8 September 2021

A Terrible, Awful, Kind Of Good Day

Have you ever had a terrible, awful, no good, really bad day?

I do believe that title is taken, but it was how my morning felt.

My wonderful husband got up and got breakfast for everyone, like he always does. I took a long, joyous sip of my coffee. Only to discover something in my mouth. Looking around for somewhere to spit it out, I finally decided on the table. It made a large mess, but I was relieved to find it was a moth that had decided to make my coffee its final resting place and not a fly. My toast was soggy, my coffee no longer appealing. I comforted myself with the reminder that I’d be going through town later and could get a yummy fancy coffee there.

I set about getting my chores done so I could get going and get that coffee. One thing after another caught me though. I ended up helping clean out a bulk truck and finishing laundry. I switched vehicles a couple of times ending up in the pickup and trailer with a four wheeler loaded instead of my pickup, the original reason for going to town. I need gas. Oh well. By now I was committed to town for reasons other than the original.

By the time I got to town it was nearly eleven. I walked up to the door of the coffee shop, only to come nose to nose with a closed sign. The lady was inside, but no, she was not willing to get me coffee. I consoled my self with tea from the grocery store. And a bit of chocolate. It was nearly lunch time by the time I got to the pasture to do the cow checking I had set out to do to start with.

With my chocolate for lunch and bottle of tea to take the place of the water jug I had left the house without 🙁 I got to the pasture. The cows were mostly in the new pasture I had gone to the trouble of bringing the fourwheeler to move them to. What a wonderful day. A couple of heifers and a bull were still in the old pasture, Daisy and I got them moved.

Most of them.

The bull said no. I had been told to leave the gates open between new and old pasture. The bull could stay where he was. We left him behind.

After moving the heifers and getting back to the pickup I got to thinking about that bull. He would do nothing but cause trouble. That’s what bulls do. They jump over fences, tear up fences. wander the country looking for more fences to destroy.

What if I brought him home?

I have a friend who is my hero. She regularly loads the yearlings she watches in the trailer and brings them home to doctor. All by herself. No chasing, no roping, no dragging. Just a girl out there do the job in the best way possible. I want to be like her.

Would I be able to walk a bull into the trailer though?

She brings along panels and spends time out working with her yearlings.

I had myself, a fourwheeler, the trailer, a barbwire fence, and my trusty Daisy.

It seemed unlikely. What was the worst that could happen? No one was there to see me fail. I do all the fence fixing anyway. I would have a little more to do if he went through the fence.

I pulled the trailer alongside a corner brace, unloaded my mount and we gave it a try.

It didn’t look promising to start with. The bull walked into the windmill pond and said no.

My mount couldn’t swim. Daisy ran up to him barking. He said no. She looked back at me and shrugged her shoulders, I swear she did, and said sorry.

I sat a moment thinking how sad it was to have failed so quickly. Then I grabbed a piece of wood that was laying nearby and threw it at the bull. It actually hit him! He was so offended. He looked around at me, feelings hurt, then walked slowly out of the water.

Wow, weird, but not going to question what works.

Daisy hopped on behind me, Speeding around the water hole we rushed to keep him out of it. Wet muddy Daisy laid against me soaking us both The bull walked quietly towards the trailer.

With only the trailer door for wing fence, there wasn’t much to hold him. I pulled along side, he stopped and started to back up. I jumped off and got behind him.

He stood perfectly still, looking around, judging his options. Then he walked right into the trailer! It worked! I was, almost, as cool as my friend. Only because the bull was calm and easy going. Just exactly the way bulls should be.

My terrible, awful, no good day was looking a little brighter.

Category: Cows | LEAVE A COMMENT
22 June 2021

Windmill Repairs

The kids and I spent last summer checking on the heifers. Towards fall we took over the cow herd too. This year we are starting out with the whole bunch.

While fixing fences this spring we found one tank badly in need of banking, piling dirt in around it so the cows, and calves, can reach over the side to get a drink. It was dug and washed down so deep next to the tank that only the cows could reach and only if they stretched clear up and over. That left one little tank for the cattle to drink out of. If it got filled by the big tank once the big tank got full. Which it couldn’t because the side of the tank was getting smashed lower than the over flow by cows standing on tip toes to reach over the side.

I bugged my husband until we all went over and got it fixed!

Today was the first day we were able to get back over and check on the repairs. The tanks looked good.

We went past the heifers. Their tank didn’t look good. It looked empty.

