near the ranch house.
The following day, we got up before dawn…by the time we got to the corral, the sky in the East was pink. It was still cold, but warming up fast.
Jorge gave the orders.
“Javier…you and Cosimir separate out the ‘terneros’ (young animals)… Pedro and Gustavo, get on the sluices… Senior Bonner, would you like to operate the gate?”
Javier is a young man who looks a little like Robert Mitchum, if you can imagine Robert Mitchum as an Incan with a huge wad of coca leaves in his jaw. Javier wore leather chaps and a flat, broad-brimmed Peruvian cowboy hat. He and Cosimir worked fast. They yelled. They whipped. A huge cloud of dust swirled up as they got the whole herd moving in a circle…and then forced the young animals into a second pen…generally by waving their hats at them. Occasionally, the cattle would panic and the two would run for cover. And occasionally, a cow…or a bull…would get annoyed and charge. Javier, particularly, was amazingly fast on his feet. He jumped onto the stone walls of the corral a couple of times.
The last calves were lassoed…and dragged them away from their mothers, into the holding pen. Then, they were pushed through a maze of stone walls, where the passage became narrower and narrower, until they finally came to the wooden sluice. It is tight turnstile with a gate on one end and a “sepa” on the other (we couldn’t find the word in the dictionary). This sepa is rather ingenious. It is two large pieces of solid wood that open up into a V-shaped passage and then come together – suddenly – like the jaws of a clamp. The cows come through the sluice one at a time. As they come through, the rear gate closes behind them. Then, the sepa at the other end begins to close. As it closes, the cow makes a dash for freedom. But Pedro was working the sepa lever and he rarely missed. As the cow started through the sepa opening, he leaned down hard on the lever and grabbed it by the neck.
Then, the hatches on each side of the sluice opened…and the needles came toward the struggling beast.
“Mr. Bonner…you’re going to have to operate that gate a little faster,” said Jorge. “We only want one cow at a time.”
More tomorrow…we’re out of time for today.
for Markets and Money