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Sons of Rosalia Ranch

Bill Oates, manager of Rosalia Ranch, and his son Jake, set out to examine newly-arrived cattle in the Ranch pens. When the cattle arrived at the Ranch the week before the Symphony, they were branded and vaccinated.

Raising cattle is a messy business. Dust whirled around their pens and the scent of manure and branding filled the air. The cattle whined and two huge fans kept the place from sweltering on a summer day.

When Jake Oates, Rosalia Ranch-hand, branded the heifer, she squealed. Dashing around to the other side of the chute, Jake grabbed a syringe and vaccinated her. He pulled a lever, and the gate swung open. The heifer shot across the pen.

“This job,” Jake Oates said. “It’s a lifestyle.”

“Family’s a big part of it as well. You know, you spend quite a bit of your day out here working, so if your family is able to come help you or work with you, it’s nice, and usually, it’s pretty good help.”

Working cattle can be frustrating. They don’t always cooperate and need a little push. This time from Cody Oates, Jake’s brother.

“That’s definitely when the blood pressure gets up,” he said of going behind an excited steer. “They can test your nerves.”

Using a flexible prod with a green flag at its tip, Cody shouted and gently flicked the steer into the steel chute. The animal was reluctant, but Cody prodded it in. A gate closed behind the heifer, and Jake grabbed his brander.

Branding is one of the many tasks the brothers have on the ranch, in addition to feeding, watering, counting and medical treatment.

“It’s like having 6,000 other brothers, you know?” Cody said.

Cattle on Rosalia Ranch eating a mixture of grains and supplements pushed out to them by a tractor pulling a tub feeder. The mixture keeps cattle healthy and gaining weight. (Photo by Fran McCarthy)

Cody and Jake went to college and had many opportunities to leave the ranch. However, both decided to return and continue a family history in ranching.

Their dad, Bill Oates, is the manager of Rosalia Ranch, and their family moved to the ranch when Jake and Cody were 12 and 13.

“I was probably 7 when I started working,” Cody said. Both boys grew up washing water tanks and mowing grass.

“What we grew up on was more of a feedlot setting,” he added. He pointed to two dozen cattle pens. “It was 100 times bigger than this. Nothing but pens.”

“Dad pretty much would tell me and (Jake) to just go out and do a job,” Cody said. “We were still fairly young at the time, so we didn’t have big responsibilities, but we might go out and wash some tanks, pick up trash, or pick up metal.”

“Building fence in the summer. Well, tore a lot of it out at least,” Jake said.

The responsibilities increased as the boys grew. Now, Cody and Jake work Rosalia Ranch with Bill.

“About every day I know that I’m going to have to go through some cattle, ride through the pens every day,” Jake said. After branding, he and Bill straddled horses, trotted across a dirt road, and passed into one of many outdoor pens. Several hundred cattle moo-ed together in the pens, and father and son examined every animal for disease or injury.

While Bill and Jake made their way around the pens, the chorus of mooing faded under a dull roar. A John Deere tractor pulling a crimson feed wagon lumbered through the road between the pens. Cody sat in the cab. He pulled close to one of the pens and dumped feed into feed bunks mounted at the base of the steel fence.

As soon as the feed began pouring, 50 cattle dashed towards the feed bunks.

“You see something new every day,” Cody said. “You’re not cooped up in an office, and not on an assembly line. And we grew up here, so it’s like home.”

“If you love it and enjoy what you’re doing, you never work a day in your life,” Jake said.

— by Andrew Martin