One heifer was in the tank. The rest were standing around looking thirsty. There was water still in the water hole next to it. It wasn’t an extreme emergency. Something needed done though. Soon. I was trying to decide if we could move the herd of yearlings, cow people will understand the issues involved with trying to move yearlings, using only one pickup across a wide open hay field. Or if we should go home and get the pickup and trailer and two 4wheelers.

As always happens when I need him, whether I know it or not, my husband called. He told me to check a few things before jumping straight to moving heifers. I know nothing about working on windmills. He said to look down the pipe and see of we could see the rod down there that the chain was supposed to be hooked to. I couldn’t.

As we were talking about how it wasn’t going to work our son was fiddling around. He held up the pipe that we were looking down. He had unscrewed it! Now we could see, and reach, another six inches down. With the top of the pipe off we could see the rod! Brilliant child.

Hanging up we went to work trying to follow directions and improvise to get them to work. Releasing the break on the windmill we let the wind lower the chain as far down as possible. It wasn’t near close enough to connect the chain coming down from the windmill to the rod it had to pump to bring up water.

All we had on hand were my fencing pliers, one vice grip, a flash light we found in the glove box, and a piece of chain left hanging on the windmill.

Using that we were able to remove the piece that needed to screw onto the rod. We got that, and the spare piece of chain attached to it. screwed onto the rod! The horror that would occur if we dropped anything down the pipe was fresh on my mind and I repeated it continuously to the children. My daughter clung to the chain and the lower half of the concoction as if her life depended on it.
No matter how hard we pulled we couldn’t get the rod up any higher. No matter how much we let the windmill go hoping it would somehow lower itself enough to reach, it couldn’t. When we connected rod and chain, using our spare chain, we could get the rod high enough but couldn’t hold it there to disconnect and reconnect chains.

I was about to give up.

Just when I needed him, my husband called back to see how things were going. Should he leave work and drive over?

From the first time I met him there hasn’t been a time that I really needed him that God hasn’t sent my husband to me. I try not to let myself get too comfortable in the knowledge that he will be there, but he always is.

We told him our problem. He gave us a solution. Take the vice grips off the chain where we were using them to hold the two chunks together. Find some wire, we were fencing after all, we had wire! Use that to hold the chains together. Let the windmill pull the rod up. Quickly snap the vice grips onto the rod to hold it up where it needed to be, disconnect and reconnect the chains where they needed to be.

Duh. So simple but so far out of my ignorant brain.

We went to work at it. Both children had been right there with me this whole time, working as hard as they could. Accomplishing every bit as much as I was. What good kids and what a great learning opportunity.

With a good bit of trial and error, but no fingers pinched or eyes poked out by wires flying through the air, we eventually got it. We only had to take out bolt back out once to put the pipe back over the chain so we could screw it back on once we had the chain connected. Sometimes the wind died down. As soon as we needed to rod drawn up a gust would come by and turn the windmill. God was with us in so many ways.

Wires removed, nuts tightened on the bolt. break released on the windmill the wind came up steady. Pumping water into the empty tank. It was flowing again. The windmill working beautifully. We had succeeded. To kids, a pair of fencing pliers, one vice grip, and me in my complete ignorance of windmill. And my husband over the phone of course.

 

19 June 2021

Loading Cows

We got a call late last night. The neighbor would be driving his heard of cows over in the morning to load them using our corrals and haul them to pasture. No idea when.

So we went out by the light of the moon, a very bright half moon, and closed gates on the horses so everything was ready and they were out of the way. You never know sometimes, people will show up at the crack of dawn.

My hard working husband has been up at dawn all weekend, his usual one chance to sleep in a little, and out raking hay. He did the same this morning. I get to sleep in. Until about six thirty at least which is when the kids are up running around. The guys didn’t show up until late, eightish maybe? They came and unloaded 4wheelers here to ride back and get the herd. I went out to make sure my horse stuff was out of the way so they could get to the chutes with pickups and trailers. My husband came in from the field to make sure they had everything they needed. I hopped on with him and we ran to make sure gates were closed around the corn fields and to hold the driveway when they went by. There was barely time to get around that as the herd came trotting over the hills down the road. From our drive we watched them veer sharply off into the crp to the north then back again. Past us the trotted, off and running.

We rushed back to drop my husband off to get back to raking and I went around through the pasture to offer any more help they might need. The cows went right where they were supposed to and were captured in the high guard rail fences of the corrals.

One child was in the tractor helping bale. I ran inside to check on the other than out to offer any help I could.

