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Moving cows is just the beginning

RANCHER KEITH Nantz uses a sorting paddle to direct cattle from pen to pen.

RANCHER KEITH Nantz uses a sorting paddle to direct cattle from pen to pen. Photo by Mark Gibson.

MAUPIN — Singsong chants of “Come on gals, come on gals, hi, hi, hi,” and “Hey ladies, hey ladies,” are accompanied on a cold winter day by a cacophony of protesting moos and bellows.

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A Long Day's Work

Gathering, penning, sorting and working on cows with Keith Nantz of Dillon Land and Cattle Company; audio slideshow by Mark B. Gibson.

Gathering, penning, sorting and working on cows with Keith Nantz of Dillon Land and Cattle Company; audio slideshow by Mark B. Gibson.

Cowboy Keith Nantz and his crew are walking behind the recalcitrant cows, some of which gave birth in the fall and have calves by their side, and some that are pregnant and will deliver within the next month or so. The men use words of encouragement to keep the cattle moving toward a labyrinth of stock pens in the corral.

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Helping guide cattle through the system of pens and corridors leading to the chutes, Craig Rutherford trades a baseball cap for a stocking hat as dusk arrives and the temperature drops.

A Rancher's Life is a year-long series by reporter RaeLynn Ricarte and photographer Mark B. Gibson of The Dalles Chronicle. Here are the stories so far:

A Rancher's Life and A 'big picture' outlook started the series January 25, 2014.

All in a Day's Work and Moving cows is just the beginning were published February 12, with Weathering the storms. An audio slideshow, Working cows, was also published in February.

March started with a look at wolves in two parts, Wolf trouble and Wolves on the move. It continues with Springs promise, a look at calves and spring on the ranch.

Working behind the scenes at the Oak Springs Road ranch between Tygh Valley and Maupin is Poncho, a border collie who races behind the cattle and nips their heels to get them headed in the right direction.

It is time to change out identification ear tags on the registered cows that are too faded to read with a new brand that is much more legible. In addition, Nantz will inoculate them with shots in the neck, which follows Beef Quality Assurance guidelines by being kept away from the meat. He will also give them medicine to prevent internal worm parasites.

The numbers on the tag begin with the year the cow was born, followed by the numerical order in which they arrived to create a four-digit figure. They are placed in the left ear of females and the right of males.

Yellow tags are used for the commercial side of the herd, which is raised solely for beef. Red tags for registered Angus and white tags for a hybrid breed of Gelbvieh and Angus that also has a registered genealogy. Their female calves will become part of the herd to replace those that are harvested due to age or for other management reasons. Their male offspring may become bulls that are sold to other producers or castrated as steers for meat.

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