Ranching by the signs
January 11, 2018
Cam Camblin was called upon to cut most of the studs in the surrounding country of northwestern Wyoming when he was a young man, said his great-grandaughter, Tiffany Schwenke. One time he'd promised to be at a rancher's outfit on a certain day for that job, but later checked his almanac and discovered the sign would be wrong on that date. Four days before the appointed time, he saddled up and rode 25 miles to the rancher's home to inform him he wouldn't be there that day to cut the studs because the sign was not right, telling him which date in the future would be right, and he'd be there then.
That rancher later said he was amazed Cam rode all that way to inform him ahead of time, because, "Most guys just wouldn't have shown up on the day we had set."
Camblin, and lot of farmers and ranchers, have seen first-hand the positive effects of scheduling work by phases of the moon.
Stallings Show Horses is one of those that puts a lot of stock in the concept, outlining on their website their commitment to performing any elective surgeries, like castration, in accordance with the Zodiac signs. Michele A. Stallings shared this information from their website:
"B. R. Blagg, master farrier and one of the most knowledgeable horsemen I ever met, taught us how to read the Zodiac Chart decades ago. He said that you should only castrate when the moon signs were in the “thighs” going “down.” If the signs were in the “heart” the animal would bleed like a stuck pig!
"Our knowledge of how the astrological table works is limited to a very vague understanding that there evidently is a correlation between the gravitational pull of the moon and subsequent changes in barometric pressure. We really don’t know why the moon signs seem to work, but after watching B. R. cut colts and having horses operated on by the moon signs, I would never have it any other way.
"B. R. challenged many veterinarians to try castrating on different dates, and inevitably, they all agreed that horses bled less when cut on the moon signs, so we continue to use this method."
Many ranchers don't process livestock by the signs, but some said they do believe in it. Seemingly, weather, time and available help speak more loudly than the almanac.
Weston County, Wyoming rancher Donald Simmons said he quit smoking more than 20 years ago and knows he quit when the signs were right because, where most folk never get over the craving and the struggle to stay off tobacco, he never had a bit of trouble.
He's a strong believer in the signs, yet doesn't let it interfere with processing cattle whenever all the other necessities are in place. He said, "In this business, we have to use every available angle, just like witching that water well. You put a lot of money into getting it drilled, and you sure want to hit water, so if you're smart you use anything that might help. Farming and ranching by the almanac is one of those things, it doesn't cost you anything to try it."
Lorena Derflinger agrees. This year, for the first time, they tried weaning by the signs. She's always planted her garden by the moon, as taught by her grandfather—plant the plants that produce undergound (root crops) when the moon is going down, and the plants produce above ground when the moon is going up. "Grandpa was a fantastic gardener and he always planted by the signs of the moon. He lived in Newell and had irrigation, so that helped too," she laughed.
He also planted a lot of trees and said he had to go fishing to catch a fish to plant with each tree. Derflinger isn't sure that was strictly necessary, "I don't know if that was just an excuse to go fishing," she said.
This is the Derflingers' first experience applying the signs to their registered cowherd, but she figures they'll do it again. "They weaned good and went straight to the bunks and started eating and they barely bawled at all. Of course, as dry as it was the cows might have quit giving as much milk.
"We'll try it again. If it works again that must have something to do with it."
They decided look back at the old wisdom because they were trying to figure out what they could do better for their operation to make things go smoothly.
"I just Googled the best time of the month to wean cattle. We tried one of the days. We decided why not try it, what's it going to hurt?"
The topic comes up occasionally on internet discussion forums, and it's not hard to find advocates for the practice. One commenter from Green County, Illinois talked about weaning by the signs, saying, "I always wean mine when the moon is dark. My theory is they can't see to walk the fence line and eventually quit bawling and lay down during the night. All I know is that mine quit bawling after two to three days and all my neighbors' bawl for a week."
A commenter from northern Missouri said, "I will never wean again if the sign is not in the legs or the feet! They calm down faster and don't lose as much weight. My grandma raised cows and farmed all her life and would always do everything by the signs, seeding, cutting, gravel, working cattle, butchering – she has passed away and I wish I could remember all of it, but I don't. Never ever wean in the head or heart! Been there done that once, never again."
As for cutting bulls, one Oklahoma poster wrote, "The best sign an old cowman told me was a sharp knife and plenty of help." Another commenter shared, "In my brief research I did find this one bit of wonderful advice (from the Farmer’s Almanac).
“When is the best time to castrate a pig?”
“When he’s asleep.”