They were busy sorting calves off. I was going pretty well. Of course that couldn’t last. The cows started balking. The tall skinny guy, I didn’t know them, they were people the neighbor had gotten to come help him, the tall skinny guy was trying to get only cows. The other guy was trying to help. The main sort didn’t go bad beyond some cussing and a few bruises.

Then there was the second sort. A handful of bull calves that hadn’t been castrated. Those were harder to carefully pull out of the other calves. More cussing and a few yelps, I was happy to be standing quietly at the gate away from the commotion. The neighbor was in there sorting now. That made it go a little smoother. His cows know him and are used to him. They don’t take strangers well. Finally the bull were pulled out. There was one brockle faced, spotted with white, heifer in with them. At first they were going to get her. Then the neighbor said to leave her. There was something about her he didn’t like, she wouldn’t make a good cow. She might as well go to the sale barn. The destination of the bulls apparently.

No sooner had he said that then she made a swoop past me. I leapt onto the gate. She ran past me and dove out the gate. The tall skinny guy was standing in the middle of the lane. Minding his own business. The heifer was running hard down the center of the lane. Heading elsewhere. Unfortunately they were both in the same place at the same time. She jumped into the air. He may have froze, he may have tried to move but didn’t have time, he may have thought she wouldn’t take him.

She crashed into him, took him down. Landed on top of him. Thrashed around awhile. They both were on the ground rolling about. She got up first, stomped on him some more then was off. He laid there awhile, getting his breath and his bearings I would guess. We could easily see why she wouldn’t make a cow. She dove for all of us a few more times before that bunch was put safely off in their own pen.

Where I had to sneak in and try to get a close up picture of her whorl! I did, with the handy zoom on my  phone. She tried to eat me a few times. Fortunately didn’t succeed.

There were three stock trailers to fill and just splitting cows from calves didn’t fit what room there was to fill. There was a little more sorting to do. Pulling a few big calves off to fit in the trailer with the cows. One of them was not happy. Another heifer who took after us a few times. The other guy, not tall and skinny, hung out up on the fence with me. He had a few bruises of his own already and enough sense not to want a repeat of what tall skinny guy got.

The bull, the big one, not the calves, got pulled off too. He was staying behind after it took a lady with her good roping horse and herd of dogs to get him loaded and brought home last fall. Some may remember the days long adventure that was bringing this neighbors cows home last fall. The bull was not happy to be separated from his herd. As we loaded the others he tried to jump the tall guard rail fences, hung up at the girth and slid defeatedly back to the side he was supposed to be on.

With the cattle loaded and gone we moved the bull, bull calves, and killer heifer to a pen where they would have food and water until the neighbor came for them. Back inside the house I sat down to get some work done.

Soon my cow hating husband came in the door. Would I mind coming out? The bull had jumped out of the pen and needed to be put back.

Yay.

When we got out there he wasn’t hanging out around the corrals and cows like I had rather expected. Instead he was on the far side of a corn field. Great. I said I’d go back for a horse so we didn’t smash so much corn driving over it with 4wheelers. Working on saddling a horse I got a call. He had left the corn field and was headed east. Towards home.

I rushed out on the 4wheeler to find them and him in the section line. A ‘road’ between fields, no maintenance, no gravel, just grass. As I got into the section line, no where near him, he jumped into a different neighbors field. Freshly planted. We sat and pondered life for awhile. The mistakes we had made that lead us to this unfortunate position. Selling out and moving to town, going home and getting a rifle.

In the end we followed him into the field. He obviously knew where home was and wanted to go there. We could escort him. I drove alongside him my dusty dirty husband behind. The bull hadn’t been mean through any of this. He just didn’t care if you were there and walked right through you. With our son sitting in front of me I kept picturing how easily the big bull could turn and topple us, 4hwheeler and all. We switched places with my husband. Slightly easier to get out of the way without a small child to get to safety too.

Squinting against the dust we stirred up in the bone dry field the boy was a trooper. Proud of himself for being out there doing a mans job and doing a good job at it. He was happy to claim the well deserved title of a ‘real cowboy’.

We got across the field and the bull happily hopped the fence into the next neighbors field. This one was in grass at least and not as filthy. On the other side was the road and his home where he spent the winter and wanted back to.

So he jumped the other fence into still another neighbors wheat field.

The wheat looks great this year. They got the weeds under control and it seems to have gotten enough moisture to grow tall enough to almost hide a full grown bull. Who left a path of destruction in his wake. We didn’t follow. He was going fine on his own.

Fence after fence, field after field, he wandered towards his home. We sat to the side and tried to guide him as best we could. He went home in a round about way. Finally he ended up in his corrals. They are much less sturdy than the guard rail and railroad tie pen he left. Hopefully it is where he wanted to be, even without his cow herd there, and he will stay. If not. We’re all in trouble. Maybe he’ll go find a herd of cows somewhere and stay with them.

5 June 2021

Hauling Cattle

Quite a few years ago, our youngest was just a baby, I said sure, I could drive the semi and haul a load of hay. It was just a couple of miles from home.I could handle a stickshift semi that far. I can drive a stick. Learned to drive in one, the memory of which is still mocked by my loving mother. Once you can drive a stick you can drive any stick. From a tractor to a pickup. It’s a good skill to have.

I drove over to the highway and around the field while my husband loaded the hay trailer. Then headed for home with a full load of hay. All was well until I got to the big hill between our house and the hay field. The semi lugged up the hill then died.

I let it roll backwards down the hill, keeping on the road with my superior driving skills 🤦🏼‍♀️ Double checking to make sure I had it in first I tried again, and again, and again. Before I finally called my husband nearly in tears to come back and save me.

He came back, hopped in, and drove home.

I followed on the fourwheeler fuming. When he hopped out at home perfectly happy and cheerful to inform me that I had forgotten to shift out of high range. that was the closest we’ve ever come to divorce.

This weekend we worked the calves and hauled them to pasture. On the second load, in the heat of the hottest day yet this year, the pickup I was driving with a trailer full of calves decided it was done. I feel I should mention here that the calves are hauled separate to keep the cows from smashing them. As soon as they all get to pasture they will be reunited.

Anyway, with a trailer full of calves, their moms in the semi ahead of us with my husband driving, the pickup decided it couldn’t make it up the big hill. A different big hill this time.For years it has had issues going in the heat, it lugs and lurches. The mechanics can never find the problem because it only does it in the heat with a trailer. Today it was done. After coasting down hill and pushing as hard as we could from the inside to help it make it up the hills, it had come as far as it could.

The pickup was dead.

I backed it down the hill. Managing to keep  on the road this time too. Called my husband to come save me and hopped out with our son to sit beside the road. I notice a few themes to my life.

It was HOT out.

The mechanic said he would drive out from town and take a look at the pickup. A neighbor drove by in his pickup and trailer, he stopped and asked if we needed anything. There are so many good people out there.

The mechanic got there diagnosed it as a fuel pump issue, realized we had a load of calves on and offered a ride to the pasture. He quickly hooked a tow rope from his pickup to ours. I wanted nothing to do with this. I feel I should mention this is all on nearly deserted gravel roads. So I said I would go take the semi. Even a fully loaded cattle pot would be easier than a pickup towing a pickup and loaded trailer. I climbed into the air-conditioned cab of the semi that had been idling patiently as it waited. After the heat of the day it felt heavenly. I looked around and realized it wasn’t the automatic semi. It was the stick shift! The one of my former epic failure.

Lessons learned the hard way are lessons learned well.

I checked to make sure it was in low range. I looked at the chart on the visor to make sure I knew where first was. My first guess would have been reverse. I have driven this semi hauling hay over the last couple of summers. The epic hay failure wasn’t the last time, just the most memorable. When you drive something three or four times a year the basics don’t come natural. I got it in gear. Didn’t kill it taking off. I was well on my way to making it the few more miles to the pasture.

Up through the gears. I did remember how to shift without the clutch. I was feeling pretty good until we got to the downhill side. With a heavy shifting load of cattle on behind thirty five miles an hour feels like sixty as I eased down the hill. The turn was at the bottom I’d have to downshift. Never my forte. Far easier to come to a complete stop and start again at first. I remembered to shift to the low range! Prove that positive punishment can be effective, if miserable, training.

Finally I made it to the pasture. Now all I needed to do was pull into the narrow driveway so the trailer could be backed across the road and into the pasture. While my husband, child, and the mechanic watched. As I slowed to make the turn at a creeping rate, I let off the clutch and the engine lugged ad nearly died.

I had forgotten to shift to low range. Here. Now that there was an audience.

Dang it.

Quickly shoving the clutch back in before it actually died I rectified the problem. Missed the corner post with the trailer. Left the semi sit for my husband to back into the pasture!

That was enough excitement for me for one day.

The cattle unloaded. Mechanic and husband left the trailer and towed the pickup on into town. Son and I sat waiting to be rescued with a different pickup. It was hot. I convinced my son the tank would make a good pool. It was all good. Hard learned lesson had saved me from making a complete fool of myself and the cattle were out of the hot trailer onto the good green grass where they will spend the summer being feral and fat.

2 June 2021

We Be Ranchin’

People have this idea of what a cowboy looks like. Men in hats, boots, pickups, and a blue heeler along.

While that may be the case, sometimes or even most of the time, there is another type too.

Being a ‘cowboy’ has nothing to do with a ‘look’. It drives me crazy when I see ‘cowboys’ all decked out and dressed up in ‘cowboy’ clothes who have never done a day of real ranch work in their lives. My children will even say that they would look like a real ‘cowboy’ if only they had a hat to go with whatever outfit they are wearing. I always stop and give them a lecture about how the clothes they wear don’t matter. They are doing the work, caring for the animals. They ARE cowboys and no clothes are going to make a difference in that.

We went along with a friend today as she moved a pair back to the pasture they needed to be in. The cow and calf had been brought in to offer the calf some care. The calf was doing better now and ready to back out on grass. In a Buick and a mini van, with a poodle, standard, not mini! and a small child along, we got the calf where she needed to be. When the cow wanted to go the other way the small child stood his ground in a gate and steered her the right direction. With more enthusiasm than skill the poodle tried his hand at being a cow dog. In tennis shoes and shorts my friend had no trouble getting the work done that needed done.

We be cowboys.

Looks and clothes mean nothing, not in any aspect of life. Doing the work that needs done and taking care of the animals is the important thing.

Category: 8, Cows | LEAVE A COMMENT
8 May 2021

There were only two of the old white face cows left. I watch them carefully every year waiting for heifers. Last year there was one. That was when there were three of the white faces. That one is gone now, old and gaunt she barely managed to raise her last heifer calf. That calf was scrawny but I took a chance and saved her anyway. Genetics are still there even if nutrition wasn’t.

This year I didn’t think the two remaining ones were bred. Until one surprised me with a calf. Then she went down. We tried some doctoring but even if it might have helped she kept stretching her hind legs out behind her as she crawled along on her knees. She wasn’t going to be able to get up.

With the payloader we set out to catch the calf. It was awful. She bellowed and crawled on her front legs as I grabbed the calf and hauled her into the bucket. My heart broke for them both, why couldn’t we wait until she was dead? Why torture the poor girl. The path was already set, the calf caught. No point in arguing for turning the calf loose to try to catch again another time. Not much hope of it being an argument I could win anyway.

On the ride back I sat looking at this darling white face calf. I had watched her since birth, wondering if she would grow out good enough to save. She had so much pink skin. Would she burn too badly? Each eye was graced with a whorl. How could I let her go?

So we ended up with her. I had not wanted to feed any calves this year. We are busy enough without another chore. I want to go see my family. I don’t want to be tied down by yet another job. We have her anyway. Somehow everything is managing to fit in. She was named Rose by one, White Face by the other. Depending on who is feeding her she goes by one or both names. The kids are fighting it but doing a pretty good job of doing the feeding themselves.

I feel awful about her being alone. We are all supposed to be taking the time to hang out and pet her. The goats stayed up with her for a little while. They weren’t happy about it and Rose was scared of them. It wasn’t a great arrangement. Then they left. It didn’t seem worth bringing them back.

The Goblin Child has been wanting to show a bottle calf at fair. I’m trying to figure out how to do 4h. Rose is slowly being halter trained.

While we play with her or take turns feeding. The kids like to climb the small A frame calf hut. It has been named Mount Everest and they happily scale it.

We’ll see how Rose grows out. We have had bottle calves that were able to make heifers before. She is growing beautifully and may be able to stick around. If so she is The Goblin Child’s. We get a brand registered and she can start her own little herd.

 

 

12 April 2021

Night Calving

There’s something special about checking cows at night. Although it may still be bone chillingly cold, the wind has usually gone down. Stars shine brightly over head. The silence surrounds you.Any loud noises would be out of place so you stay quiet too, walking soft footed into the dark.

My pet heifer, Ghost, was getting near calving. I wanted to go check her one last time before going to bed. Walking into the pen the rest of the heifers barely looked at me. I walked among them so often I was nearly part of the herd. Ghost was fine. She came over to sniff my hands and ask for a treat or a scratch then  walked with me as I made the round.

One of the heifers had the water bag out. The thin weak light from  my flashlight, so blindingly bright in the house, could barely enhance the bright light of the moon. I couldn’t see any feet. The bag didn’t look dry. It wasn’t more than a couple of hours since I had been out here last. There was no reason to think there was any trouble. Except that this was a heifer.

So much for going in and straight to bed.

I stopped to tell my husband that I was going to stay up and check her again, he might as well go ahead and get some sleep. I sat on the couch and got some work done. Finally an hour passed, I had given her time to get some work done so I went back out.

This time two front feet were showing. Both facing the right way. Everything looked good. The goal is always to leave them alone to do it their way. A first baby is hard. I’d give her a bit more time to work on it.

This time I tried to sleep. It was getting late and I was going to be feeling this come morning. After fitful dozing on the couch I decided to go check again. She’d had plenty of time to work at it herself, it was getting  to be decision time. It was also about one o’clock in the morning.

She was laying down when I got there. Although there hadn’t been much further progress, I could see the front feet clearly. Those things were huge. There was no way a tiny heifer was going to be able to do this by herself.

I might as well start clearing a path to the barn.

There’s reason the heifers are kept separate and as close to the barn as possible. Much easier to keep an eye on them and bring one in when needed. And it will be needed.

I opened what gates I could. There was a heifer in the front corral who had lost her calf and a twin calf we were trying to adopt on her. I moved them out of the way. Turning lights on in the barn I opened everything needed to run her straight into the chute.

The whole time I tried to decide if I should go wake my husband. At first I thought I might as well get everything ready, then I’ll go get him. Then I thought, I’ll just run her up first then I’ll go get him. Then I found myself running her into the chute and I still hadn’t woken him.

I had seen this done and assisted many times. Even though I’d never had the chance myself, surely I could do it?

I had great faith that if I needed him he would show up at my side. Ever since I first met him he has been there when  I needed. God taps him on the shoulder and sends him my way. If I got into trouble I trusted that God would send him to me again.  So I proceeded with the heifer.

With a deep breath I prepared myself and dove in to investigate. Nothing could prepare me for the heat and I jerked my hand back. Knowing what to expect I tried again. The calf chains (nylon actually) were awkward and difficult to get securely in place. My first try slipped off as soon as I pulled. The second try worked better. She was helping all she could. I pulled, she strained, we made great progress.

In no time the calf, wet pink tongue sticking out as it coughed up fluids and gasped for air, was hanging by it’s hips. I let it hang there, lungs draining, coming to life.

Then the cow went down. The size of the calf was more than her young narrow hips could take. I couldn’t get her up. I couldn’t get the calf out.

Finally I opened the head catch hoping she would get up if she could get out of the chute.

It worked. She struggled to her feet. I hung onto the calf chains following her out of the chute. Those hips would not give though. Her were giving out as she staggered about. The calf’s were wedged tight. After following her about, trying to balance pulling with keeping her on her feet, the calf slipped free.

Keeping my grip on the chains I kept the calf from smacking into the concrete. The heifer was down again. The calf was alive and breathing, and huge!

The night was warm. I was exhausted. I left them both lay there. She could take care of her own calf when she was rested and able to get up. I wouldn’t be able to move him much anyway. He was too big for me to pick up.

Staggering into the house, my husband scared me half to death standing just inside the door. He was coming to look for me. As always, there watching out for me when  I need him and MAD that I hadn’t woken him up to help me.

Category: Cows | LEAVE A COMMENT
26 March 2021

Spring

It was snowing. The snow falling softly, straight down with no wind to drive it.

I stood brushing the horses. We had all the time in the world. No rush to be anywhere or get work done. Right now the work was waiting. In the next pen over a heifer struggled to give birth. With the horses I waited, watching from a distance. Ready to offer help while trying to stay out of her way.

Spring is a time of birth. New life after a cold dark winter. Giving life is not easy though, only the strong survive, both the birthing and the spring. They are harsh and unforgiving. We need to have the will to make it through in order to enjoy the warmth of summer.

The calving season has been cruel, full of death. Young lives that will  never get to lay inn the green grass with summer sun shining on them. The casualties add up in my head, a tally no one wants to keep. The new born with a broken leg. Snapped in half above the knee in front. With little chance of being able to heel the calves drive to live and strong will that had him up and determined to walk guaranteed he would never heel and his drive to live killed him. I sobbed over him, the cold of the barn floor burning into my hand as I held him down  to finish his last bottle of milk while he fought to stand, the leg flopping sickeningly as he forced it to hold his weight. He would have to die to spare him more suffering. Better while he was sill so full of energy and enthusiasm than waiting until he was wore down  from infection and pain.

But to take the life of something so young and so determined to live. Can there be anything worse?

The young heifer who was devotedly licking the hindquarters of her brand new calf. Only minutes on  the ground he had already suffocated, sh was licking the bag off his hind end while it covered his nose cutting off that first breath. I had arrived seconds too late to save him. She spent the day licking and calling to him softy.
The calf who died at a week old. Healthy one day and too weak to move the next. No medications we tried were able to help. His mom spent the next two days calling for him. She called until her voice was broken and hoarse. A cow had twins. To give them better feed and care we brought one in and gave it to the cow. Anything to make her stop calling. After all our attempts at adopting the calf she is still kicking it away as it tries to nurse.
So here I stand. Waiting. Watching. Hoping to prevent another death. It’s hard to hold out until that moment when you know help is needed. To wait and let her try on her own. She was doing good. Two feet were showing, pointing the right direction.

So hear I stood among the horses. Waiting.

Then  one last push. The calf was out. She had done it.

Jumping the fence I went to make sure everything was alright. The calf lay there a puddle of after birth and bag. He was still wrapped securely in the bag that hadn’t broken during birth. His mom lay, exhausted, resting from the work she had done.

I grabbed the bag, sinking my hands into the wet slippery home he had lived in for the last nine months and yanked it back over his head. He lay still.

Had he already suffocated? Where his lings too full of the liquids that had been keeping him alive? Would they kill him now? Usually the bag breaks and their lungs drain as they hang waiting to be fully born. I grabbed the slippery hind legs and hefted his hind end in the air. Hoping to help some fluid drain. He wiggled and jerked. His mom, thoroughly disturbed now, stood to see what  she had accomplished and what I was doing with it.

I let him down and stepped back She stepped back too. Horrified by this new occurrence. Looking on in curious horror as the other heifers came to see. They wandered off. She went to investigate. Wiping my hands on my jeans I made a mental note to remember to take them off before I went inside. Then I took my curry comb  to Ghost who came over to visit.

Again, we waited. The heifer licked her calf. The calf took a watery shuddering breath. This time we would have life.

And the snow kept falling.

Category: Cows | LEAVE A COMMENT
14 March 2021

Snow

It rained all day yesterday. Perfect weather to make lots of mud and get everything soaked through before the snow came today.

We went out this morning to find the cows who haven’t calved yet with their heads to the fence, backs to the driving wind, standing in the full brunt of it.

We had spent the last few days getting the pairs moved to a pen where the calves would be able to get shelter. Then they reinforced the shelter and made sure the wind would be blocked from  the east. All  of our shelter is designed to protect from north and west winds. When it comes from the east we are left wide open. The cows and calves were tucked away nice and warm and dry. Except for the couple of cows who had taken their calves out to the far side of the pen and left them there in the wind and the icy slush we were getting as the weather decided what it wanted to do for sure.

Since  they were mostly good we focused on the cows.

Between the two of us we were able to push them around the corner that was all it would have taken for them to do on their own to find shelter. Once they were all around and through the gate we locked it behind them to keep them from leaving shelter again to go back and stand in the full force of the storm which they greatly preferred.

Then we went to get food. We found a pen we don’t usually use that was fairly sheltered with the wind from  this direction and put some bales out. Then we had to convince the cows to move again. They were slightly more sheltered and didn’t want to move.

Once they were finally settled and everything fed I went to check on the calves whose moms had left them on the far side of the pen while my husband went to feed a couple of other bunches. When I walked out there one calf jumped up and ran back to where the cows were eating out of the wind. The other didn’t budge. I tried to get her to stand. She hung limp, deep into calf camouflage mode. Like a faun they will lay perfectly still counting on their stillness and lack of scent to save them from  predators.

She may also have been slightly frozen.

After failing to convince her to stand I paused and looked around. The pen isn’t large, it’s one of the smaller ones. That still meant that the calf and I were a long ways from the shelter and other cows. The cow who tried to eat me the other day was inn there somewhere. The quickest rout to the cows was straight across the middle. Far from any fences  I could climb to get away. None of the cows had any interest in us though. They were too busy eating to care about a calf freezing out here in the open.

I grabbed two hind legs and began to drag her. She was a small calf. The hooves still hadn’t fully shed their baby softness, she was probably one of the ones born yesterday. She was still more than I could carry. I drug her as far as I could then paused to breath and reassess. The distance to the cows didn’t look any less. There was no way I could get her that far. Against the guardrail fence another calf was laying there. The solid fence was plenty of shelter for a tiny calf. we made a detour.

Knowing there wasn’t as far to go I got both hind legs again  and didn’t stop to rest until we got to the fence. The cows had been far away and uninterested. My back  was to them  as I pulled the calf along. Suddenly there were cows everywhere. Or it seemed like there were. Two or three had come running, the milled about calling for calves, sniffing and checking to make sure everything was alright. I jumped the fence because I’m chicken.  Hopefully the calf’s mom would get her and take her back.

She didn’t.

The cows and other calf left. I was alone again with this limp still calf. Back over the fence again I drug her right up against the guardrail and propped her up again. I stuck  my finger in her mouth to get a quick temp check. Her tongue was cool but there was heat in there. Not good but it could be worse. I stood there trying to decide what I could do.

From behind me I heard a shout. Turning and squinting my eyes against the sleet it took me awhile to spot my husband across the corals in the pickup.  He had finished his feeding and w anted to know what  was going on. We yelled across the distance, neither having any idea what the other was saying. I’ve always said we commune on a higher plan though, he made it clear he was going to come over.

As I waited, back  to the wind, I wrung the water out of my gloves. It was warm still, I was sweating under my coat, but the water was starting to soak through.  My gloves were dripping, my legs were wet, my face soaked. The wet slushy snow was changing to solid flakes. The difference was apparent in that short little bit of time. It was getting rapidly worse.

It took awhile for him to get around,  park the pickup,  walk through the corrals. As he got to the fence though I could see that he was pulling the sled.

My knight in shining armor. I knew we communed on a higher plane. He knew exactly what was needed and had thought it through and grabbed the supplies we would need. what man. Together we loaded the calf on the sled. Of course she then  decided she had to stand up. I walked beside holding her on as he drug sled and calf to the shelter of the old barn. He pulled her up into the cows, onto the warm straw, and deposited her there where hopefully her mom would get her. At least she would be warmer and off the mud until her mom decided to go looking.

It was time for us to go inside. Tie to warm up and dry out a little before the next check. From in here the wind is rattling the house and snow is coming down hard enough that we can barely see across the yard. At least we got the cows settled before it hit hard. Now if they actually stayed in  the shelter.

Category: Cows | LEAVE A COMMENT
11 February 2021

Still Cold

I don’t know how long the cold has been  here. It seems like months, years perhaps. It may be as little as a week or less?

It has been snowing all day for the last three days. There is no accumulation. It’s too cold to snow. This is more like what little moisture is in the air freezing and falling down. The cattle are white though. They creak and groan as the stand up, leaving brown patches where they had been laying. The horses are frosted too. The bottom layer of their winter coats keeping them warm  and dry as the top is covered with snow.

Life right now is all about trying to keep at least one vehicle running and getting animals fed.

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I’ve decided to amend that to a belly of hay keeps the shivers away. All horsemen should know there’s nothing better to keep our horses warm than all the hay they can eat. Cattle are no different. We keep a bunk full of ground hay and corn in front of them and round bales set out in the pen to go with it. The gates are open. They could leave the pen to go out to their pasture. If any of them  have, they returned quickly to the pens.

Baa and Violet, running out with the herd now, have their own special way of eating. Instead of fighting larger cattle for space, they crawl into the bunks and eat, standing in their food. A reminder that they stay where they are because they choose to.

Th stack yard doesn’t just provide the hay to keep the cattle full and provide a wonderful playground for the children.

All winter the wildlife flocks to it, for shelter and feed. I love to watch for the tracks of pheasant wings on the fresh fallen snow as I walk out to break ice. Where they crash to the ground, then run off, barely more capable of flight that a chicken. A flock of grouse in a tree, wobbling about. They are uncommon to see here, where we mostly have pheasant.

In a large clump of weeds the brown specks of sparrows decorate like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Along the edge of the driveway the are scratch marks in  the snow. We had fun debating what had been digging for corn until we saw the birds covering the ground only to fly away in a swarm as the car drew near. Circling and diving they circled back  to their grazing as we passed.

In the stack yard green stands out brightly along the edges of dull drab weather worn hay bales. The deer have been nibbling though the outer edge to the fresh taste of summer buried within. Out in the corn stalks I count a herd of deer numbering around fifty every afternoon as I drive to get the children after school. By the time we moved the cattle to that field it was with doubt that there was any corn  left for them.

Cold snaps are all about feed. We provide plenty of that. To livestock and wildlife alike. As I watch all animals eat on food provided by us I have to laugh at the people who seem to think that farming and nature somehow exist separately.

 

Category: Cows, goats | LEAVE A COMMENT